Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why does not shy away from controversy, instead, it learns from it. The first season of the teen drama sparked widespread conversations with its depiction of teen suicide and sexual assault, and Season 2 is gearing up to be just as heavy. Producers have introduced resources—like 13ReasonsWhy.info and the 13 Reasons Why Discussion Series, which shows the actors talking about sensitive issues from the show—but cast members are making sure they keep their own mental health in check, too.
Chelsea Alden is among a fleet of new faces in the upcoming season, which starts streaming on May 18, and knowing the heavy nature of the material, she made sure that self-care was a priority. In Season 2, Alden will be playing a character named Mackenzie, a “witty and artsy” student at Liberty High who isn’t afraid to speak her mind. Mackenzie is the younger sister to Cyrus, another new character who is described as an “edgy, cynical mischief maker.” Intrigued? So are we.
FLARE recently chatted with the actor about the importance of managing mental health and how she de-stresses after an intense day on set.
What can you tell us about your character Mackenzie?
There’s not a whole lot that I can say without giving away too many spoilers, but I will tell you that I think she’ll be a fresh character for the show. We see a lot kids coming through in the first season that we all sort of knew in high school—like the cheerleader or the jock—and they all have these interesting or dark pasts. The great thing about Mackenzie coming into Season 2 is that she’s very grounded; she really stands on her own two feet and she’s not very judgmental. I think she’s going to be a breath of fresh air for people.
13 Reasons Why tackles heavy topics like rape and suicide. How do you de-stress and take care of your own mental health when you leave the set?
It’s really important to [have] separation and learn as an actor how to leave the struggles and the challenges on set. If there’s a couple of us [on set] and there’s been a really hard scene, or if I know that some of my cast mates have had an intense day, I try to make a point to reach out to them and be like, ‘Hey, what are you doing? Do you want to hang out? Do you want to grab dinner?’ I think it’s important to separate [life from work] and really focus on what makes you happy. For me, I love finding the tallest mountain—there’s a bunch of great hills here in L.A.—and taking a hike to the top and looking out at the amazing city and taking a big deep breath and admiring all that there is here. That really puts things in perspective [for me]. If you can leave work at work, and then go home and celebrate all the good that you have to celebrate, it’s a great way to keep your head on straight.
FLARE recently chatted with your co-star Anne Winters, and she also told us that the cast are all really good friends. Did you all get along from the start?
Anne is great! The new cast [members] kind of bonded together just from being new. I definitely spent time with her and Bryce Cass, who plays Cyrus, my brother. The rest of the cast was incredible with welcoming us in as if we’d been there the whole time. Justin Prentice (Bryce Walker) is such a sweetheart and Timothy Granaderos (Montgomery de la Cruz), he’s just an amazing guy. They’re all such genuine people.
What about executive producer Selena Gomez? Have you had the chance to meet her?
I have; I met her after we wrapped. She’s clearly so passionate [about the show]. I didn’t have a lot of opportunity to spend time with her, but you can tell she loves the cast, the show, and she loves that she’s able to have a voice on this topic. We’re talking about sexual assault, and we’re talking about truth and justice, and I think it’s amazing that she’s been able to use her success and platform to create something like this. She’s really an incredible person.
The show recently made more resources available to viewers, including an entire website with information about crisis helplines. Why’s that important?
I’m thrilled with that. The intention of the show is to help, and with setting up that website and with the new videos that’ll go before the episodes, I think they’re really doing a great job of taking responsibility and trying to help as much as possible.
Why do you think 13 Reasons Why prompted such a huge reaction?
Art can bring light to a subject that people may shy away from, or don’t want to talk about because it’s uncomfortable, difficult or they’re scared of it. If we can use art, television, film or music to open up a conversation about those types of things, it pushes the envelope and makes people talk about them more. It even gives kids the security to feel like they can bring [things] up to their parents, and that they don’t have to sit with the struggles of bullying or sexual assault alone. I think anything that can help in that regard has to be helpful.
A lot of critics said that the show trivializes suicide and mental health. What’s your take on that?
I think everyone is 100 percent entitled to feel however they’re going to feel, and react however they’re going to react to any given situation that’s put in front of them. I think you just have to watch it from your own perspective, and if it helps you, then that’s amazing. If it doesn’t, then maybe move onto something else or talk to someone else about it. I don’t think the show ever has any intention of trivializing anything with mental health, and I think the whole point is to make it more open and more accessible for people.
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