Selena Gomez's involvement in the Netflix juggernaut 13 Reasons Why has always been nebulous, as celebrity roles tend to be. Is she involved? Or is she more of a figurehead, a title-only producer there to give the credits some oomph?
When it comes to 13 Reasons Why, though, Gomez was particularly present. This was a passion project of hers. Speaking to Us Weekly, actor Justin Prentice explained that Gomez was a frequent presence on set.
"She pops by set a lot," Prentice told Us. "She comes up and will do dinners and talk about kind of character development, and story development, and that type of thing. She and her mother, Mandy Teefey, are both EPs on it. So they’re still very much involved."
Gomez also provided a single for the second season — the track "Back To You," which debuted last week.
"[Selena is] very passionate about this story and she's been involved with it since day one," actress Alisha Boe, who plays Jessica on the series, told Entertainment Tonight this week.
Gomez has been credited with bringing 13 Reasons Why to the small screen. She, along with her mother Mandy Teefey and producer Kristel Laibli (In Time), brought the project to Anonymous Content back in 2015. Brian Yorkey, the librettist behind the Tony Award-winning musical Next To Normal, wrote the pilot, which was picked up to series by Netflix. It was another two years before 13 Reasons Why made it to air.
Before all that, though, Gomez was attached to star in the project — which might be why she's still so involved. According to a 2017 interview with the New York Times, Teefey first read the book in 2008, and she quickly met with author Jay Asher regarding movie rights to the story. Universal Pictures acquired the rights in 2011. At the time, Teefey was an executive producer of the film alongside Laibli, who would later go on to EP the Netflix series. After the option expired — this takes about 12-18 months — Gomez and Teefey pushed forward, shopping the story around to other production companies.
"We were all so nervous,” Gomez told the Times about pitching the series to the streaming giant. “I think Netflix bought it because they could see how passionate we were about it."
For Gomez, this project hits deep. During the first season, she was emerging from a 90-day hiatus, during which she'd spoken to a number of young people grappling with mental health issues. Speaking to reporters at a Netflix press event in 2017, Gomez explained that this made the mission feel all the more important.
Recalled Gomez, "I was actually going through a really difficult time when they started production...I went away for 90 days, and I actually met tons of kids in this place that we're talking about a lot of the issues that these characters are experiencing."
Because of this, it sounds like Gomez was at least present on set for much of the show. "I was there for the last episode [of season 1]," she said, referring to Hannah Baker's (Katherine Langford) death scene, "and I was a mess just seeing it all come to life, because I've experienced that."
It's not clear if Gomez was more or less involved with season 2 than she was in season 1. Season 2 filmed last fall into December of 2017, halting briefly in October due to wildfires. During this time, Gomez released her single "Wolves" and performed at the American Music Awards. She was, however, present at the season 2 wrap party. And there's the matter of her single "Back To You," which features heavily in promos for the show. This song, she explained in an interview with Apple Music, was more of a gift to 13 Reasons Why.
"The first song I did for 13 Reasons Why [2017's "Only You"], that actually was specifically for the show," she said. "And with this song it's a very special record. I want it to be a beautiful message in a really complicated way but really fun. But I think that 'Back To You' is more of my special project that I wanted to give to Season 2."
Gomez has her own career to look after — as she focuses on a potential third studio album, she'll likely distance herself from the series. But, what's the golden rule? Make new things, but keep the old.