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’13 Reasons Why’: Chelsea Alden On Joining the Series and Season 2! (Interview)

Marcus Meisler

Fans have been eagerly awaiting the second season of 13 Reasons Why since, well, since the day season 1 came out last year. The series, which returns May 18th, will follow the next chapter of Hannah Baker’s story and all of the people whose lives were forever changed by her thirteen tapes.

Marcus Meisler

While Netflix was pretty tight-lipped about anything involving season 2, one of the most exciting bits of news to come out of the year-long hiatus was that the series would be introducing a plethora of new characters for the sophomore season. One of those characters is Mackenzie, “a witty, intuitive, and artsy high school student,” who will be played by young and talented Chelsea Alden.

Alden has burst onto the scene in the past couple of years with an array of comedic and dramatic roles on both the big and small screen. She’s worked opposite Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Veep, appeared in American Horror Story: Roanoke, Grey’s Anatomy, Jane the Virgin, as well as another Netflix series The Ranch. Alden can also be seen later this month in HBO Films’ indie drama The Tale alongside Laura Dern.

We were lucky enough to chat with Alden about the importance of 13 Reasons Why in today’s society, what it was like joining such a close cast, what fans can expect in season 2, and the iconic Bughead on Riverdale. Check it out below!

Casey Perriccio: Season 2 has been such a mystery for the past year with very little information being released, but in the past week we’ve been treated to teasers, trailers, exclusive photos, and a quickly approaching premiere date. Has it been a bit of a whirlwind for you?

Chelsea Alden: Absolutely, because I also didn’t know when the show was coming out. I think I found out the release date a few days before everybody else. So, I was sort of in the same mystery as you guys, but its been really exciting seeing all the footage and the teasers. They just released all of the song track titles too. I’m just getting really excited. I’m nervous but really excited!

CP: It’s so exciting! I heard the new Selena Gomez song today for the show, it was fantastic. 

CA: Me too! It’s so good.

CP: So you’re coming on to season two as a new character named Mackenzie, but we don’t really know too much about her. What can you share about her and what her role is going to look like in season 2?

CA:  Sure, I’ll tell you what I can! Mackenzie comes in as a student at Liberty High. She’s a very independent girl. She’s very artistic, opinionated, and she’s very non-judgemental. She comes into this new world with a sort of fresh perceptive. She’s not really into what everybody else has to say or think and likes to make choices, opinions, and decisions for herself. I think that’s going to be really refreshing and it’ll be an interesting take for people to see within the cast and characters.

CP: Absolutely. There are so many types of people in high school and the ones that aren’t afraid to speak up are always so fun to watch on screen. 

CA: Totally.

Marcus Meisler

CP: Going into season two, we’ve moved past the original novel written by Jay Asher. How did it feel coming onto the show as an original character? Was it difficult not having the book to guide you or to look to for some backstory to Mackenzie?

CA: Any project that I take on that has some source material is always really exciting because you have so much to base your character on, but it’s also a lot of pressure because so many other people have an idea of who your character is. So, being able to come into the show, and into an already established world as a brand new character, gave me a lot of freedom to really discover who Mackenzie is for myself and how she fits into this world.

CP: In addition to your character, the series is bringing in a lot of other new characters too, which is exciting! 

CA: Yes, that’s right. There’s quite a few! We’ve got a baseball coach played by Ben Lawson, we’ve got Bryce Cass, whose playing my brother, Cyrus. Who else? So many people, Anne Winters, Samantha Logan… I can’t even think of them all right now! I’m excited to see it all fit together because there are so many characters with so many points of views and so many storylines that all tie together.

CP: Me too! I had my own thoughts on what I thought season two was going to be and then the trailer came out and a huge focus of it was on Bryce’s trial, which is going to be playing a much larger role than I thought it would. Is there anything else that you can share about what other storylines fans can expect?

CA: Let’s see, what can I say, what can I say? Well, you’re definitely right about the trial, as you’ve seen in the trailer, and I think that was a really an important story to tell. The aftermath of season 1’s revelations and the repercussions and consequences of Bryce’s actions are all big themes surrounding justice this season. What does happen to those types of people or what could happen and specifically in our story, what does happen? Also, we’re going to explore a lot really touchy subjects – sexual assault is a big, big subject this season. We’re going to really discover how Jessica (below) comes to terms with everything that happened in the first season. So, I think it’s going to hit on a lot of really poignant things that audiences will be very intrigued by.

Beth Dubber/Netflix

CP: Yes, that’s particularly what made the first season so good. There was the overall story of Hannah, but then everyone else had their own individual stories too and it was just so captivating to see them all weave together. I’d like to hear a bit about what the audition process was like for you?

CA: It was actually a really quick audition! Sometimes I go in and it’s four or five call-backs and then they bring you back to meet the directors and producers.  For this one, I actually self-taped my audition and I didn’t know it was 13 Reasons Why that I was auditioning for. I had fake sides and a different name, so I didn’t really know. I just read the material and I felt like I really understood who the character was.

A lot of times when I’m picking a character or working on a character I like to think about what books they might read or what bands they like to listen to, and that really helps me get a perspective on their view of the world based on who they like to listen to and what they like to read. So, I did some of that prep and then it was really quick. I sent my tape in, I think on a Wednesday, and by Friday I had been approved by the network and I was working by Monday.

CP:  Oh wow, that is a quick turn around!

CA: It was very quick and it was so, so surreal. Once I realized that it was 13 Reasons Why I think I kind of freaked out. I was like, “Wait, what?-

CP: I’m sure! So you had watched the first season and were a fan?

