13 Reasons Why never seemed built to be a continuing series. The first season, based on the best-selling book by Jay Asher, told what seemed to be a self-contained story: A girl who had taken her own life narrated what had led her to it on 13 cassette tapes. As the first season when on, however, the show became something more—less of a doomed love story between a boy and a girl gone from this world, and more of an ensemble piece where each character seemed fully-drawn, with their own struggles and their own stories. By the end, a season two seemed all but inevitable.
“If you think about it, for every story that Hannah told, there’s another version. For every person on that tape, there’s their side of the story. A big part of season two is through the trial, Hannah Baker’s parents suing the school district, each of those kids will be called to the stand to tell their own story. Will they tell the truth? What will they tell us that Hannah left off the tapes? There’s a lot more for us to learn about what went on, and who Hannah was. We got her story, there’s more to it,” says Yorkey.
Season one was a phenomenon—for young people across the world, it became the most talked about piece of entertainment, and as people watched a show that was intent on shining a light on the hardest things that young people go through, many felt represented by that depiction, while others felt it went too far, potentially triggering those who are most sensitive. Yorkey focuses on the ones for whom the show helped, and it was with those people in mind that he made the second season.
“I think that the reaction that the show got told us a couple things—it told us that there were an awful lot of people who were engaged with these characters, who felt like we did, like we had fallen in love with these characters and wanted to know what happened next. It also rededicated it to telling the story as honestly as we could and as truthfully as we could. Obviously there’s pressure there when a lot of people are going to be watching it, but the more important thing is that we had to keep doing the thing that we did before, which is tell the stories that we believe are important to tell, tell them as well as we can, with as much truthfulness as we can,” says Yorkey.
Yorkey believes that to alter the show to make it less graphic, and to focus less on the issues facing young people in America and around the world would be a disservice to both the show and its audience.
“I think the most important thing that we did in season one was tell the truth, and especially when it was hard to tell, not to look away. I think the most important thing that we can do for people who respond to the series is to continue to tell the truth and to continue to look especially at the things that are hard to look at. These are things that are going on in kid’s lives right now, and our keeping silent about them is not going to change the fact that they’re happening in the world. If we can, through a fictional story, make these experiences part of the conversation that people are having with each other and their parents, then we can really do something,” says Yorkey.
Personally, Yorkey connects most with Clay, the character played by Dylan Minnette, whose love for Hannah that continues after her death, was the primary focus of the first season.
“I identify really closely with Clay. I was certainly the kid growing up who often didn’t speak up until it was too late, who had a really hard time telling people what was going on inside, and what I was feeling. Watching Clay’s journey from a kid who’s really quiet, who doesn’t let anyone know how he’s feeling about Hannah, to a kid who is literally fighting to get justice for her, I love watching his journey,” says Yorkey.
But will there be a season three? Have they told the story they wanted to tell?
“I know you can’t tell me if this story will continue,” I say.
“I also don’t know yet!”
“But it is a story you want to continue?”
“This is what I think. We’ve been all really occupied getting season two out the door. There will come a time after season two has launched when we will say, ok, how do we feel? Is there more story to tell? Do we want to know what happens next? That’s’ what we did with season one. I think at that moment, we’ll know. I think the characters in the story will tell us either yes this is a place of closure, or no, we’re not done yet,” says Yorkey.