When we speak, the 22-year-old is flying under the radar in her hometown after promoting her first film, Love, Simon, in Sydney. Since swapping her couch for the life of an A-lister, Langford admits that she has to be “careful” when going out in public. She laughs as she recalls her first fan moment: “I was out for dinner and the waitress said, ‘You look like that girl from that show.’ I told her it was me and she said, ‘No you’re not!’ We went back and forth like that about five times before we paid the bill and left. We were about two blocks away from the restaurant when I heard someone yelling ‘Stop!’ I turned around and this waitress had chased me down the street for a photo.”
Although some critics denounced 13 Reasons Why for glorifying teen suicide, the second season of the series was released in May 2018. Langford, who plays the deceased Hannah Baker, says she wanted to be circumspect about her character’s development. “It’s not the same Hannah from season one in a lot of ways, but it’s important that we continue the dialogue.” Despite the backlash over topics such as suicide and sexual assault, season two continued along the same storyline – thankfully, with a less graphic suicide attempt, but the opposite can be said for the final episode’s rape scene, which some viewers are dubbing “horrifying.”
“When we made season one of 13 Reasons Why I completely understood the kind of show we were making and that a difference of opinions was not only expected, it was essential,” Langford says, prior to the release of season two. “Essentially, the show is a piece of entertainment and the way it can help is by promoting conversation [about these tough topics].”
Last week, Langford revealed she wouldn’t be returning for a third season, posting a heartfelt goodbye to her character on Instagram. “Thank you for filling my life with love and light,” she wrote to her following of 10.1 million – a staggering amount more than she had a little over a year ago when her social media accounts were private. With help from 13 Reasons Why producer Selena Gomez, who Langford now calls a friend, Langford realised the potential the platform had to help people – Gomez often writes to her following of 137m about gun control and raising awareness of the medical condition, Lupus.
“There’s a lot of emphasis on social media, especially when you’re starting out as an actress. There’s the idea that you could be cast because you have a huge number of followers," she explains, saying she never wanted to be valued by a number on Instagram. "It was the show that made me go public because I recognised that it was affecting and impacting a lot of people. I wanted to be there and be an online presence so that people could feel connected to Hannah. I try to use that platform for good and make sure that I’m there as a positive presence for people.”
The passion in Langford’s voice is undeniable, whether she’s talking about acting, her fans, or her involvement in the Time’s Up movement. “The Golden Globes was such a surreal night”, she reflects, referring to not only her first ceremony or first nomination, but to the Time’s Up movement and actresses wearing black in support. “The night before, a lot of the women who were involved got together,” she says. “I walked into the room and there were 25 of the most celebrated and talented women in Hollywood talking about how they could use their voice and make change that would benefit younger actresses like me.” Langford says before laughing about “bursting out crying” in front of Brie Larson and Reese Witherspoon. “Feeling the power in that room and the change that’s coming really brought out emotions,” she continues, eager to explain her tears.
Though the 22-year-old now calls Los Angeles home, she says she’ll never tire of coming back to Australia and loves the normality of seeing the friends she grew up with. “There’s this kind of feeling of people being proud of you and being supportive, but that stuff isn’t such a big deal. It makes you feel a lot more relaxed as a person,” she says, noting that she was able to go for lunch with friends with “no sunnies and no hat,” something she wouldn’t dream of doing in the USA. “That’s such a testament to Australian’s in general,” she muses.
As for where Langford will be by next year’s Golden Globes? Our guess is preparing an acceptance speech.