Netflix is adapting Jay Asher's wildly popular YA novel Thirteen Reasons Why into a 13-episode miniseries executive produced by Selena Gomez and Spotlight's Tom McCarthy. The story deals with hugely relatable adolescent themes like teen suicide, grief, and bullying, and, given its relevance in modern discussions of adolescent mental health, the timing seems perfect for an on-screen adaptation. 13 Reasons Why centers around Hannah Baker, whose sudden suicide leads her fellow high schooler, Clay Jenson, on a path of self-discovery. So who plays Hannah on 13 Reasons Why? Katherine Langford is a Hollywood newcomer.
She was first discovered by producers via a Skype audition from Perth, Australia. The 20-year-old actress had only done one indie crowd-funded film in Australia before landing the role of Hannah on 13 Reasons Why. She hadn't even chemistry tested with her co-star (Scandal's Dylan Minnette plays Clay), before booking the role. "Prior to making this huge television series, our two lead actors had never been in a room together," series creator Brian Yorkey told Radio Times. "But we adored them both so much, we knew there was going to be chemistry — and we were right."
And although the book has a massive YA cult following, Langford preferred not to read Thirteen Reasons Why before working on the show, admitting that she would have put too much pressure on herself to embody other people's idealized version of the character. She also confessed that working on her first high-profile TV series came with a steep learning curve, especially given the heavy nature of the material. "What I found was challenging was having the endurance to keep up with the severity, but also the rate at which we were shooting these really sensitive topics," Langford told W.
Fans will get to meet and engage with Hannah throughout the course of the season, but her character arc unfolds pretty much via voiceover and flashbacks following her suicide. After a fledgling flirtation with Clay, she sends a shoebox full of cassette tapes to his house, which she times out to arrive two weeks after she dies. On the tapes, she outlines the other people who contributed to her decision to commit suicide and the 13 reasons why she followed through. She provides instructions for the tapes to be passed out among the people she implicates, leaving Clay to make sure they understand the impact of their treatment of her.
The show looks full of adolescent longing, shame, and frustration, and, if Langford pulls her off, Hannah seems poised to be her breakout role.