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‘13 Reasons Why,’ ‘Dear White People’ Teams Talk Pivotal Changes in Second Seasons

Variety logo Variety 5/7/2018 Ariana Brockington
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At Netflix’s annual FYSEE Kick-Off event in Los Angeles, Calif., stars of two of the streaming site’s most talked about returning series, “Dear White People” and “13 Reasons Why”, discussed using their second seasons to address topical issues.

Following the recent release of volume two of “Dear White People,” some fans were surprised to see the season open with the all-black residential dorm Armstrong-Parker as an integrated space.

Creator and director Justin Simien explained that the decision was tied to the current political climate. “It sort of mirrored the feelings that a lot of us were feelings particularly in a post-Trump world,” he told Variety.

Simien continued, “When I say a lot of us, I think people from communities that have long-since been marginalized and feel particularly marginalized by his presidency and the rise of the alt-right. It just felt like everyone’s safe space had been invaded. So, the best way to reflect that with these characters was to see when their safe space, this little microcosm, was invaded. How they respond to that and what are the cultural conversations, some of which maybe need to happen that result from that.”

Actor Marque Richardson, who plays Reggie, added that it is important to show the “unlikely partnerships” that the combined dorm formed. “I think that’s important because just like in the world right now conversations are happening that two sides of the fence wouldn’t have otherwise if they weren’t forced to be put together,” Richardson said.

Unlike “Dear White People,” the second season of “13 Reasons Why” has yet to hit Netflix. In anticipation for its May 18 release date, criticisms of the first season’s handling of the portrayal of bullying have resurfaced.

Viewers of the series questioned whether any of Hannah Baker’s (Katherine Langford) bullies had consequences for their actions. Derek Luke, who portrays counselor Kevin Porter, said this topic will be a focus of the new season.

“I think that our season two was affected obviously by the writers’ room but it was also affected by the outcry of fans who wanted some type of redemption,” Luke said. “I think we all went in there feeling a burden to deal with the hurt. Some of that hurt is in the shape of an antagonist that I think people will love to see get dealt with.”

He also spoke about the new outlook the adults will have this season. “The word ‘accountability’ now for the adults is different because in our story the story has gone public” Luke said. “So, anytime you’re in the media’s eye the emotions and the weight get even heavier. I think this season everyone’s looking [for] who to blame, especially the adults.”

Another character on Hannah’s tapes, Sheri, played by Ajiona Alexus, will also show a change in personality as she faces the role she played in Hannah’s death. Alexus acknowledged that the solution for bullying comes from consequences and “at the end of season one, I think you kind of feel like people got away with it.”

“I think season two you’ll see the consequences of things [Sheri] was possibly a part of took a toll on her life,” Alexus shared.

Ben Lawson, who joins the “13 Reasons Why” cast in season two, added that these consequences will come in the form of “legal ramifications.”

“We also see a lot more of what Hannah’s story involved,” Lawson revealed. “That’s not over. You’ll see a lot more of what happened in the lead up to her suicide.”

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