The unflinching analysis of contemporary teen life that is Netflix's 13 Reasons Why struck such a chord with viewers of all ages that it became the streaming giant's most popular series on social media ever. Perhaps that's why we can't imagine anyone else playing these now iconic characters, but one alternate casting story is blowing our mind.
Katherine Langford is Hannah Baker. Dylan Minnette embodied Clay Jensen. Justin Prentice reluctantly transformed into Bryce Walker. Brandon Larracuente became Jeff Atkins, the star baseball player in need of a little tutoring and maybe a time machine, to avoid the fatal car accident that takes his life and impacts so many others. Except, he almost didn't.
When Larracuente first auditioned for the show, he originally read for the role of Justin Foley, the actor revealed in an Instagram video. "I heard that a bunch of us were actually auditioning for different roles," he said of the audition process, which took about two to three months. When the producers finally came to him with the role of Jeff, he was confused. "I had read the book, and I hadn't heard of the character Jeff," Larracuente recounted. For a good reason — Jeff, as we know him now, wasn't in the book. In author Jay Asher's original story, an unnamed student ended up in the car crash that rocked Liberty High, explains Bustle.
Thus when Larracuente showed up on set that first day, creator Brian Yorkey simply told him, "we're letting you build this character, we're trusting you to take it from here."
"I had no idea what to expect of Jeff because I could build this character from the ground up and I think that's what really attracted me most to the character," Larracuente told Teen Vogue. That and his personal experience with bullying. "We all go through that awkward stage in high school. I know I went through that big time and I got picked on and I got bullied in high school. So I wanted [Jeff] to stick up for the people who don't have a voice, because more than anything I know what it feels like to feel alone."
That guiding force clearly resonated with the show's viewership, a large portion of which has taken to Twitter with the hashtag #JeffDeservedBetter to share their appreciation for the gentle jock who actually convinced Clay to leave his house.