Don't Call it a Controversy: How 13 Reasons Why Prepared for the Suicide Debate

Katherine Langford, Dylan Minnette, Kate Walsh and Tom McCarthy address the big moment

By Chris Harnick Jun 05, 2017 2:10 PMTags
Watch: Does "13 Reasons Why" Cast Think It's Controversial?

The people behind 13 Reasons Why knew exactly what they were doing when they depicted Hannah's suicide in the final episode of the first season. The scene in questions has Katherine Langford's Hannah slit her wrists in her bathtub, later found by her parents played by Kate Walsh and Brian D'Arcy James. The depiction has sparked some controversy—or a debate if you ask the people involved with the show.

"You always want to make a show that connects and I think we knew we were making a show we felt we were onto something with the show we were creating," director and executive producer Tom McCarthy told E! News at 13 Reasons Why's Netflix FYSee event. "You can never anticipate a response, especially with the young adult viewers…I don't know if controversy is the right word…it's a debate, it's a conversation and there are prof on both sides who have very strong reactions to it, and I think that's exciting."

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McCarthy said the decision to depict the suicide did not come lightly. "You know they're going to live on, as this one has, but I feel as a company we felt this was the best way to go at it," he said. "To not shy away, and to really present it as it is. That came through a lot of discussion and serious thought and I think we all stand by it."

Dylan Minnette, who plays Clay, the recipient of Hannah's 13 reasons why she killed herself, in the series, said they all knew the discussions would come.

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"I thought it was going to come even quicker because I don't think people are used for this being addressed to their faces like this, so full on…I knew it was going to come, and I think a lot of it has been for the better because it's only started more conversations," he said.

For the scene, Langford said she worked with a psychiatrist who specializes in adolescent development and Rebecca Kaplan, director of It's On Us, a national movement to end sexual assault. But it was her time with the character that really helped.

"I think by that point I had been playing Hannah for six months. It was definitely something that we had precursors to… throughout the course of the season. I think part of it was just kind of having a backstory for Hannah and kind of having vicariously living through the events she's been through," she told us.

Click play on the video above to hear from Walsh about filming the scene.

13 Reasons Why season one is now streaming. Season two has been ordered.

If you or someone you know needs help, call 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. You can also call the network, previously known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit for additional resources.