Throughout its four-season run, 13 Reasons Why delivered fans shocking twists, juicy drama, and some of the most emotional, tearjerking scenes imaginable. But actually, the real surprises happened when the cameras weren't rolling. From the near-miss casting decisions that could have changed everything, to the big alterations made when adapting the source material, these 13 Reasons Why behind-the-scenes facts will totally change how you see the show.
13 Reasons Why premiered in 2017 and immediately became both intensely loved and heatedly criticized. The series about a teenage girl who explains her suicide through 13 cassette tapes addressed to her classmates starred generally unknown actors at the time, but it did have some major star-power behind the cameras, with Selena Gomez as its executive producer. The first season was adapted from Jay Asher's 2007 novel of the same name, but because it became such a hit on Netflix, the series got three more seasons that invented increasingly wild, dark, and dangerous stories for the students at Liberty High.
There is so much more to the show than just what fans saw streaming on Netflix, though. These behind-the-scenes facts will help you get the full picture of all the most interesting facets that went into making 13 Reasons Why:
1. Selena Gomez was supposed to play Hannah at first.
Gomez had an important job behind the cameras as an EP of 13 Reasons Why, but she almost had an on-screen role as well. Back in 2011, when Universal Pictures began developing a film adaption of Jay Asher's 2007 book, Gomez was attached to star as Hannah Baker. After a few years, the project moved to Netflix and became a TV series, and Gomez explained to The Hollywood Reporter why she decided to limit her part in the project to behind-the-scenes only: "A book is frightening for me because I know the cult following it has, which is the reason why I didn't want to be in it. Originally, my mom and I found the project because I wanted it to be a transition piece."
2. Katherine Langford auditioned over Skype.
13 Reasons Why was Langford's first professional acting job, and her audition process to land it was a bit out of the ordinary. The Australian actress told W Magazine she read and re-read for the show numerous times over Skype calls with the casting directors before she got the part. She also had to rush to get a visa within 10 days of her casting in order to begin work in California.
3. Katherine Langford auditioned to play Jessica.
Every 13 Reasons Why fan sees Langford's face when they imagine Hannah Baker now, but things could have been much different. Langford actually auditioned for both Hannah and Jessica Davis initially, and the casting directors decided Hannah was the best fit for her. It worked out perfectly, because Alisha Boe fully embodied Jessica throughout all four seasons.
4. Christian Navarro had to get a driver's license for the show.
Tony Padilla has a deep love for cars, but as a New York City native, Christian Navarro never had to need to drive until landing his 13 Reasons Why role. He told PopSugar that the production team got him driving lessons and his license so he could play Tony: "I landed, they took me to a driving lesson, and I said, 'You guys made a mistake here.' But they were very generous and they really wanted me for the role. They got me driving lessons and my license, and now I'm a licensed California driver, much to my dad's horror!"
5. Devin Druid auditioned to play Clay.
Dylan Minnette's portrayal of Clay Jensen is at the very center of 13 Reasons Why, but Clay could have looked different if Devin Druid had landed the part. Druid told HollywoodLife his first couple of auditions were for Clay, but the director and writing team called him in to test for Tyler Down instead, and the rest is history.
6. Timothy Granaderos is nearly twice as old as Monty.
Fans of teen dramas are used to suspending their belief when it comes to the ages of the actors who play high schoolers, and 13 Reasons Why is no exception. While all of the actors are several years older than their teenage characters, it's Timothy Granaderos who has the most significant age gap. Granaderos was 30 when he first began playing Liberty High's resident bully Monty de la Cruz, making him 33 during the show's final season.
7. Timothy Granaderos worked with Selena Gomez before.
13 Reasons Why actually wasn't Granaderos' first time working alongside Gomez. The actor popped up as a futuristic mariachi performer in Gomez's 2011 music video for "Love You Like a Love Song."
8. Hannah's death is much different in the book.
The Netflix series made a lot of changes when adapting Jay Asher's 2007 novel. To further explore the side characters, the show had Courtney identify as lesbian and Justin come from an abusive home life, while making Clay generally more well-liked and accepted by his classmates, rather than a complete outcast. The biggest change, though, is the way Hannah died in the end. (The scene has since been removed after causing controversy.)
Showrunner Brian Yorkey said the decision to alter Hannah's death was meant to make her suicide as painful to watch as possible: "We had a number of people ask us along the way why we had Hannah kill herself in the way we did and why we showed it. We worked very hard not to be gratuitous, but we did want it to be painful to watch because we wanted to be very clear that there is nothing, in any way, worthwhile about suicide."
9. Skye Miller is actually Hollywood royalty IRL.
Pretty much all of the 13 Reasons Why cast only gained fame after 13 Reasons Why premiered, but Sosie Bacon is a major exception. The actor who portrayed Clay's love interest Skye is the daughter of Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick IRL.
10. Dylan Minnette helped pick the show's soundtrack and chose Clay's posters.
Music plays an important role in 13 Reasons Why, from the series' moody soundtrack to Clay's clear love of bands, as evidenced by all the posters in his room. That's actually a part of the show Minnette was heavily involved in. Minnette fronts the rock band Wallows, and he told PopSugar he helped form the soundtrack and chose Clay's band posters: "There are so many artists on the soundtrack that I'm so proud of. And Clay's room is filled with posters of my favorite bands. There are other artists that I would love to have in there, but they aren't artists that I feel Clay would listen to. You'll see there are a couple Arcade Fire posters, Bon Iver, The Cure, The Shins, and some other cool things."
11. Dylan Minnette might have been caught on Google Maps while filming.
After the first season of 13 Reasons Why aired, fans made a pretty unexpected and hysterical discovery: When searching Clay Jensen's home address on Google Maps, a Street View shot of the house seems to show Minnette posing for the cameras out front. Since Google Maps blurs out faces, there's no way to be sure it's him, but considering there's also a production team on the street, it definitely looks like it could have been.
12. Jeff Larracuente auditioned to play Justin.
Clay's uplifting buddy Jeff Atkins had a depressingly short run on 13 Reasons Why, but the actor who brought Jeff to life almost had a much bigger part. Larracuente revealed he initially auditioned to play Justin Foley, but of course, that role wound up going to Brandon Flynn instead.
13. Some of the cast members have matching tattoos.
After filming Season 1, Selena Gomez, Alisha Boe, and Tommy Dorfman all got semicolon tattoos on their wrists together. The tattoos honor the suicide prevention organization Project Semicolon, as the punctuation represents choosing to keep going at a point where it feels like the end.
14. Hannah's tapes are available to listen to online.
To get the full impact of Hannah Baker's tapes, the show's website uploaded all 13 for fans to listen to. The "Hannah's Reasons" section of the 13 Reasons Why website has uninterrupted audio of all the tapes.
15. Tony's blog is online.
In addition to Hannah's tapes, 13 Reasons Why's publisher Razorbill created a BlogSpot written from Tony Padilla's point of view to promote the book shortly after its 2007 release. The blog includes photos, police reports, and a yearbook dedication page that will add even more depth to Hannah's story for fans of the show. The blog is still up, though it's no longer active.
All four seasons of 13 Reasons Why are on Netflix now.