Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know that Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why is based on a fan-favorite YA novel of the same name, written by Jay Asher. When it comes to any book-to-TV adaptations, there are always bound to be some significant differences and fans of the paperback know that A LOT of creative liberties were taken when it came to making Jay’s hit a Netflix Original Series.
Apart from several variations in the actual plot (that OMFG cliffhanger ending, for example), another thing that changed a lot as Brian Yorkey brought the book to life is the way that the characters look. While the actors chosen to portray these fictional people may veer far from how they were first envisioned by readers, we’ve gotta be honest — the 13 Reasons Why cast has got some amazing chemistry and do a great job bringing the book characters to life, so their new appearances are totally welcome here.
Played by: Katherine Langford
It might surprise some 13RW viewers to find out that the OG Hannah Baker was actually blonde-haired and blue-eyed — especially because Selena Gomez, who is a brunette, was supposed to play the character when the book was slated to be a movie!
In the written version, Han is described of having long, blonde curly hair, which she chops off just before she decides to commit suicide. You can even see her blonde locks on the book cover!
Played by: Alisha Boe
One thing that's totally clear about the Netflix version of this YA novel is that the showrunners def wanted to kick the diversity up a notch. While Jessica's race is never clearly specified in Jay Asher's book, that typically means the character is white when. Ugh
Alisha Boe, who you know from season six of Teen Wolf, was chosen to play Hannah's frenemy for the Netflix hit and is a Woman of Color who is breaking stereotypes left and right.
Played by: Christian Navarro
While we're talking about diversity, we've got to mention Christian's character, Tony — who didn't even have a last name in the book, but was given the traditional Spanish last name, Padilla, when his character was brought to the screen. We've seen many Latino actors play white characters on the small screen and Christian is yet another to add to the list.
The character of Tony doesn't only LOOK different on TV but he also gets a much more central role, getting to play something like a guardian angel for Clay throughout the series... which is for sure a lot more air-time than he got in the book.
Played by: Ross Butler
In 13 Reasons Why, we have a black woman playing a white character and a Latino guy playing a white character, so it shouldn't be all too shocking that Ross Butler, who is Asian, plays a white character, too.
This is not the only phenomenal Teen TV series where the actor is plays a white role. Ross plays Reggie on The CW's Riverdale (which we're also obsessed with, BTW), a Caucasian guy from the Archie comics.
The 26-year-old talked about how important playing these types of roles is to him in an interview with Variety. "I'm not the Asian kid of Riverdale; I'm Reggie and I just happen to be Chinese. It's important because it's telling the story that Asian-Americans are in American culture. They're a big part of our population. It's a stepping stone to helping find our Asian-American leading movie stars." So true!
Played by: Sosie Bacon
One thing that a lot of 13 Reasons Why viewers were a little #confused about when the first season premiered a few weeks ago was that a ton of these high-schoolers were already tatted up — even though in the U.S. you need to be eighteen (or have a parent/guardian's approval) to get a tattoo. Tony has a pretty obvious tat on his neck below his ear but the one person who is full of body modifications is Skye — yet there is no mention of her body art and radical piercings when describing her character in the novel.
Fun fact about the actress who plays the girl: Sosie is yet another Hollywood daughter following in her parents' footsteps. She's the child of Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick
Played by: Michele Selene Ang
Much like Zach Dempsey, the character of Courtney wasn't Asian in the book, but the director clapped back to Hollywood's rampant white-washing problem by casting a Taiwanese-American to play the LGBTQ girl on screen.
Michele herself is vocal about her desire to see more Asians playing Asian roles, having recently published a shot on Instagram showing herself sporting a t-shirt that says "Scarlett & Emma & Tilda & Matt" — four white Hollywood stars who were picked to play Asian characters instead of, you know, actual Asian actors. One of the hashtags? #AsianAF. We love it!