13 Reasons Why has made headlines for putting teen suicide front and center, and now one of the stars from the Netflix teen drama admits to his owns struggles with suicidal thoughts when he was younger. Justin Prentice, who plays violent high school jock Bryce Walker on the hit series, told Variety that he dealt with suicidal thoughts when he was growing up.
“When I was a kid, I was very much a perfectionist, and I had a bunch of different compulsions. And so through all of that, I had high anxiety and high stress, so I did, actually,” the 24-year-old actor revealed. “I brought it up with my mother because I was very fortunate to be close with my parents. And she was instrumental in helping me through it, which was awesome.”
Justin also revealed that a friend of his took his own life in high school and there were “similarities” with the 13 Reasons Why storyline. Prentice also said there are people in his life who were sexually assaulted or raped when they were young, so the 13 Reasons Why themes ring close to home for him.
Prentice’s character, Bryce Walker, was one of the “13 reasons” why Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) ended her life during the first season of 13 Reasons Why. Bruce raped Hannah, a high school sophomore, at a party in one of the most unsettling scenes of the series.
Prentice admitted that some of 13 Reasons Why’s most difficult scenes were sometimes hard for him to move past.
“Sometimes after the very dark scenes it kind of stays with you for a little bit. But the cast…we are all a big family, so we will usually get together after the very dark scenes and just decompress, and take a breather for a second, and all have each other’s backs, which is nice.”
Justin also stands behind producers of the controversial series who say these stories need to be heard and not just brushed under the rug.
Justin Prentice has also revealed that he has been deeply affected by the fan response to his character, Bryce Walker. While he admits to being trolled and called a “rapist” due to his character’s actions, Prentice has tried to take it in stride. In a video posted by The Wrap, Prentice read a letter from a 13 Reasons Why fan who is a sexual assault survivor. The fan wrote that Justin portrays “a person I’m terrified of,” but she added that the actor is “showing someone that needs to be put out there and talked about.”
Prentice got choked up as he read the next line of the letter: “Thanks for saving my life.”
13 Reasons Why Seasons 1 and 2 are currently available on Netflix.