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The stars and creator of ’13 Reasons Why’ talk about the show’s success and the backlash

LA TIMES – For a moment, the conversation is light. It’s a blustery spring day on the Paramount lot and Katherine Langford, who just turned 21, and Dylan Minnette, 20, are talking about some of the Internet’s more playful obsessions — the face-transforming software FaceApp and unicorn frappuccinos.

“It looks disgusting,” Langford says, her Australian accent undisguised, of the vibrant, multi-colored Starbucks concoction.

Minnette chimes in: “It looks like the wet dream of frappuccinos.”

Then the conversation gets a bit heavier. It’s been a few weeks since the March 31 release of “13 Reasons Why,” the Netflix drama about a teenage girl’s suicide in which the pair stars, and they are in the thick of it, juggling appearances on “Ellen” with this weekend’s MTV Movie & TV Awards.

And then there’s the other part of it. The part they knew would inevitably take shape given the show’s fraught subject matter: the backlash.

The 13-episode adaptation of Jay Asher’s bestselling novel quickly blew up laptops of American teenagers, and one by one, anxious-to-angry headlines followed. “Does ‘13 Reasons Why’ Glamorize Teen Suicide?” “Critics say 13 Reasons Why has artistic merit. Suicide prevention experts say it’s dangerous.” “‘13 Reasons Why’ Is Not the Force for Mental Health Awareness People Say It Is”

As hot takes and think pieces about the show’s merits and flaws began to pile up across the Web, superintendents, teachers and other school officials around the country began issuing warnings to parents: that its content may be inappropriate for young viewers — for its depiction of suicide and sexual assault, among them — and that it might be viewed as glamorizing suicide.

But then too came comments like the ones on Langford and Minnette’s Instagram pages: “I hope that a lot of people will reflect about the consequences that the harassment on the life of somebody can have” and “I watched the whole series with my dad” and “I’m a mother of a 17 year old and i finished watching it today, every parent should watch this show.”

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Who’s That Girl: Meet Katherine Langford

I-D – Take note because Katherine Langford is officially one to watch. The 20-year-old Australian actress doesn’t do things by halves, diving head first into her first proper acting role as Hannah Baker, the lead character in Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why”.

Katherine Langford was accepted into the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) in 2016 – but moved to LA to start auditioning in the general chaos of “pilot season” before she even enrolled. Though she didn’t catch a break in LA during that first visit, back home in Australia, Langford submitted an audition tape for 13 Reasons Why” and had her mind blown when she got “the call” telling her to pack her bags as she had secured the part.

With the shows heavyweight subject matter – including teen suicide – it’s a bold first move for the fresh faced Perth resident. Barely existing online (she only has 1000 twitter followers a week before the show launches) she is starry-eyed but unphased by the big time, even though you get the feeling she’s on the cusp of a life-changing moment. With the cult following behind Jay Asher’s original novel 13 Reasons Why there is no doubt that she is going to be popular.

Currently shooting her first feature film, the pro-LGBTQ Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda – you can expect to see a whole lot more of Katherine Langford in the very near future.

This is your first foray into acting – as a previously unknown talent, who is Katherine Langford?

I was a really left of centre kid growing up. I was a national swimmer and then I wanted to be a singer and then acting came on in. I’m a Taurus [laughs]. I went to an academic selective school, like a school for the gifted, that’s where all the creativity started to reverberate. I stopped swimming and in my free periods I would go and write music on the piano in the auditorium and was part of the drama kids. After high school I thought ‘I want to give this a crack’ and it’s worked out pretty well so far.

Has it been an easy ride? It seems like you’ve fallen into a first job that is also a pretty big break!

When I look at how things have panned out, it does seem like it’s been easy, but I look back and there were bumps in the road. I started [acting] quite late, I think I had my first acting class in March 2015, so I was turning 19. Everything has been by the seat of my pants, you get flung into pilot season or thrown into your first TV show and, even though this show is incredible, it was the hardest but best first job I could have ever had. I’m a very studious, driven, stubborn young person, so when someone told me, ‘You’re 19 there’s no way you’re going to be an actor, you’re starting too late’, my reaction was ‘Just watch me.’ [laughs].
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