13 Reasons Why star Anne Winters opens up about filming that 'intense' season 3 moment
Warning: This article contains major spoilers for season 3 of 13 Reasons Why.
One of many cliffhangers left dangling at the end of 13 Reasons Why season 2 was Chlöe’s (Anne Winters) shocking declaration that she was pregnant. That’s why she lied on the stand to protect Bryce (Justin Prentice) during the trial, because he was the father of her child and she was, to put it mildly, freaking out. Thankfully Netflix’s teen drama wasted no time in revealing what Chlöe decided to do about her unplanned pregnancy with a convicted serial rapist (who also raped her before and potentially during their relationship).
The second episode of the new season saw Chlöe leaning on Zach (Ross Butler) for support after she broke up with Bryce and decided to get an abortion. But her path from the decision to the event didn’t go from A to B. She first had to endure visiting a fake abortion clinic, a practice that actually exists to “intentionally deceive pregnant women into believing that they provide a full range of women’s health services when, in reality, they provide only a pregnancy test, accompanied by intense anti-abortion propaganda,” according to the National Institutes of Health. As if that wasn’t traumatizing enough for her, once Chlöe does find a real doctor to perform the abortion, an anti-abortion activist wearing a fake escort vest tries to push more propaganda on her. By the time she actually sees the doctor, she’s shaken, and that’s all before the procedure even begins.
EW spoke with Winters about Chlöe’s decision to get an abortion, filming that emotional scene, whether or not she’ll be in the fourth and final season of 13 Reasons Why, and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Chlöe’s arc this season was incredibly powerful, especially with the focus on what it took for her to get an abortion. What kinds of conversations did you have with showrunner Brian Yorkey before this season began?
ANNE WINTERS: I thought abortion or something along the lines of making a decision about having the baby was going to be discussed, but honestly me and Brian didn’t have too many conversations. He basically said I was going to be going through a lot in terms of the abortion, and that was pretty big. He sent me the script, and I was really shocked in a good way because I saw the whole journey she was going to be put through. I thought it was really important to show the whole decision-making, and not just making an immediate fix but really seeing the journey she took and going back and forth until she made her final decision.
Before you knew your arc for the season, did you have any theories about what decision she was going to make?
No, I had no idea! I was really happy. It’s a really sad situation, but I was happy as an actor to be able to portray this situation truthfully. A lot of teenage girls go through this. I’ve seen a lot of these kinds of scenes done on TV before, but I’ve never felt like I really took the journey with them like I did in our episode. I’m really thankful that they gave me that opportunity to show that.
Everything Chlöe goes through just trying to schedule the appointment was so disturbing to see, since anyone getting an abortion is already in such a vulnerable place. What was your first reaction in learning what Chlöe was going to have to go through before the actual procedure even happened?
I’m always looking for something that is challenging, different, and unique, and this embodied every part of that. Every step along the way was different. I’ve never seen that done, I’ve never seen the protestors and that kind of trick that she went through, even in that first clinic that she thought was a real abortion center and it wasn’t, they were just trying to trick her. I’ve never seen that played through on screen, so I was really happy to be able to have that. That scene was intense and it really made it very real. It’s super-accurate.
Talk me through the kinds of conversations you had with Yorkey about how the abortion scene specifically was going to be portrayed.
Brian made it very clear that he wanted to really show the scene, but in a very emotional way that would focus mainly on my face and what I was going through as a person rather than the actual things that were happening. I got to talk to a doctor that performs abortions in Northern California, and I got to ask her a million questions so I was clear on the whole process and what it entailed. On the day, it was intense. It was a private set, so no one was there except for the director, me, and the doctor in the scene. It was big on my emotional standpoint. For me personally, it was the vacuum noise in that scene, that was what really got me there every time. That noise is so unique and so raw. It put me in that headspace.
How did you prepare for that extended shot where the camera stays on Chlöe’s face for the entire scene?
I was in the zone. I was just trying to really feel like I was there in that doctor’s office and this was my first time and I was alone. Zach was there, but in the grand scheme of things I was alone in the room. I just kept putting myself there in my mind, looking up at the ceiling — there’s a part where I squeeze my wrist because I was just doing that naturally. I had to film that scene twice, actually. I filmed it once and then like two months later they said the lighting wasn’t right so I had to come back and film that whole scene again. That was challenging.
What did you think when you finally saw the finished product of that scene?
It’s always weird to watch myself on television, but I was happy with it. I think that it really portrayed the emotions that I felt in that moment and that I think any girl going through that moment felt like.
What was your ultimate goal in how you portrayed that scene?
I thought about Chlöe, I thought about her backstory, a girl that is super into her social life and wanted to just be a cheerleader and date a popular guy at school and would do anything to be the “it” girl in school and not really think about herself. And then this big moment happens and she can’t really rely on this guy that she’s had a relationship with because he proves to be someone she can’t trust. She’s alone. I think any girl that’s in that situation would just be very scared and vulnerable and naïve. At the end of it, she just feels like there’s been something taken away from her and she has to grow up. Zach was there for her, but he encouraged her to make her own decision and to make her stand up for herself. I think that makes her a stronger person but it didn’t make her super-ready to handle everything, you know what I mean? She still has so much to deal with on her own.
What has the reaction to that episode been like so far?
I’ve already gotten a lot of DMs from a lot of people who can relate who want to talk to me, and that’s been really cool. I’ve been getting a lot of people saying they used to judge a friend or someone who has gone through that and made that decision and after seeing what Chlöe went through, they aren’t judging anymore now that they’ve seen another side to it. If anything, that’s the best thing. I can open someone’s eyes that may have been closed off to something huge and help them see that it’s not just a black-and-white issue. It’s a tough decision that everyone needs to make their own choice about. I’ve had girls reach out to me saying that they’ve never seen something portrayed so truthfully what they’ve gone through. It’s been amazing to see. And I’ve seen people say that they really felt like they were there with me, and as an actor that’s the best compliment ever.
Are you going to be in 13 Reasons Why’s fourth and final season?
I am in it. We’ve started filming but it’s all top-secret as what’s happening. I’m not quite sure where the season is going to go, like at all. I know it’s our senior year and I’m still at a different school, so I’m not sure how much I’ll be at Liberty and involved in all the Liberty drama. But I’m definitely in it, still involved with Zach in some way. They keep everything super-secretive, so we’ll see.
13 Reasons Why season 3 is now streaming on Netflix.