THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD – Just three short months ago, the world had no idea who Katherine Langford was.
But playing the lead role in the controversial Netflix drama, 13 Reasons Why, which tells the story of teenager Hannah Baker, who takes her own life after sustained bullying at her northern California high school, has propelled Katherine to international stardom.
In the wake of her critically acclaimed performance, the 21-year-old from Perth has garnered six million Instagram followers and appeared on both the Jimmy Fallon and Ellen DeGeneres talk shows in the US.
However it was the loveheart tweet from her idol Lady Gaga that brought home just how big 13 Reasons Why – and Katherine herself – had become. “This woman, this artist, performer, who I love and admire so much, knows who I am,” Katherine says, still sounding slightly amazed. “That’s when I was like, ‘Okay, this is big because she’s seen it. Lady Gaga watches the show.’ ”
By tackling the potent adolescent issues of social media, bullying, rape, mental illness and suicide in an unflinching manner, 13 Reasons Why is very much a show for, and of, the times. Katherine is still digesting the profound impact it has had on viewers, the overnight fame it has delivered, and the life lessons it has taught her.
“I think my story is a bit bizarre,” she confesses. “I don’t think anyone had any idea [13 Reasons Why] was going to be as big as it has been. I feel like it happened for a reason, and I know that sounds silly. It’s definitely been the hardest – but it’s been the best – first job I could have ever asked for.”
When I meet Katherine during her fleeting visit to Sydney earlier this month, she’s dressed down in jeans and a black cord jacket. But even in casual clothes she has a prettiness that is reminiscent of a medieval princess, with her trademark brunette curls cascading down her back, breathtakingly beautiful porcelain skin and clear green eyes that meet yours.
She dips her head in a sort of curtsey when she shakes hands, is quick to laugh, and given to long, thoughtful pauses as she ponders her answers to questions.
Katherine’s own high school experience at Perth Modern, a school for gifted and talented children in innercity Subiaco, was vastly different from Hannah Baker’s. The stress of year 12 exams was as bad as it got for her, although she was aware that slut-shaming and bullying – exacerbated by social media – existed.
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