13 Reasons Why: Interview with Katherine Langford

Interview with Katherine Langford

Painful and Emotional Role

Katherine Langford: With this show we realized that there was potential for  impact, as we cover a lot of really serious issues, but also very relevant and very personal.  There are trigger warnings, I think on episodes 9, 12 and 13, and then there’s also the beyond reasons which plays after episode 13.  So that was the kind of aftercare and the kind of precautions taken just in terms of the viewing and the viewership. But in addition to that, Netflix and the producers were really wonderful in giving us resources if anyone reached out to us.  So for example, when we were shooting and when we were filming, I worked with Rebecca Kaplan from It’s On Us, and so I have the It’s On Us link on my bio and Instagram.  But, I also have the link for “13 Reasons Why” dot info and I think that has been really interesting for me to see that in effect.  Because on Instagram you can kind of look at statistics, and none of that is something that I look at for myself but I was curious to see how many people have clicked on that link and in any given week it’s upwards of any week, it’s anywhere from 20 thousand to 50 thousand and that to me just show how people have responded to the show.

Did You Meet Any Hannahs in High School?

KL: Luckily my high school experience was a lot better and a lot more joyful than Hannah’s. But growing up particularly in an era and a generation that I was introduced to social media and I wasn’t ignorant of cyber bullying or bullying, so a lot of issues that we covered in the show resonated for me because I had either seen them or I had known someone who had experienced them.

Three Main Reasons Why You Love Life

KL: I think it’s important to recognize that you have up days but you also have down days, and that is what makes both of them special and recognizable.  For me, things that really cheer me up that I really enjoy, are music, I am a self-taught piano player and I just really enjoy writing songs on the piano.  I also really love reading. I find stories really interesting. And friends, I just came back from Perth where I live, so it was so wonderful seeing my friends and whenever I get a chance to catch up or even talk to them on the phone, it just kind of lightens my day.

Living in Australia

KL: “13 Reasons Why” was my first show.  And it was a bit of a leap, not only having your first project and doing your first show for six months, but also moving to another country and living by yourself for the first time. I don’t know if I necessarily say that I live at home anymore, because I kind of just live and go wherever the work needs me, which is beautiful thing about being the age that I am is that I am not tethered to anything and I can go wherever I am needed. But I do get homesick sometimes and I do love to go back whenever I get a chance.

Coming to Hollywood

KL: It’s definitely an unusual story.  But in 2015, I think I was 18 and that’s when I first really started taking an acting interest.  I did my first screen acting class in March, and I picked up three jobs and I was a bartender, an usher, and I also dressed up as the Easter Bunny for Easter and I did arts and crafts at shopping centers. And throughout that year, I got an agent and I did a few classes and by the end of the year, I was fortunate enough to be accepted into Drama School called WAAPA, which is based in Perth.  But at the same time, my US managers who I have now, they came and visited Australia, and sent me to auditions just to kind of test me out.  And I ended up being asked to test for network for both of them.  So I had to give up Drama School and I went and tested for the two projects, which I then didn’t get, so I ended up at home without a job and not at Drama School, wondering what I am doing, and that’s when the audition for “13 Reasons Why” came around.  And I received it from my US managers, and just did a self take for it and then from there I just kept getting called back and my final audition, I did over Skype with Tom McCarthy, and then two days later, I had heard that I had gotten the role.  And then they met me and I flew over, which was very scary, because I wasn’t sure what they were expecting and they were just like seeing someone in real life and they were like well you are hired, you are cast, good to meet you.

My high school experience was different from Hannah’s–luckily it was a lot more joyful than Hannah Bakers.  I went to what is called a gifted and talented school, which sounds more impressive than it actually is, but it was just a school that was very kind of liberal and gave me a lot of freedom to do kind of what I wanted in a responsible way. So for example, my study periods, I didn’t have a teacher watching over me, so I would often go into the auditorium and just play the piano and write songs and it really gave me a chance to explore what I love doing.  And so I guess it was a bit of a shock slash new experience to live vicariously through her, because I think we all in a way live vicariously through American high schools because it’s often what is represented on TV and in film. So it was cool being able to explore things like Halloween and Winter Formals for the first time through that medium.

