Dylan Minnette reveals how anxious he was to get involved with Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why because of the powerhouse talent involved.
Dylan Minnette is one of the nicest people I’ve ever talked to. You might immediately think that that would make him identical to the character he plays on Netflix’s megahit 13 Reasons Why, but Minnette revealed to me the main difference between him and Clay Jensen.
The freshman drama tackles more serious subjects in 13 hours than most dramas do over the course of countless seasons. Even though the show has a large cast, Minnette draws you in with his effective, sweet performance. In the hands of a lesser actor, Clay Jensen would have been cloying or even pathetic, but Minnette projects the emotions of the character so succinctly that he might remind you of someone you went to high school with.
It’s one of the most understated leading men performances of this entire television season.
A Runaway Phenomenon
For a while, you couldn’t go anywhere without someone asking you if you tuned into 13 Reasons Why. Even though the premiere dust has settled, Minnette insists that people are still catching up with it.
“Maybe it’s died down in a sense, but I still feel like it’s very relevant. And I feel there are people still watching. People still tell me every day that they just finished it. I just get more and more surprised at how more and more people are catching up to it now. It’s still a relevant topic. I feel like I’ve been connected from it anyway because when you’re so involved with a project it’s hard to understand the scope of how big or popular it is in other people’s lives. People ask me how I deal with this since it feels like an event series and some people say, ‘Oh, I bet you can’t go outside.’ A lot of people talk to me in public about. It’s kind of stayed the same for me really.”
Teens and young adults clamored to the series initially, but now parents are sharing their experiences with Minnette. The parents of these young kids (played by Kate Walsh and Brian D’Arcy James, among others) have some of the most surprising emotional heft throughout the season.
They seen helpless as they watch their kids try to deal with high emotions at a young age.
“It’s hard to tell. Early on it was just teens coming up to me since they probably caught onto the show initially. The past few weeks have been adults, and it’s very interesting in how that’s shifted. Parents will say that they are glad they watched it with their kids and how it started a conversation. No one has said negative to me about it. It’s become a wide variety of people. I’ve had teens tell me what a positive impact it had on them or at their school. It feels really special.”
Dylan vs. Clay
Clay Jensen is a quiet, nice guy, and a lot of people assume that Minnette is playing a character that’s similar to himself. Minnette admits that while he shares some of the same qualities, he would have done something different if he found himself in Clay’s shoes.
“As I was reading the scripts, I kept seeing the things he was doing and thought it might be the things I’d actually do. I don’t think I’d keep in as much as Clay keeps in. I would probably open up to somebody around me or my mom quicker than Clay did. If my mom was involved in that case, I think I would bring it up to her in the first second. Clay’s not good at opening up, and he has so much that he keeps in and doesn’t tell anyone. I think that’s the main difference. Maybe that’s an innate trait that I have.”
Minnette believes Clay’s ability to bottle things up so easily ultimately damages him.
“It’s more of a personality trait, but I guess it becomes a flaw because it hurts him many ways throughout the season. Most people, I think, would have that problem. There’s so much in there that I can’t even imagine having to hold inside. It’s more of a personal struggle of his than a flaw.”
Much Needed Relief
When dealing with such heavy topics like suicide, depression, and bullying, some actors would want to separate themselves the moment he or she would walk off set. Since Minnette was so involved in the show, he found it a bit of a challenge trying to disconnect from the material.
“It’s hard because I was working pretty much so my life became wake up, get ready, go to work, come back home after a long drive, learn your lines for the next day and then go to sleep. There wasn’t a lot of time to purposely and mentally separate yourself from the work. You sort of have to just erase it from your mind on the way home. That’s the only way to have a little bit of peace before going to sleep. There wasn’t a lot of time to go out and distance yourself from it. The weekend was when I spent the most time away from it. I live in Southern California and we filmed in Northern California, and I would come home a lot on most weekends. I could come home, see all my loved ones, and then go back to work and feel a little better.”
A Recognizable Pedigree
As a viewer, it’s easy to be drawn into the talent involved with 13 Reasons Why. This isn’t your typical sudsy teen drama found on your basic network.
Brian Yorkey hails from Broadway, and the adult talent, besides Walsh and D’Arcy James, includes Derek Luke, Steven Weber, and Robert Gant. Something about the project immediately felt different to Minnette as he learned more about it. It felt grander and more cinematic.
“No shade to any other particular shows but I wouldn’t want to attach myself to a non-cinematic, by-the-numbers teen drama. I knew that Tom McCarthy was directing the first two episodes, and it was going to be started off on a good note. I don’t think Netflix would allow themselves to make a basic melodramatic teen show. In the first couple of weeks seeing some playback on shots, and I saw how seriously everyone was taking. I remember feeling a huge sense of relief. I knew we were making a really good drama. It’s my mentality going into the next season too.
The addition of additional seasoned, award-winning actors helped alleviate any concerns Minnette may have had.
“When they add people with the pedigree like Kate Walsh and Brian D’Arcy James, that made me feel good. Everything kept falling into place better. I kept thinking, ‘Oh this person is involved and this director and that actor,’ and it made it more and more exciting as time went on—the other directors especially. I am a big fan of Kyle Alvarez. That was a really big selling point from my reps. I mean, come on, Gregg Araki is in there. It’s all these really special directors that you wouldn’t think would choose a drama that just centers on teens. It’s what separates it in my opinion. It just plays that way on screen.”
A Future Contribution?
Not only is Minnette one of our most promising acting talents, but he recently released his first single (“Pleaser”) with his band Wallow. Music is always a prominent presence when it comes to dramas with teens.
Could this mean Minnette could be heard on a future 13 Reasons Why soundtrack?
“My whole thing with Wallow is to keep them as separate as possible. I want them to both succeed on their own terms and respected for their own reasons. We’ll see if that comes up. I’m not going to try and make it happen. If I’m approached by it, we’ll see what happens. I would be flattered because all the music on the soundtrack is amazing.”
If Minnette is able to channel the same honesty as Clay Jensen in his other roles, I guarantee his career is assured.
All episodes of 13 Reasons Why are now streaming on Netflix.