Devin Druid of 13 Reasons Why on Photography and Parallels

Netflix has done it again. The new hit series, 13 Reasons Why, has left more than three million viewers on the edge of their seats-- and for good reason, too. When fictional lead Hannah Baker leaves behind thirteen tapes explaining the people responsible for her suicide, a sense of fear envelops those who have been mentioned. One such character is Tyler Down, a lonesome high school photographer. The actor behind this complex persona is no other than Devid Druid, the face behind FX's Louie and Conrad in Louder Than Bombs. Editor-in-chief Olivia Ferrucci discussed morality, authenticity, and cast game nights with Devin for our April issue.

Lithium: You play Tyler in 13 Reasons Why. Can you talk a bit about your character?
Devin: Tyler is this nerdy, awkward outsider who gets picked on and bullied in high school because he doesn’t really fit in anywhere. He’s not a popular guy-- he’s a student photographer, so he takes pictures of the student body at various events. Our show deals a lot with identity and how people cover themselves to fit in in different areas, and Tyler hates that. One of the main reasons he ends up falling in love with Hannah Baker is because, in his eyes, she isn’t trying to hide. It’s a really interesting dynamic because even though Tyler hates this whole concept of wearing a mask, he often does himself by hiding behind the camera so much . . . always in control. That’s Tyler.

Lithium: I think Tyler’s morality is the most complex-- it’s hard to decide whether his actions were at all justified. What was it like to judge Tyler’s character and decisions before going in front of the camera?
Devin: Tyler has so many different layers to him.  Everybody’s kind of dealing with the fallout of the tapes; on top of that, [Tyler] is dealing with the relentless bullying from not only the other kids on the tapes but other kids in the school that don’t even know about the tapes such as Montgomery and the jocks. You can see that Tyler doesn’t really react the way that other people do in the high school environment and that’s because he doesn’t have that same sort of companionship. And then, just learning about Tyler’s kind of downward spiral as the show went on-- it was actually a lot of fun as an actor to be able to kind of play his whole arc out.

Lithium: There are so many loose ends in the show’s closing. Is there any chance of a second season?
Devin: I honestly wish I could say something! It’s not even like I can’t say anything because they’d be mad at me. I can’t say anything because I literally have no idea. I mean, obviously, like you said, there are things that could definitely be cleaned up . . . Brian Yorkey, our show editor and writer, has definitely set something up where we could expand on it. And I know me and the cast, we all love this story and we love these characters, so I think we’d all love to come back and do more with it.

Lithium: Have you read the theories about Tyler’s character planning a shooting?
Devin: Yes! I mean, Tyler has a lot of ammunition. If he was just thinking about hurting himself, that’s a bit overkill. I’m not exactly sure what Tyler has planned, but I definitely think that with all of the bullying that he has received and the way he reacts to everyone and [because] he’s an outsider, he has no place to go. [He] really parallels Hannah’s story with kind of feeling alone and angry at everything happening, but maybe Tyler will react in a way that’s more destructive.

Lithium: How did you get into Tyler’s head prior to filming?
Devin: We had a super quick turnaround from the time I was told I was cast to me flying out to actually shoot. I really wanted to learn actual photography, like how to develop film, how to shoot, and whatnot. So one of the things that I did, was I actually-- I was dating this amazing girl at the time who took photography class, and so she just kind of showed me everything she knew. That was really cool.
In terms of head space, as an actor, I think one of my best assets is pulling from my everyday life and being an empathetic human being. Even though I haven’t necessarily gone through the same exact things that Tyler has in his life, I can imagine what he’d feel like in that situation and then I can think back into a moment in my life [when] I felt a similar way.

Lithium: 13 Reasons Why deals with a lot of dark subject matter, including sexual assault and suicide. What was it like to walk away from the set after a hard scene?
Devin: It was really difficult. So, we shot the show in block increments. We had thirteen episodes and then we’d have a new director that would take on every two episodes, except for the thirteenth episode. But before we’d start each block, each two episodes, we’d always do a table read where we would read through the two scripts. And I remember as the show went on, after every table read, we’d all kind of just sit there and cry together and then get up and just mutually gather in the center of the room and do this massive group hug. I think we just really had to let everything out. So, there [were] definitely some tough days [when I was]  just kind of feeling a lot and everything [was] kind of piled on top of [me]. That’s when it’s really important that you learn to leave everything on set. Otherwise, you can take that home with you and that can be a really dangerous and scary thing. I think that [the cast is] just the most lovely and amazing group of people. We are the biggest family and the best of friends, and so we’ve all been so supportive of each other. I also have my family out in San Francisco with me, so whenever there was a tough day, I always had, my mom and my sister and my brother. [They’d always] give me the space I needed but also let me know they were there to comfort me for whatever I needed. And then me and other cast members would always reach out to each other and say the same exact thing. So, we’d get together a lot, at Ross’s house, or my house, and we’d do like a cast game night or we’d go out for dinner-- we’d just hang out.