Therapy Dogs on the Set

KL: I think we had therapy dogs on set for episode 12, the scene between Hannah and Bryce in the hot tub, and that was kind of a result of an extensive conversation that we had in preparation for those heavy scenes. I actually ended up not getting to see the dogs until we finished at night, but from what I heard they were beautiful.

KL: Like I said, it was my first project and I think probably it was the hardest, but also the best first project that you could ever ask for.  It required a lot of me, but at the same time there was so much support on set and just the pedigree of people that we had really made it.  I don’t know, it just felt like such a natural progression, and I was supported and I was working with people who were talented and understood the content of the work that we were doing, and I think especially for me as a young person, doing a show about young people with such prevalent and serious issues, it also kind of put me at ease that I felt that this show was in the hands of people who really cared and knew what they were doing.

Fame and Recognition

KL: The first time I was recognized was three weeks after the show.  I was shooting another film in Atlanta and we went down over the Easter weekend to a little town called Savannah and I was sitting in a restaurant and at the end of it, the waiter asked, she was like, you know, you really look like that girl from that show.  And I was like, ah, that’s interesting, I hadn’t heard that before.  And then from there, I went home and a few people did recognize me.  The cool thing about going home is that you can tell that people recognized you but everyone was pretty chill and very considerate of me having my off time. One of the most rewarding things about the show has been the response and hearing the different stories and reactions that people have had.  A girl actually met me in the airport in Sydney and gave me a letter.  And I read it on my way from the airport to the hotel and it just talked about how the show affected her and made a difference.

Being Young

KL: I am still young—I just turned 21–and I know there is still so much I need to learn and I do really want to keep learning, because I feel like there is so much.  But I’m grounded, because I just feel like normal person.  I mean I guess my upbringing, my parents are both doctors, so I grew up with some really great role models and they are hard working and they really valued my education.


KL: I have a younger sister.  She is at home in Australia.  And, education, I grew up with a real value for education and also because my parents were interested in the Arts, I grew up going to shows and kind of getting interested in shows through my parent’s love for Art.  So, I was fortunate enough and I did singing lessons and I was a national swimmer for ten years.   was a butterflier and a back stroker and I went to nationals when I was 14, so that was a really big part of my life growing up.  I think it was helpful because it kind of kept me focused.  But it’s interesting, because I think it was also one of the reasons I wasn’t fully able to pursue acting or music, but in a way I feel like it worked out well and for a reason if that makes sense, because I think one of the things that I really value about coming into acting later, even though it was much harder, particularly in Perth, where there isn’t that many classes for adults who have never really done anything, just coming into it with a bit more life experience and maturity I think helped me get off on the right foot.

Season Two

KL: I am definitely excited and looking forward to going back.  I think that the cast and the crew on the show and especially the writers and everyone involved, are so talented and wonderful and invested that regardless of what my moment is, I am just going to have a terrific time.  And it’s also going to be great to get back and work on a story that I love.  As far as what I can say about what I know, I am about to drop some really mind blowing information, I am in it.  And that’s it, that’s all I kind of know thus far. Hannah is still dead.  But she will be appearing in flashbacks and we are continuing with dialogue of what we already established.

Shooting Pro-LGBT Film in Atlanta

KL: The film I was doing, the title will change, but it’s based on a novel called “Simon Versus the Homosapiens Agenda” and that’s a long title, but it’s a YA novel.  And it’s based on a 17 year old boy who is gay named Simon and he struggles to come out with his sexuality.  And he ends up being blackmailed and a fellow classmate threatens to out him, unless Simon helps him to get together with one of his friends. Through the process of the film you see Simon trying to protect his secret, but unfortunately ending up hurting some of his friends.  I don’t necessarily pick projects with a social agenda, but the fact that it was a big studio making a pro-LGBTQ film was something I was very excited to be a part of.  It comes out March 16 in the US next year.

Leisure Activities

KL: Growing up in Australia, I definitely am partial to the outdoors and I love the beach and I love just swimming and I do surf a little bit but I am a little bit rusty.  I also love doing watching Netflix and things on TV.  I have been re-watching one of my guilty pleasure TV series, “Star Trek Voyager” with Kate Mulgrew, who is in “Orange is the New Black.” My dad and my mom are Trekkies and so I was kind of introduced to the Sci-Fi world at a very young age and it’s stuck with me.