Samantha Highfill
May 16, 2017 AT 11:36 AM EDT

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He’s part Unhelpful Yoda, part Fonzie, and part … Avenger? A breakout character from season 1 of 13 Reasons Why, Tony Padilla serves as the protector of Hannah’s story, Clay’s guide, and most importantly, the character who still acts like he lives in the ’70s.

“I knew right away that in the present day we would need someone who could open Clay up emotionally,” showrunner Brian Yorkey says of creating Tony’s role in the show. And as Yorkey explained it to star Dylan Minnette, Tony is someone who showed a little more care about what’s going on with Clay. “Clay could feel normal around Tony,” Minnette says.

But what was Tony’s connection to Hannah? “For a lot of Hannah’s high school experience, she is objectified, and Tony, whether because he’s a decent person or because he’s gay, doesn’t ever treat her like that,” star Katherine Langford, who plays Hannah, says. For Yorkey, that was the key to figuring out who Tony was. “He’s a guy who’s just a friend and appreciates her as a person,” Yorkey says. “When I figured that out, I said, that’s really interesting that this retro kid who has a Mustang and likes old music is also the gay kid. That all made sense to me and it also felt like he wouldn’t be, in any way, the stereotypical gay best friend and that it wouldn’t necessarily need to be something we spent a lot of time on. From there, we cast Christian [Navarro] and the rest of it really evolved into an indelible character.”

Navarro then came in and started to work with Yorkey to build this character, whom Navarro says developed, in many ways, out of his relationship with Clay. “He’s Clay’s best friend,” Navarro says of Tony. “And he’s one of the people whose genuine interest in making sure Hannah’s story is heard. He’s an Avenger in a lot of ways. He’s fighting for what he believes is right.”

Plus, he’s got that hair. (Fun fact: Yorkey wrote Tony’s “great hair” into the pilot script.)

13 Reasons Why season 2 will debut on Netflix next year.

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