There’s been tons of buzz about the second season of 13 Reasons Why, which now comes with a warning that the violence in the show may be triggering.
The focus of season two, however, is not a rehashing of Hannah’s story, but a look at the effects of sexual violence and the devastating backlash survivors often face in court and in public after coming forward.
Season two also introduces a few new characters, including Samantha Logan’s Nina, a sexual assault survivor who becomes a close friend to Jessica (Alisha Boe).
ESSENCE caught up with Logan to discuss her character, the show’s depiction of the mental health and sexual assault, and how the cast unwinds after filming such heavy scenes.
ESSENCE: What was it like joining 13 Reasons Why? Were you already familiar with the show?
I was so stoked when I found out I booked the role of Nina for season two. I remember leaving for Bali right after the first round of auditions and not hearing anything for the whole two weeks I was there. Then, amazingly enough, I got a callback the day I got back. I found out I booked the role with my friend Anne, who plays Chloe on the show, and we were on a flight out together the next day. Having already been friends with some of the cast, from working with them on other projects, it made it easy to transition in as a new character.
I was familiar with season one but I went back and binged some of it before filming started.
ESSENCE: How would you describe your character?
Nina was described as a "track star with a secret.” That secret turned out to be that she was also a victim of sexual assault at Liberty High. Initially, she hears the rumors about Jessica and observes her from a distance, then makes a simple gesture of friendship and becomes important to Jess's recovery process. Nina comes off as confident and secure, but later we see that she has not completely dealt with her assault. She doesn't talk about it to anyone else outside her support group, including her boyfriend. Like many sexual assault survivors, Nina still has healing to do.
ESSENCE: What kind of research did you have to do to prepare for the role and understanding the ways sexual assault affects victims?
Before I started filming I felt a huge responsibility to accurately portray what victims go through, the trauma and how some survivors develop depression, anxiety, and PTSD. The courage it takes to talk about their assault and seek help. How one in five women are sexually assaulted by age 18, how student-on-student sexual assault happens at a scary rate of one in 10 girls in schools. Ninety-three percent of teen rape victims know their perpetrator, and like Nina and Jess, they have to face them daily, whether that's at school or in the neighborhood. I’ll never know what it’s like to have lived through this experience and I can only begin to learn and understand, and, hopefully, help in any way I can even if that’s just being a voice through my character.
ESSENCE: Both Jessica and your character, Nina, are Black women coping with sexual assault, which brings up how Black women are often left out of discussions about sexual assault.
Women of color face higher rates of sexual assault. They also are least likely to report a sexual assault because of the culture of silence; fear of “betraying” their community by reporting it and concern that they won’t be treated fairly by the system. The cost of silence is high and these cultural values can create more stigma for those who find the courage to report. That's why it is so important to have characters like Nina and Jess, to let them know they're not alone, to encourage them to talk about their assault, and model getting help to deal with their trauma. The more women of color speak out—like Viola Davis did in her Women's March speech—then, hopefully, it will encourage others to break their silence. There's promising progress now, like the #MeTooK12 movement, which is opening doors to help people talk about sexual assault. We can start a culture shift if we just start talking.
ESSENCE: The show deals with such heavy subject matter, how did you unwind and try to step out of your character after filming scenes?
After filming it would take some time to get back to normal, because I tend to carry the characters thoughts and emotions with me for awhile, but thankfully I could FaceTime my best friend or my mom to make me laugh or hang with some of the cast after set to lighten up the mood.
ESSENCE: Are there projects outside of 13 Reasons Why that you’re working on? Anything you can discuss?
Yes! I’m working on a new series called All American, coming this fall on the CW, which I am SO EXCITED about. It's inspired by the life of NFL player Spencer Paysinger, who was a rising high school football star from Crenshaw recruited to play for Beverly Hills High. It follows two families as Spencer (Daniel Ezra) tries to navigate both worlds. I play the coach's (Taye Diggs) daughter Olivia, who is Spencer's first friend at his new school and fresh out of rehab. It’s one of those special projects that I feel so lucky to be a part of. It’s uplifting, powerful and emotional, so be on the lookout. I also have a film coming out later this year, The Empty Man.
ESSENCE: Five fun facts about yourself that fans might not know?
1. I love to drive up into the hills to read and watch the sunset.
2. My boyfriend and I watch SpongeBob every morning and pretty much all hours of the day.
3. I’m half Trini, half Irish.
4. I grew up dancing.
5. I would love to be behind the camera and direct one day.
ESSENCE: What’s on your bucket list for 2018?
My favorite things to do are travel and volunteer and I love to combine both. I had an amazing volunteer experience in Indonesia teaching and hope to do the same in Peru really soon. Machu Picchu has been on my bucket list for forever. I love exploring other cultures and meeting new friends wherever I go and I’m super grateful for the opportunity to do so.