’13 Reasons Why’: Inside That Harrowing Yet Honest Suicide Scene

Brian Yorkey explains the process behind the controversial sequence.
'13 Reasons Why': Inside That Harrowing Yet Honest Suicide Scene
"13 Reasons Why"

Few shows have been the subject of more debate this year than “13 Reasons Why,” with its treatment of a teenager’s suicide and its aftermath bringing praise and controversy in nearly equal measure. In a new Vanity Fair interview, showrunner Brian Yorkey explains what went into shooting the scene itself — an especially delicate process, as Jay Asher’s novel never even discloses how Hannah (played by Katherine Langford) ends her life.

READ MORE: ’13 Reasons Why’ Documentary ‘Beyond The Reasons:’ Watch the Cast Discuss the Show’s Tough Issues

Yorkey and his team of writers agonized over whether or not to include Hannah’s suicide for “days and days.” The reason they eventually opted to show it, he explains, had to do with “showing suicide as a very horrific thing to endure.” One major change was made to the final version, however.

“In my original draft, Hannah was naked,” says Yorkey. “And one of our consultants said, you know, that actually tends not to happen. When people [cut] their wrists in the bathtub, especially adolescent girls who have been body-shamed, they tend to wear old, ratty clothing. And that’s something I never would have known.”

READ MORE: ’13 Reasons Why’ Will Get More Trigger Warnings Amidst Controversy

Kyle Patrick Alvarez, who directed the sequence, researched similar scenes in preparation and made several very deliberate choices to avoid romanticizing suicide in any way. That included stationary camerawork, a lack of music and no “big, emotional crying” from Langford.

“We would always say, there’s a thousand ways to shoot this scene wrong, and like one or two ways to shoot it right,” says Alvarez. Read the full interview here.

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