“It was about showing the truth of things and what teens go through,” says Kyle Patrick Alvarez, who directed three episodes of the Netflix drama “13 Reasons Why,” including the controversial season finale that depicts the suicide of its central character, Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford). Because the show is so “forthright” about the experiences of teenagers, Alvarez feels the graphic scene was not only justifiable but necessary. If you avoid that scene, “you’re doing more damage because you’re holding something back … It’s violent for a reason, to not romanticize it.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Alvarez above.
“13 Reasons Why” tells the story of Hannah, who leaves behind a series of audio cassettes that serve as an extended suicide note. Those cassettes focus on different classmates and how they contributed to the hostile environment that led to her death. It’s based on a 2007 novel by Jay Asher, which Alvarez had been interested in adapting for years before it officially went forward as a series on Netflix. He initially directed episodes five and six of the series (titled “Tape 3, Side A” and “Tape 3, Side B”) before he was tapped to direct the finale. “I was so excited to get to go back up there,” he says, “and then a second later my heart fell” because it dawned on him how much responsibility was on his shoulders.
“13 Reasons Why” has been the subject of much debate over whether it’s helpful or harmful to young viewers in its depiction not only of suicide but also sexual assault, which is also a prominent theme in the series. “It’s less about whether the show is appropriate for teens or not — we’re well past that,” says Alvarez about the show’s impact on young viewers. “What’s way more important to talk about is why has it spoken to them so much … They needed this way more than I even realized while working on it.”
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