Selena Gomez was the executive producer of the Netflix teen drama 13 Reasons Why, but many fans are wondering why she didn’t scoop up the lead role as Hannah in the buzzy 13-part series, which is based on author Jay Asher’s bestselling YA novel of the same name. Gomez is 23-years-old, but she looks young enough to play the teen character.
In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Selena said the prospect of bringing the character to life (and ultimately, death) was too “frightening” for her.
“A book is frightening for me because I know the cult following it has, which is the reason why I didn’t want to be in it,” Selena told THR.
13 Reasons Why is about a teen girl named Hannah who commits suicide and leaves behind a series of audio cassettes which contain the 13 reasons why she did it. As a way of transitioning from her Disney Channel persona, Gomez was initially eyeing the role as Hannah in a Universal Pictures movie adaption of the story back in 2011.
“Originally, my mom and I found the project because I wanted it to be a transition piece,” Selena explained to THR. “Jay knew that my mom [exec producer Mandy Teefey] and I would be behind it for years, no matter how long it took to take it to that place.”
When it came time to adapt the story into a TV series, Selena knew right away she didn’t want to play the lead role. Gomez, who did a 90-day rehab stint last year, told THR she sees herself “as Hannah so much.”
“Seven years ago I did and even more so today, which I think is funny because it’s backwards,” Selena said.
“The older I get, the more insecure I get, which is odd. But that’s something a lot of people can relate to…I wanted it to feel like anyone can see themselves in this.”
Selena Gomez has other reason for not wanting to star in the series. Gomez told the New York Times she didn’t want her already famous face to overshadow the story.
“I wanted it to be credible,” Selena said. “If I’m a part of it, that’s going to cause a whole other conversation.”
Gomez revealed that it “organically began to become a project that I knew I would be behind the scenes with” because she knew it would be a “distraction” if she took a role in the show.
Selena Gomez and her team eventually found newcomer Katherine Langford to take on the “heavy” role of Hannah. Like Selena, Langford said the character “represents so many people.”
13 Reasons Why has been an instant hit on Netflix, and Gomez has not ruled out a second season of stories surrounding the people Hannah left behind.
“We don’t know what is going to go beyond it, but we know there are so many stories that lie beneath each character,” Selena said. “That’s why it became a series in the first place. So we’ll see.”
As for her own future as an actress and executive producer, Selena told the New York Times that she hopes 13 Reasons Why will serve as a “launching pad” for her.
“I want to be a part of projects that have value, that really matter,” Gomez revealed.
“And it’s really hard to do that. Sometimes I feel defeated. I’ll audition for a part that I feel very passionate about, meet with people, tell them I’m willing to go places. I think they think I won’t go there. To be honest, I don’t think it’s going to happen anytime soon for me. I think I look really young and image-wise, it’s difficult for people to grasp. But early on, my mom taught me that sometimes you just have to create those projects for yourself.”
Take a look at the video below to see Selena Gomez talking about her work on her “passion project” 13 Reasons Why.
[Featured Image by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for People.com]