As pretty much anyone with Internet access knows, Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why is a headline-making hit. Since its premiere on March 31, the adaptation of Jay Asher’s 2007 novel has spawned memorable memes and earned rave reviews for “career-making performances” by young stars Katherine Langford and Dylan Minette. And in perhaps the highest honor of the digital age, Twitter recently announced that 13 Reasons Why is 2017’s most tweeted-about show.
But the drama — which follows Hannah Baker (Langford), a teenage girl who decides to kill herself after a sexual assault and relentless bullying — has also been the target of critics who say the show’s depiction of suicide is too graphic. Damn right it is, says 13 Reasons Why star Kate Walsh, who gives a heart-wrenching performance as Hannah’s mother, Olivia. Speaking at a screening hosted by the SAG-AFTRA Foundation in New York City, Walsh defended the brutality of Hannah’s death. “I feel really strongly, and [creator] Brian [Yorkey] felt very, very strongly that this should be a very graphic, ugly, ugly thing, so that there’s nothing left to the imagination,” she told the audience. “People still can romanticize [suicide] and make it Ophelia floating in a pond with f***ing flowers and listening to Morrissey, and they go out quietly, dreamily, sleepily, peacefully — and it’s not. It’s painful, and it’s hideous, and [Brian] was very clear about wanting to make sure that it was not romantic at all.”
Walsh also described what it was like to shoot the moment Olivia and her husband, Andy (Brian d’Arcy James), find their daughter dead in the tub — a scene that will break your heart, unless it’s made of stone. “At the table read, Brian and I were like, ‘Don’t even put pressure on yourself, let’s just read it. It’s just a table read.’ Meanwhile, that scene comes, and we’re sobbing,” she recalled. “Then when we went to go shoot it, it was totally different. We blocked [the scene] out, and I didn’t talk to Katherine at all [during blocking]. We were all super, super quiet, and we just walked through what the actions were going to be, with Kyle Hernandez, who brilliantly directed the episode.”
Watch Kate Walsh’s full SAG-AFTRA Q&A here. She talks about getting her big break on The Drew Carey Show (starts at 8:36), as well as why she doesn’t think Addison Montgomery will ever return to Grey’s Anatomy (starts at 16:58):
Before the series began production, Walsh talked with a therapist who specializes in helping families who have lost a child to suicide — and she used that conversation to inform Olivia’s darkest moment. “When I talked to the psychiatrist, I said, ‘It feels like when a parent finds a child like this, they’re in shock and they would try to resuscitate them, even if it’s completely obvious that [the child is] gone,’ and she said, ‘That’s right,’” recalled Walsh, who began tearing up at the memory. “Even talking about it makes me very emotional. That was really important to me, so I said, ‘Brian, I think we have to try to go for that, and just see that struggle.’”
Though Hannah’s story has a very finite conclusion, some fans are lobbying Netflix for a Season 2, and 13 Reasons Why author Jay Asher says he’s also “curious” about what a second might look like. Of course, there are also purists who think Netflix and Asher should let poor Hannah Baker rest in peace. Walsh told the audience she can “see both sides” of the Season 2 debate. Still, she reminded the audience that “no one wanted to see Fargo the series. They thought it was an abomination and blasphemy against the Coen brothers, even though it had the Coen brothers’ blessing, but when you have a great writer who has a great imagination, I think that anything’s possible.” As for 13 Reasons, said Walsh, if Yorkey wanted to move forward with a Season 2, “I would trust him implicitly.”
13 Reasons Why is streaming now on Netflix.