Katherine Langford feels very lucky to have worked on 13 Reasons Why as her first big television project. "13 Reasons Why was the first real job that I’ve had, and I think it was the best first show I could have ever done, but also, in a lot of ways, the hardest," she tells Deadline in a candid interview.
She says the show taught her a lot about how to work as an actor and discussed the technical aspects of research and directorship as some of the best lessons she learned on set. The show is, of course, based on the book of the same by Jay Asher.
Langford mentions that she hadn't read the YA novel, but "It was after I was cast that I read the book, and I started realizing the kind of story we were going to tell." She talks about meeting with adolescent mental health professionals to get an idea of what is going through someone's mind who is at risk of attempting suicide, as part of her acting research.
Langford is also proud of Netflix's commitment to aftercare: "there are several links that we share. We do a 30-minute Beyond the Reasons, kind of debriefing after episode 13. There are trigger warnings, and there are articles." Ensuring the safety of the viewers was key while balancing the showrunner's desire to "tell the story in the most authentic way possible."
While there has certainly been controversy over the show's portrayal of sexual assault and mental illness, Langford says she is "proud of the series" for producing a show that has touched so many lives through storytelling.
She names the talented directors she worked with as one of the prime reasons she learned so much about acting on set. Each episode featured a different acclaimed director, including Gregg Araki (The Doom Generation, Mysterious Skin) and Tom McCarthy, who won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2015 for Spotlight.
"In terms of the acting, to be able to work with an Oscar-winning director for your first project is being a bit spoiled, really. Tom McCarthy was really helpful—he’s so intelligent, and has excellent ideas and a wonderful vision for the work that we did," Katherine says. "A lot of the advice that he gave me after episodes 1 and 2, I found myself carrying throughout the entire season. “Keep it light, because there’s a long way to go” was one thing he said," which is advice that helped her in filming some of the show's more troubling scenes.
While we don't yet know much about season 2, we do know that Hannah won't be the sole narrator, so we'll have many different viewpoints to consider. Here's hoping that another star-studded group of directors will bring their talent to such a difficult story.
If you or someone you know is considering self-harm, please get help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
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