EXCLUSIVE! 13 Reasons Why's Tommy Dorfman on sympathising with Ryan, working with Selena Gomez and why this story is so important

The rising star chatted to LAgoss.com about the much-anticipated Netflix show

EXCLUSIVE! 13 Reasons Why's Tommy Dorfman on sympathising with Ryan, working with Selena Gomez and why this story is so important

It's a best-selling book and fans can't wait to see the small-screen adaptation of 13 Reasons Why when it kicks off on Netflix later this month.

LAgoss.com chatted exclusively to Tommy Dorfman, who plays Ryan Shaver, about the project, as he revealed what it was like to work with executive producer Selena Gomez and how the cast and crew went about telling this incredible story.

The series follows high school student Hannah Baker, who commits suicide and leaves cassette tapes in which she lists 13 reasons why she took her own life, with each of them relating to a different person.

Coming soon: 13 Reasons Why star Tommy Dorfman chatted to LAgoss.com about the much-anticipated show | Netflix

"I wish I had a show like this to watch in high school," Tommy said of the series. "And so to be able to be a part of this show, especially because of the topics we’re dealing with - not just suicide, but also sexual assault and bullying and lack of communication and what that can mean - it’s definitely a privilege and an honour to tell this story.

"And I think what’s most exciting is that it will reach hopefully a mass audience of kids and help them and help them realise that they’re not alone, and if they can just find someone to talk to, things do get better. I think especially with Selena, this book was really important to her, and that’s why they got the rights to it."

Tommy revealed that he has younger cousins who cried when he told them a television version of the story was being made and that he would be a part of it, because the Jay Asher book has helped them through the toughest times in their lives.

Although Ryan is on Hannah's tapes and therefore named as one of the reasons she killed herself, Tommy managed to sympathise with the character, who will feature more prominently in the series than he did in the book.

"There was a challenge to figure out if I felt that what [Ryan] did was justified to be on the tapes. And in the end I decided that it was," he explained. "I think there’s an awareness that it wasn’t the worst thing that anyone did, but I do think there’s an understanding that what he did was hurtful and painful.

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"He has his own battles too, being in high school, and he doesn’t feel like he fits in with anyone, and develops this friendship with Hannah that is unique because it’s really the only friendship he has in high school and he gets too excited and completely ruins it, and doesn’t know how to handle that."

Tommy added: "And so I do feel sympathetic towards him, but it took some thinking and a lot of talking with our directors and Katherine who plays Hannah, and time to get to that place."

The 13-episode season will be a lot more fleshed out than the book, which is told from the perspective of Clay Jensen, one of the people on the tapes.

"I think the best way to describe it is that the book is the skeleton, and then Brian [Yorkey, writer] and Tom [McCarthy, director] and all the writers added the muscles and the skin - they really expanded on this great story," Tommy said.

The actor added that the show will touch on other issues that high school students face, and give viewers a closer look at the town and its inhabitants, and "how that can lead to something as tragic as Hannah's suicide".

about last night. i am so grateful to the @13reasonswhy team. 🌈

A post shared by TOMMY DORFMAN (@tommy.dorfman) on

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Tommy joked that the book's existing fanbase is "both exciting and terrifying", but said the fans have been thrilled with the casting - especially thanks to its diversity.

"It’s important to our show to make sure that everyone was represented, and they really are," he told LAgoss.com. "And I think that’s a really exciting thing because people who are watching this show are going to find someone they can relate to, whether because of their gender, or their race, or their sexuality, or just their experience. I think there’s opportunities for everyone to find someone they connect to."

The story is certainly a dark one, and Tommy said there were times the cast would be "at a table read where we’re reading the script and everyone’s crying", but they leaned on each other a lot and "developed very, very tight relationships" as a result.

"The show provided us a lot of resources as well," he revealed. "I think it was really important for them - they had specialists and therapists and emotional support dogs in times of need. They took it very seriously, which I think it has to be taken very seriously."

Selena Gomez was also a good support to the cast, Tommy shared, describing the singer and actress as "great" to work with.


Rising star: The actor plays Ryan Shaver in the show, which is based on the Jay Asher book of the same name and sees Selena Gomez as executive producer | Luvgenation

"She’s super humble and supportive and all around a calming person to be around, so when she was on set it was great having her there," he said.

13 Reasons Why is Tommy's first acting job, and he already has some other projects in the works that he has to keep firmly under wraps, but hopes the show could come back for a second season.

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When he's not in front of the camera, the rising star - who married his long-term boyfriend Peter last year - is using his platform to speak out about LGBTQ rights.

"I think for me, just being as true to myself as possible on my platform is important, and not hiding who I am is important," he said. "I’d say the biggest act of activism one can do, when you have a platform, is not hide themselves.

"I get a lot of messages from people who don’t live in places where they can fully express themselves, but feel inspired and grateful that they see someone who is doing that and living their truth, in hopes that when they do get out of whatever town or country they’re in, they can live their best life that way. And I do think with our current political climate, it would be a disservice to not be myself in that way and to not speak out about trans rights and LGBT rights."

13 Reasons Why premieres on Netflix on March 31st, 2017.

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