WARNING: This post contains spoilers from the first season of 13 Reasons Why.
When Hannah Baker was enduring the worst year of her life, there was one moment in which she felt hope for the future, in which she envisioned something better for herself: At Jessica’s party, she thought about what life would be like with Clay Jensen by her side.
Of course, as 13 Reasons Why fans know, Hannah and Clay never got the chance to explore that. Instead, Hannah cut her own life short, leaving Clay to wrestle with the role he might’ve played in her decision. It’s a long, emotional journey for the central male figure in the Netflix show, which is why EW spoke with Dylan Minnette about playing Clay, that scar, and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Did you read the book before you started filming?
DYLAN MINNETTE: I was starting to read the book but when I got there, I talked to [writer] Brian [Yorkey] and some of the producers and they were like, “Well, the Clay that we’re writing is the Clay you’re going to be playing.” And that made sense. I thought, “I don’t ever want to get confused so I’m going to finish the book once I’m finished with the season,” and that’s exactly what I did. I’m kind of glad I did because the book meant so much more to me once I had filmed the show for six months. I was way more attached to Clay and Hannah.
Was Clay a relatively easy character to tap into and relate to?
I was really intimidated at first, before we started filming. I knew the responsibility and the pressure that I was going to have ahead of me — to have a story being told through your characters’ eyes for 13 episodes. I had never done anything like that before. But once I had gotten more attached to Clay and figured him out a bit more, I started to see myself in Clay quite a bit. The lines started to be blurred sometimes between Clay and Dylan, and I found myself connecting a lot more because I’d read lines from Clay and I’d go, “Well these are things that I would say.” I think that Brian picked up on a lot of things that I say and ways that I act and kind of put them into Clay, because what he told me is that Clay started to transform quite a bit once Brian really knew me. He started to write Clay a little differently. I could see that happening throughout the season.
How long were you in the makeup chair for that scar?
It all depended on what the stage of the cut was. In the beginning, it took about 40-45 minutes every day. After that, once it healed a little bit, you could kind of draw it on with a brush instead of a prosthetic and it would take 10 minutes maybe. Because it’d go through different phases of bruising but then it gets cut open again. It was a process, that cut. I got very used to it. I started to feel weird when I didn’t have the cut on my head, honestly.
At this point, you should get a tattoo of it on your forehead.
I honestly just should. [Laughs]
RELATED: 13 Reasons Why Team Explains Why They Showed Hannah’s Death
Clay keeps his mom in the dark all season long, all the while promising to fill her in. Why do you think he handled things that way?
I was kind of figuring that out as I went, too, and was trusting Brian with his writing and just thinking that it would get solved for me as well in the end. I think he knows that he’s eventually going to take matters into his own hands and do what he thinks is best for Hannah with these tapes and knows that sometime soon, he’s going to have to tell his mom and she’s going to find out because he’s going to do something about it. He knows he’s getting closer to that. I think he knows that if he told his mom the whole story in that moment in time, she would freak out, so I think that he was waiting for the right time because he knows he’s going to do something about it, which he does.
Another minor Clay mystery: There’s mention of him going to a therapist and taking medication, but that’s never fully explored. Did you talk to the writers about that?
There were some discussions, just things to have in my brain, things that Brian didn’t think were necessary to really explain yet. So there’s little things I knew. I think really overall it was just anxiety and insecurity — his parents put him in with a doctor whether he liked it or not. But he was on medication for that, as we found out, but I don’t think it was anything much more than that, at least that I know of. If there are more seasons I don’t know if that will ever be explained, but I think that’s it.
Looking back at your time on this show, what are the scenes that stand out to you?
Many, many scenes with Christian Navarro. I loved [Tony and Clay’s] relationship and learning more about it and learning more about Tony. I love that in Clay’s episode, he was with Tony. Christian is the kind of actor that throws things at you, things that aren’t written in the scene that really end up helping you a lot. In the scene on the cliff where I’m crying, I didn’t even know that I was going to be crying that much in that scene, it just kind of happened in the first take. It was because of the help from Christian and how he was doing it with me. He cares so much and gives it so much passion. He hugs Clay at the end of that scene but that wasn’t written in the scene. Christian just did that and it’s those little things that he would do. At the end of episode 9 where I’m freaking out and kicking my bike and then I sit down and play tape 10, and he comes over and sits next to me — that wasn’t in the script either. He just does these things that end up taking these scenes to the next level and makes you care about their friendship so much more.
What stands out for me is that I feel very lucky that I got to have so many standalone scenes with all of the characters because Clay goes and talks to all of these people. I love that I got to work individually with all of these people because they’re all so talented. I’m sad I only had one quick scene with Brian D’Arcy James. I hope if there’s more, I get to have more with him, but honestly, just there was so much.
And obviously Clay and Hannah’s story is so amazing and Katherine [Langford] was fantastic, so any scenes with her. The scene where Clay thinks back to what he could’ve said to Hannah to save her life I think is such an impactful scene and meant so much to me when I read it. I don’t know if a scene has ever hit me as much as that. Sitting there reading it, knowing what it means, I’ve never quite felt so attached to a character or scene in anything I’ve ever done.
13 Reasons Why is available on Netflix now.