Before working on “13 Reasons Why,” star Dylan Minnette didn’t think he’d be changing any lives as an actor.
But playing Clay Jensen, who is consumed by audio tapes left by deceased classmate Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) throughout Season 1, changed Minnette’s outlook on the impact TV can have on viewers.
“As an actor, like I’ve always just thought… what you do for people, it’s sort of irrelevant, besides entertaining them,” he told TheWrap in recent interview. “You’re not doing anything to, like, save anyone’s life or anything, you know?”
The “Goosebumps” star said “13 Reasons Why” isn’t necessarily saving lives, but “we’ve definitely changed some.”
“I know that,” added Minnette. “People have told us.”
“It’s kind of given me a different outlook on the industry, on acting, on this art form as a whole,” he added. “It’s like, wow, I really can bring change to people.”
Minnette said the Netflix drama feels particularly relevant today — especially after the Season 2 premiere was cancelled in the wake of a deadly shooting at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas, last month.
Of the shooting, Minnette said it “was shocking.” “It’s a shame how we’re just becoming numb to it, or more so as we go,” he said.
“The fact that people would be watching the show that weekend and that had just happened, it was so related and it just felt like at that point, I wasn’t going to go anyway,” he said. “You can’t celebrate anything on such a tragic day.”
Minnette knows the show has to walk a “fine line” between discussing important issues and coming across as preachy or one-sided.
“It’s almost like a tightrope of trying to discuss important topics while also not becoming a PSA or talking down or losing its sense of being a compelling television series as well,” the 21-year-old actor said. “So it’s like, you have to kind of balance it. And I know the show is not about like, shoving a message down someone’s throat. So to me, in the way that I look at the story line of Season 2 is how dangerous it can be when kids, or people who are so young who are so destructive, and so confused, can easily have access to weapons of destruction like that.”
“None of them should be able to have access to that,” he continued. “That’s something that is also really true to life with teens and kids right now. It’s like, why are we so easily able to access these weapons? I think and hope that’s something that can be explored or discussed in future seasons of the show.”
The drama was renewed by Netflix for a third season earlier this month.
As for criticism of the show — some have said the way the show portrays suicide, gun violence and sexual assault is too graphic — Minnette’s view is that “no one is wrong.”
“It’s how you feel and how you react,” he said. “And I think the show and everyone on it understands why the show does what it does, and the decisions that they make. I mean I’m not in control of any decisions they make, but it’s up to me to just try to understand it all and agree to the best of my ability, and I think the show and Netflix do the best that they can to kind of warn people before hand and let them know what’s coming.”
“I’m proud of the show, and I’m proud of all the decisions it’s made thus far,” he added.
“13 Reasons Why” Season 2 is now streaming on Netflix. Watch our full interview with Minnette above. (And for our interview with co-star Justin Prentice, head over here).