Lithium: What was your experience with the cast like, off set? I see so many pictures of you all hanging out on Instagram and it’s just the best thing ever.
Devin: Oh, yeah. Everything online is so reflective of us. We are actually best friends. It’s so rare that you would get so many people together that would all click and like each other so much, much less want to hang out. We all [understood] what we were doing and why it was important and we could all just sort of like, feel the vibe in the room and read that we were all there doing the same thing. And we all just immediately clicked and got along. I remember the first day I actually flew in. I stayed at a hotel the first night, and as soon as I landed, all of the cast members were put into an email thread by one of our producers and writers named Diana [Son]. And so as soon as I got there, I emailed and was like, “Hey, guys! Here’s my number if you want to text me.” And like, not even two minutes later, Justin Prentice (Brian on 13 Reasons Why) texted me and told me to come hang out [with director Tom McCarthy]. I just remember that Justin and I went out to the courtyard of this hotel and we just played ping pong all night . . . gradually, more and more cast members showed up and we’d all be chatting around the firepit playing ping pong together. It was amazing.

Lithium: What’s the most significant reaction you’ve received regarding the show since its release?
Devin: I think the thing that stuck with me the most is is definitely how much people are saying it’s helped them open their eyes-- I mean, there are older people who aren’t necessarily in high school that are like, “Wow, this really opened my eyes to what my kids may be going through.” It’s a lot of people expressing gratitude for having their similar stories told. You know, that was our goal from the beginning-- to tell [this] story that affects so many people. It’s so heartwarming and so gratifying to hear that we’ve done the job we set out to do.

Lithium: It’s been announced that 13 Reasons Why has the most Tweets of any Netflix original series to date. What’s it like for the show to have such a vast audience?
Devin: Oh man, it’s been crazy. It’s so overwhelming and we’re all so grateful that we’re able to be a part of it. It makes us feel good knowing that Hannah’s important story-- Jay’s story--and Hannah’s experiences and her messages are being passed along.

Lithium: Why do you think people are so responsive and passionate about the show?
Devin: Like I said, it’s just such an authentic representation of high school life and the issues that everyone goes through-- not just high schoolers. You know, everyone feels stressed sometimes or anxious or alone or depressed and that’s not a bad thing. It’s up to us to be there and make sure [people know] don’t have to feel that way all the time because there is a future ahead of people if they can have the strength to get past that.

Lithium: At what point do you think Tyler realizes the full magnitude of his role in Hannah’s death?
Devin: Honestly, it might be in the darkroom with Clay. I think that a lot of the characters on the tapes . . . their immediate reaction is to try and push away any involvement of themselves or any of the blame and some people do this by discerning Hannah as a liar [or] by writing her off as a drama queen. I don’t think Tyler is any different from that and then Clay catches him in the corner. And I think in that moment, Tyler starts to accept his role in Hannah’s death. I think that really starts to eat away at him because like Tyler says, you know, he was in love with Hannah-- whether or not that’s actual true love or more of an obsession. Brian Yorkey and I always compared Clay and Tyler. Tyler is the version of Clay that did something wrong to Hannah. So, it’s really interesting that they both start to crumble. Clay is just on a vendetta, while Tyler is crumbling on the inside from guilt and anger.

Lithium: 13 Reasons really approaches the line between entertainment and education due to its authenticity. Where do you as a cast meet that in your approach?
Devin: I think what’s in the back of our minds first and foremost is that we’re telling a story to the people who need it. But at the same time, it is a television show. So I think you really have to approach it from [the] angle that you’re making a message that you’re trying to make accessible to people and you’re providing it in a way that [can be] absorbed by the audience. I think our plan from the beginning has been to educate people but to do it in a way that is easily consumable [to] the average human being.

13 Reasons Why is now streaming on Netflix.

1 comment

  1. the questions and answers were spectacular!! i love this interview.