Kate Walsh as Mrs. Baker and Katherine Langford as Hannah Baker in 13 Reasons Why.
Based on the best-selling book by Jay Asher, Netflix’s highly anticipated 13 Reasons Why (premieres on Netflix Friday, March 31)focuses on how a town grieves (and points fingers) after high schooler Hannah Baker commits suicide. We caught up with Kate Walsh, who plays Hannah’s mother on the show, to talk about the importance of bullying prevention, working on Broadway, and her can’t-miss meal in NYC.
What attracted you to the role of Mrs. Baker? KATE WALSH: Well, I know Netflix makes amazing things, so I knew it was going to be great quality. And Brian Yorkey is an incredible writer, and Tom McCarthy, who’s not only an Oscar winner, but an old friend [was involved, too]. So, I got on the phone with those guys. I read the script and thought it was brilliantly written.
I just wanted to make sure that my role would still be seminal and not too ancillary because I did ThePerks of Being a Wallflower, which was amazing, but it was quite different from the book.
My big question was, “Will the parents’ roles still be a big part of the show? Or is it going to be really insulated, like high school?” Because it could go that way. And Brian and Tom said that they wanted it to be bigger than just the insulated world of high school. They wanted to have that broader reach for parents and adults as well.
It’s a timely show. KW: The subject matter is so important, but I love the role—it is so heavy that I was up for the challenge. And I really wanted to do honor to the parents that have, sadly and tragically, had to go through this in their own lives with their children dying by suicide. That was really important to me, to try to tell their story. And now more than ever, with all the tumultuousness in our culture, I felt like, “Oh, we need to be talking about sexual assault. And teen bullying. And LGBTQ issues. Having one’s reputation destroyed in a second by the internet.” We need to find new language for adults and kids for how to deal with this stuff.
It’s a very different landscape than even 10 years ago. KW: It’s crazy. I remember hearing about bullying and thinking, “OK, I was bullied. [There was] peer pressure…” I didn’t realize that in an instant, a kid’s reputation could be destroyed because of social media. It’s terrifying and horrible. We all know, we’ve been teenagers, how hyper-real it all seems. And how it seems like your world begins and ends in high school. You have all these hormones happening, you’re becoming an adult. You’re becoming sexualized. And no one’s really there teaching you how to do it. So, this is an opportunity to really teach young people how to live and how to behave.
Are you still working a lot with Oceana? KW: I am! I have a necklace that I co-created with an artist where all of the proceeds (other than what it costs to make) go to Oceana. I was in DC last spring, we lobbied and won for preventing drilling in the Atlantic seaboard, which was a huge, huge victory.
You’re also in a play in New York right now. KW: Yes, If I Forget at Roundabout Theatre Company. Steven Levenson, who wrote Dear Evan Hansen, wrote it. It’s a new play; it’s amazing. Dan Sullivan is directing it and it’s an incredible cast. Roundabout has been incredible to work with and I’m having a great time. We opened February 22 and run through the end of April.
When you’re not working, do you have a go-to spot? KW: I have a restaurant that I’m obsessed with, Via Carota on Grove St. Oh my god, I love it so much. My friend Anya and I always go there. I’m just obsessed. We sit at the community table usually.
What’s your favorite dish? KW: Well, everybody’s doing black truffle pasta, but theirs is beyond—it’s the best thing ever. But then they get a little mad at me because I ask for Parmesan cheese and they look at me like I’m insulting them and I’m like, “I don’t care. I also will have scotch with an ice cube in it. So, I guess I’m a trailblazer.” Also, their grilled artichoke is incredible. It’s the most tender grilled artichoke I’ve ever had.