HollywoodLife talked EXCLUSIVELY with ’13 Reasons Why’ star Brian d’Arcy James about his reaction to Andy’s storyline in season 2, the future of Hannah Baker on the show, his thoughts on the talented young cast, and more.
Brian d’Arcy James returned as Andy Baker for 13 Reasons Why season 2, and the show peeled back the layers on Hannah’s dad and his marriage with Olivia. Andy had an affair in the year before Hannah committed suicide, and Hannah knew about it. After Hannah’s death, the Bakers separated and found themselves trying to move forward in two very different ways.
HollywoodLife spoke EXCLUSIVELY with Brian after season 2 dropped on May 18. There was so much to explore between Andy and Olivia in season 2, and Brian believes Andy’s storyline made “perfect sense” as his character tried to navigate life after his daughter’s tragic death. Everyone grieves differently, and 13 Reasons Why perfectly illustrated that in the second season. Plus, he elaborates about Andy’s way of coping and talks about Dylan Minnette’s moving performance during the finale. Check out our Q&A below.
Before season 2 even really started, did you have any thoughts about where Andy might be heading?
Brian d’Arcy James: Yeah, I think instinctively when you leave the Bakers at the end of the first season, there’s a sense that they are on the verge of discovering a lot of new information that will be of consequence to them. So I was thinking that there would definitely be a chance to explore that, and also knowing that this is a family in crisis and definitely a lot of road to travel with that in mind. With that, I was thinking there was certainly a lot to explore. How it was going to play out, I wasn’t sure. Generally, what I was thinking would happen did occur in terms of how that marriage was having a hard time of withstanding how this tragedy has affected them.
How did you react when you got the script and learned that Andy would be going down this certain path?
Brian d’Arcy James: There were all kinds of possibilities for the relationship, and I think in the first season there was ample evidence that Olivia and Andy were of two different minds as to how to proceed with the lawsuit. I think that in any situation that is so extreme and sad and terrible as a death of a family member, that’s only going to highlight people’s natural instincts and where they live. There was ample opportunity to draw those distinctions in the second season.
One of the biggest surprises, for me at least, was that Andy had an affair and Hannah knew about it. Were you surprised by that aspect of Andy’s storyline?
Brian d’Arcy James: I was. It’s interesting when you have information, you have a sense of the character, but you don’t have all the information because that’s up to the brilliant [showrunner] Brian Yorkey and his team of writers. Upon first learning that, it was definitely a lot to absorb but also makes perfect sense for the story, vis-à-vis the relationship he has with his daughter and one more thing that she has to contend with while navigating the tricky waters of adolescence. So story wise, I thought it was very powerful and also a very human moment to see another side of how that crisis is playing itself out between Olivia and Andy.
As we see in season 2, Andy wasn’t there for Olivia during the beginning of the trial and everything. He wasn’t by her side until well into it. Why do you think he backed away from Olivia in the aftermath of Hannah’s death? Was it his way of dealing with the guilt with he felt?
Brian d’Arcy James: I feel like that’s one aspect of it. It’s a good question, there are a lot answers to it. I think he was following his instinct in terms of his own health, in terms of his own ability to cope, and his own ability to heal. I think that the decision that was made on his part and their part was for them to separate. This, of course, is not seen or illustrated in the second season so it’s all kind of filling in the blanks here. But the supposition is that he’s come to some kind of an agreement that this it isn’t going to work out, and they have to be in their own modes, if you will, to be able to function and move forward. If anyone’s ever dealt with something as tragic as death by suicide — for me, it’s unimaginable — but we all have our reference points in terms of how we deal with loss. All of which to say is that guilt may be part of it, but I think it’s also a sense of how he’s going to be able to cope and not get stuck in the paralysis of a relationship that isn’t allowing for a chance to heal. And for Kate [Walsh]’s character, I don’t want to speak for her, but what I’ve seen in the show in just watching and knowing how the characters develop, the fire that burns for her is her cause of justice, and that’s the thing that’s keeping her moving forward. It’s a question of the individuals finding their own ways to try and move forward in the wake of this tragedy.
There’s a quote from Andy in the second season that particularly struck me, “I want to close the door that I can never go back through.” That just moved me because it’s such a real portrayal of grief and moving past something as tragic as this. What was it like for you to be the person in that situation that is starting a new chapter?
Brian d’Arcy James: It’s terrifying. Reliving it as the character, some might call it courage, some might call it bailing out. It’s up to the viewer to determine how they see that character and what it means. For me, I just get a sense of Andy having to do this for himself, knowing the pain that it’s going to cause him in knowing that the relationship with the woman that he’s been in love with since high school is taking a turn. Not being able to go through a door with her, the loss of his daughter, all those things are in that statement. It’s inevitable, I suppose, and also terrifying. I put it in the context of one’s ability to cope. I think it’s just a question of him doing what he needs to do and, I think in those situations, you either sink or swim. They’re both trying to do their best just to swim, and this is how he’s going to swim. I think Brian and the writers have done a great job of demonstrating that aspect of Andy’s character, but also his willingness to see that this is his life partner, the mother of his daughter. There’s a respect and a deep care for that relationship and to do what he can to acknowledge that as best he can, in light of having to pursue justice and do the right thing. In any good relationship, you pick up the strengths of the other. In this case, Olivia’s steadfast approach to moving forward with this desire to seek justice for her daughter is something that Andy is imbued with because of the passion that she has.
One of my favorite scenes of the season was Hannah’s memorial service. Clay makes that beautiful speech and then Hannah walks out. Do you think that’s the end of Hannah?
Brian d’Arcy James: Well, I don’t know. I would imagine that it is. I’m not the one dreaming up all the possibilities here. Certainly for the sake of the second season, I think it does a good job of giving a sense of closure that’s necessary, and I guess the epilogue of the finale gives you a sense of people coming together. That sense of community is established, which I think says a great deal about the community trying to find their way forward together and individually. You get that sense that there’s going to be healing, as hard it will be, there will be healing which I think is a very important and hopeful note. In terms of Hannah, I guess that’s my answer. I think it does satisfactorily have a nice conclusion, but I don’t know where it goes from there.
Kate Walsh’s character makes a beautiful speech during the scene, as does Dylan Minnette. His performance has stuck with me so much. You’ve worked with so many great actors and are a great actor yourself, what did you think watching this young actor? I thought he was remarkable.
Brian d’Arcy James: There are two things happening when something like that occurs. I’ll be specific in this case. We know that we’re shooting the finale of the season, so there’s this literal sense of closure that’s coming for us as people who are working together and have worked so hard to create something and understanding that this is coming to a close. There’s that aspect of it that gives it a resonance, which I think is undeniable, at least for me it was. So that’s the first part of it. The second part to your point about watching Dylan, I think the same could be said about all of the high school characters. These young actors, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I feel like I’ve had a front row seat to a new generation of actors people are going to be enjoying for a long time because of the quality of work that they’re putting out in these two seasons. I was astounded. Dylan is a — just to be specific because you asked about him — he’s got such great charisma and seems to effortlessly hold this thing up for two seasons with such grace and strength and vulnerability. All of the qualities that were necessary to make this compelling character. I’m so impressed with his ability to have done that so incredibly well… The only way that actors can be successful in their jobs is if they’re given material that is good. And to that point, the ability to evolve and the ability to take a character further only comes and stems from what’s given to you on a page. Brian Yorkey and his writers are exceptional and have allowed for all these interesting and surprising branches of the tree to grow in front of you. That can’t go unsaid. We’re just driving on the road, and they’re giving us the road map.