Tommy Dorfman Q&A: ’13 Reasons Why’
“I think what was really exciting to me about Ryan is that he was so confident for a high schooler,” says actor Tommy Dorfman about his role in the acclaimed Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” (watch our exclusive video chat above). “I didn’t have that experience when I was in high school, so to revisit high school from that lens was really interesting to me … He’s a very open, comfortable queer person in high school … I never had that growing up, a character like that to look up to. I don’t know if you would necessarily call Ryan someone you’d look up to, but I think towards the end of the season he proves himself to be a very rational person, someone who’s honest and owns up to their shit.”
Ryan is one of many characters in “13 Reasons Why” who played a part in the traumatic experiences of his classmate Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) that led to her suicide. Ryan writes for a publication he created at the school, and also writes poetry. We eventually learn that he and Hannah developed a brief friendship that ended because of Ryan’s betrayal of her trust. Hannah recounts that experience and many more in a series of audio cassettes that she leaves behind as a form of suicide note.
The entire season builds to Hannah’s suicide, and the show has been the subject of much debate for its graphic depiction of her death. But Dorfman argues, “I think it was really important that we showed that suicide … We didn’t want suicide to look like an easy option, or really an option at all … It is not for everyone. There’s a disclaimer for a reason. As someone who suffered in high school with suicidal thoughts I don’t know if I would have been … ready to see that scene, but I do think it’s really crucial that we see that.”
Dorfman adds, “I’ve never seen a young adult show tackle these issues so truthfully and so honestly, and that’s why I think the conversations have started — people praising it, and people having concerns about it, and people not even willing to watch it but giving their opinion about it. I think that’s a great dialogue on the mass level.”