Before landing the role of queer intellectual Ryan on the new Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, Tommy Dorfman wasn’t looking to play gay characters. “I’ve had a lot of insecurities about being gay in this industry,” says the actor, whose part in the ensemble mystery, executive produced by Selena Gomez and adapted from Jay Asher’s 2007 YA novel, marks his first professional gig. “I only wanted straight roles — just to prove some false masculinity. But when this came I was like, I get this kid, and he needs to be seen.”
Like Ryan, the editor of a high school zine and one of 13 teens tied up in the suicide of lead character-narrator Hannah (Katherine Langford), Dorfman knows the itch of wanting to chase big dreams in a place where the outspoken thrive. “I had to get to New York,” says the 24-year-old Atlanta native. “I related to Ryan’s fear of getting stuck and was inspired by him being so vocal with his beliefs.”
Dorfman was cast last May, roughly a year after finishing college (where he studied theater), and 13 Reasons Why had nearly wrapped shooting season one when he married his husband, Peter. They wed on November 12, four days after Trump’s election. “I felt so scared for the first time in a long time about our safety,” he says. Still, portraying Ryan helped ignite Dorfman’s urge for artistic activism. “I’d love to play the first gay superhero,” he says, “or do the first big-budget gay rom-com. That doesn’t exist. It needs to.”
Watch the official Netflix trailer, below:
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