Will the Netflix Super Hit Get a Second Season? The Actress Dishes on What She Knows.
“This is the reality of what it means to be a teenager in 2017,” says actress Amy Hargreaves, 47, while commenting on the intensity of the material tackled by Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why, a show based on the eponymous novel by Jay Asher that has propelled discussions about teenage suicide and sexual violence.
In the show, Hargreaves plays Lainie Jensen, a lawyer and protective mom to Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette), a high school student who receives 13 tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, a former classmate and love interest, describing the reasons that led her to commit suicide—a scene that, spoiler alert, is depicted in all in its gruesome entirety.
While awaiting news about a possible second season, Hargreaves spends some time dissecting the heavy material, singing the praises of Executive Producer Selena Gomez and musing on her status as a lifetime New Yorker.
Did you expect the show to be such a huge success?
What I did expect, in all honesty, was that we were going to have a lot of eyes on the show. Just having Selena Gomez as the Executive Producer would bring in her whole audience and then, to layer on top of that, [director] Tom McCarthy coming off of Spotlight and [creator] Brian Yorkey from Next to Normal, [who won a] Pulitzer and a Tony. Then, of course, the author of the original novel, Jay Asher. I knew a lot of people were going to tune in but I wasn’t sure how it was going to land and it’s been a lovely surprise to see so many people responding to the material and the show.
Was there ever talk of Selena Gomez joining the cast herself?
Yeah. Originally, when she and her mom Mandy Teefey bought the rights to the novel years ago, they were intending on setting it up at Paramount as a feature with Selena starring as Hannah Baker. For one reason or another, that deal I think fell apart but they were smart enough at that point to [think] this kind of [material] would fit better as a series.
They brought it to Netflix and I think it was right around that time they realized [that] if Selena stars in this, it’s going to be about Selena and it’s not going to be about the story. It’s just going to kind of blur the message. At that point, Selena stepped back […] but she’s a very hands-on EP and really was there every step of the way. It’s not just her name at the top of the thing: she and her mom were very involved in the whole process.
Did you read the book before starting to shoot?
I did not. Because, in the end, we’re shooting the script and not the book, [reading the novel] seems kind of confusing sometimes so, unless I’m specifically asked by the director and the producers to consider that source material, I stay away from [it], usually. My daughter read the book.
Did you ever think that the material was a bit too much for kids to read and watch?
I don’t think it’s too much because these are things that are actually happening moment to moment. There is some sort of stigma [surrounding] suicide and yet it is happening so I feel like, is it too much? No, because this is a reality. Kids are suffering and if we can shine a light on that and make it a little bit easier for people to talk about it, to go to a friend, to go to a parent, to go to a teacher that they trust and talk about it, I think it could help a lot of people.
And then there is a lot of other kind of rough content: The sexual assaults, the sexual violence, the bullying. Again, this is stuff that is happening constantly. I don’t think it’s too much because I think this is the reality of what it means to be a teenager in 2017.
Some say that, in a perverse way, the show glorifies suicide.
I understand. The executive producers and the writing team were so painstaking in their research and their contacts and their communications with mental health professionals every step of the way and they wanted to avoid exactly this kind of situation coming up. Which is why, when they did choose to depict the actual suicide scene, they made a point of making it as awful as possible and not some sort of glamorous, beautiful death. They wanted it to look horrible and painful and show the misery of the parents. That wasn’t just some artistic flourish. They made their choices because they were consulting with mental health professionals along the way.
That suicide scene really was intensely graphic.
The makeup artist was preparing for this all season. It was a big deal and it was rough. We knew we were handling something really delicate and we needed to do it right. So, I understand the pushback and, in the end, I think it’s great because it’s going to force us to have more conversations about these issues, which I think is a good thing.
The series also comments on helicopter parenting: Your character is very protective of her son. As a mom, are you similar to Lainie?
I’m not quite as helicopter-y as Lainie Jensen but I think it really is vital, especially today in 2017, where kids have such elaborate private lives through their social media and their telephones, to keep tabs on what your kids are doing, who they’re with, check in with them, make sure things are okay. It’s tough.
What are the chances of a season two happening?
I will tell you that, when you pitch a series like this, I think the writers and the EPs are always planning to [be on air] a few years—unless it really is a specific limited series. [With] this, they do a plot and a plan for several seasons. But there’s a lot of things that go into that, a lot of variables that work into making that decision so we could know really any minute about a season two, if it’s going to happen.
You also star in Homeland as Maggie Mathison, who is Carrie Mathison’s sister, played by Claire Danes. What’s the update on that?
I know they’ve committed to, I think, two more seasons. So there’s a little bit more life for Carrie Mathison and all the shenanigans surrounding her crazy life. Maggie is luckily still alive […] but on sabbatical in Rome for a year, so we’ll see.
The show moved to Brooklyn this season, will things stay that way?
I’m not sure what I’m allowed to say but I think that this is out in the public knowledge: I think that Claire’s character goes back down to DC next year so she’s back in the government fold and working in that area.
You’ve lived in New York your whole life. How has the city changed throughout the years?
I was born on Long Island and I’ve lived in Manhattan since graduate school. It’s funny: They say you’re a real New Yorker when, instead of seeing what’s there, you see what used to be there. I’ve been doing that for a long time and it makes me sad, really, to see the smaller mom-and-pop shops being pushed out and having another Duane Reade, another Citi Bank or whatever it is [in their stead]. I think [that] the cost of living exploding so high has made it really rough and for people like me, people like artists who want to live here and raise a family here, it’s really tough. I consider myself really fortunate that I’ve been able to raise my kids here, but I don’t know if it can continue. I don’t know what the future holds.