High school is hell, literally on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and figuratively on 13 Reasons Why. The Netflix drama, based on the popular book series of the same name, tells the story of Hannah Baker (played by newcomer Katherine Langford), her life and death in high school. She doesn’t leave a suicide note, but rather 13 cassette tapes for her classmates to listen to, each tape a reason why she killed herself.
“When you’re 16 and when you’re 17, you’re kind of walking that fine line of being an adult and legally being able to look out for yourself, while being able to look out for yourself and being treated as a child,” Langford told E! News about why high school is ripe for TV. “And also kind of not knowing who you are yet, and also not knowing what you want to do…Nothing is settled and nothing is solid.”
Langford’s Hannah, a new girl at school, is put through the ringer on more than one occasion as the show reveals her story through Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) listening to her 13 tapes. It’s a heavy show, as to be expected, brought to you by the likes of creator Brian Yorkey and executive producers such as Selena Gomez and Tom McCarthy.
“Before we started filming they had some professionals…psychologists and people who are specialists in association with people with these problems and issues,” Minnette said. “They really gave us good advice on how to handle this and what people in our specific situations—how they would be handling it in real life, how they’ve seen people handling it.”
Langford said she found levity in watching The Office and music when it came time to decompressing after a day in character as the bullied and depressed Hannah.
“I bought [a piano] for $50,” she said. “And it was a lifesaver ‘cause I just went home and played and played.”
Gomez made headlines when the show was announced, but the production notes didn’t come from her.
“I think she just let the people who were physically making this, make it, and she just really put a lot of trust in us in that way,” Minnette said. “She came at the end, and as soon as she came was so warm and so welcoming and passionate about it, and made us feel so at home. She really just made us feel really special and welcome. She’s amazing.”
All 13 episodes of 13 Reasons Why are now streaming on Netflix.