CA: Oh definitely!  I think I watched the whole season in two or three days. It was so good because we don’t really get to see a lot of teenage stories that aren’t colored to be what we think teenagers are like.  We don’t get to see a lot of stories about teenagers that are also very real, and I think that’s what really drew me to the first season and made me so hooked in the first place. So, I was already a huge fan, I knew all of the characters and the cast, and I had really been wanting to be on the show. I thought it would be a good fit for me anyway, so to audition for it and not know that’s what I was actually auditioning for was very funny. Then only to realize after the fact that I was joining this amazing cast that I was already obsessed with was pretty cool.

CP: I love that story, it was meant to be! Okay, so talking about the cast. Last year I remember seeing so much of them on social media and in so many interviews talking about how they’re one big family. What was it like going onto the set that first day?

CA: It was awesome, but I was terrified. I just wanted to fit in, especially having been a fan of the show already, and knowing how much they lived through last season. Everyone on the show just exploded on social media and it became such a huge hit, so I was definitely a little nervous coming in, but they welcomed me with open arms like I had been a part of the cast since day one. I think that’s really a testament to the actors and the producers and the writers and just everyone on the show – they’re so welcoming and so supportive. It’s a great family to be a part of, and my nerves went out the window after 20 minutes because I was just made to feel so welcome.

CP: Who was one person that you looked forward to shooting scenes with from the cast?

CA: I don’t know if I can talk about who any of my scenes are with, but I will say that I was very excited to have a brother to act opposite with. Bryce [Cass] is awesome, so we really had a fun time developing that brother-sister relationship, which is new. I was certainly hopeful that I would get to work with everybody, but you just never know who your character is going to interact with. Let’s just say I was very excited to work with everyone!

CP: We sort of touched on earlier how the show handles tough topics such as suicide and sexual assault in these real and honest ways. What was one of your biggest takeaways from working on such an important show in the TV landscape at the moment?

CA: It really made me think about how I personally feel about a lot of these things. If you’re not directly affected by some of these issues that the show brings up it’s really easy to feel distant or separated from it. I think what the show really gave me is the ability to put myself in these characters’ shoes and understand that on a day-to-day basis there are teenage girls being sexually assaulted. Coming away from the show I also feel I have a much greater sense of empathy and understanding of what it is to be bullied or what it is to just feel misunderstood. I feel grateful to have that greater understanding and compassion because moving forward I will do whatever I can to help other people.

CP: The show resonated with so many people of all ages and I’m confident the second season will do that and more.

CA: Yes, I hope so!

CP: I want to move on from 13 Reasons Why to talk about your new movie with Laura Dern. You got to work with Julia Louis-Dreyfus on Veep before and now you’re getting to do this new movie The Tale with Dern. Can you talk a bit about the movie and what it’s like getting to work with these amazing actresses?

CA: Absolutely, I’m really excited! The movie comes out on HBO May 26th. We premiered at Sundance and people were talking all about it because it’s a very heavy subject. It also deals with sexual assault and Laura Dern’s character throughout the course of the film is coming to terms with an inappropriate sexual relationship from when she was a child. It’s so appropriate during the Me Too movement and I feel like between 13 Reasons Why and The Tale I’ve been so fortunate to keep falling into this category and these types of important stories and voices.

I’ve also been lucky enough to be able to work with these really powerful, strong women and powerful female storylines. Laura was amazing to work with. She’s an incredible actress and it was like taking a master class in acting. Just being able to watch her on set and to be able to work with her, was a dream come true.

CP: Fan Fest is a site written for fans and written by fans, so I was wondering what are some of your favorite things to fangirl over?

CA: Well, I have had a long-standing fangirl relationship with Lord of the Rings. I own all of the extended versions and I own the one ring and I have so many little mementos –  they’re just such beautiful stories. I also love Harry Potter and my guilty pleasure is Riverdale right now.

CP: Riverdale is so good!

CA: I watch it obsessively. I’m the only one in my general circle that’s super into it and I’m like, “I don’t care what you guys think, I love it and I’m going to watch every second of it.” So, I’m having a great time watching that show unfold and let’s be honest who doesn’t love Bughead?

CP: Right? I’m with you there, love them! So what would be your dream TV series to work on? Riverdale?

CA: I would love that. I would also really love to do a cool period piece. I loved Downton Abbey, I wish it was still on, but something like The Crown or Victoria I would love as well. I should just practice my British accent because I would die to do something like that or even a western. I think I like going into these other universes that are just so far away from me. Westworld seems amazing or Godless. I just love being able to put myself in a world that I’m unfamiliar with and act within that. So, a period drama or a western I think would be really cool.

CP: Plus, you would get to wear some really cool costumes on any of those shows! I always like to ask the same question at the end of my interviews – if snow could fall in any flavor, what would you choose?

CA: Oh, so much pressure! If snow could fall in any flavor, what would it be? Root beer, I think.

CP: That’s a great one.

CA: A root beer, like Sarsaparilla, real traditional root beer, that would be amazing. It would be like a root beer float all the time, falling from the sky.

Be sure to catch Chelsea this Friday when season 2 of 13 Reasons Why premieres on Netflix and then again later this month when The Tale premieres on HBO!

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Casey is a TV junkie currently living in Raleigh, NC. She studied Writing & Media Communication at James Madison University (go dukes!) and currently works in the pharmaceutical field. Constantly wanting to talk about television and learn more about her favorite shows led her to discovering the joy of recaps. From there, she combined her love of TV and writing to become a recapper for FanFest.