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'13 Reasons Why's Deaken Bluman On Controversial Queer Stories

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The fourth and final season of Netflix's teen drama series 13 Reasons Why aired this summer, and although it leaves a controversial and complicated legacy behind it, the show did bring a lot of difficult and hard topics that many young, queer people face to the forefront in ways that are still very seldom seen on television.

One of the show's stars, Deaken Bluman (who plays gay character Winston in the show) sat down with Out to reflect on the series' final batch of episodes, the memories he had from filming, being a part of a show that wasn't afraid to take on rough subjects, and the feedback he heard from queer fans after representing them through an LGBTQ+ character.

So the final season of the series is always bittersweet. Do you have a favorite memory from your days on the 13 Reasons Why set, and how much are you going to miss your time on the show?

Oh, I already miss it. I mean, it was a fun ride. My favorite time was working with Brenda Strong when she was directing. She truly is an actor's director, and she knows the show so well. She puts so much time, effort, thought, and love into everything. It makes it so easy to jump in with her and explore. She is an artist, and it is so much fun to work with artists. 

Throughout the past three years that the show's been on, 13 Reasons Why has never shied away from the hard topics. Do you hope these important conversations about mental health, suicide prevention, HIV/AIDS, and sexual assault continue after the series is done, and what kind of legacy do you hope 13 Reasons Why leaves and has on viewers in the coming years?

Yeah. 13 Reasons Why and Netflix paved the way for new shows to carry the topic further. They did an outstanding job, and I believe it will inspire new creators to take the risk in exploring the truth. 13 Reasons Why helped so many people in the legacy of understanding.

Like you mentioned, it really paved the way for a bunch of other LGBTQ+ shows, and other young teen shows on Netflix. What are you watching now that 13 Reasons Why is done?  

I'm going back, watching old movies. I'm a big movie watcher. I love the new shows and I love all the Jason Bateman stuff, The Ozarks and The Outsider. I'm having real fun with those. 

The storyline from last season with your character Winston and Monty was quite controversial, especially following Monty's death. Can you talk about what was your reaction when you found out that Monty was dying, especially since "the secretly gay bully" is a trope in TV, and then what was it like playing one of the roles in that really complicated pairing?

I'd have to go back to that. I'd have to kind of go back to answer that. I had a picture, I think I still have it. It's of Timothy. It's on my phone. It's a picture of him leaning back and smiling. He's wearing a blue tank top, and it's just a really good picture. You can Google Timothy Granaderos and find a picture. I was constantly looking at that picture running through the last scene of the season there when Winston says he was a human being. And I felt pain when I heard Monty was dead, as a person, as me, and I almost didn't understand it. It just happened so fast. All of a sudden he was just dead, but there was a past with Winston and Monty that was beautiful, and it came from my own imagination. I don't believe it was just a one-night stand. They ran away with each other. They told jokes. They laughed and made love, and they got free. What became complicated was the sudden death, when Winston couldn't leave it alone. 

Did you hear any feedback about that, or did you hear from fans about that at all?

Yeah, I think TV shows and movies can give you experiences that feels almost as if you're really experiencing it for yourself. 13 Reasons Why was born in darkness, and the darkness is still there with a lot of tough subjects. But I wish for our audience not to feel overwhelmed or sad but rather strength, and strength is needed in order to fight the important fight we all have to fight right now. I wish our audience can feel less lonely in any struggles that they might experience that are related to the show or at least that it will prepare and strengthen them to handle some of life's harder moments. I think when you finish the show, when you finish the season, you can walk away with the experience and closure of these characters' lives through high school and the inspiration to make the world around you a better place.

I was talking to Brandon Flynn a couple of weeks ago and he said the best thing about the show is that it removes the stigma and that you can openly talk about it, even if it's hard, even if it's emotional.

Yeah, definitely. Talking about it and talking with your parents, talking with your close, close friends who are really there to listen to you and understand you. 

On a lighter note, there's been a lot of ships on the show, like with any teen series. Did you have a favorite ship? 

Not to be selfish, but the Winston and Monty one. Yeah, that's was my favorite relationship. 

With this new wave of Netflix shows and streaming shows, there's been a lot of LGBTQ+ representation, and there's a lot more boys kissing boys on screen. What was it like to just be a part of this new movement where high school shows are more diverse? They get to show queer people, people of color. It's so diverse now than it used to be.

It's really wonderful.

Back when I was in high school, shows were super white, super blond, so all these shows now are amazing.

You're so right about the old shows. It was super white and super straight, and it was about the emotional drama. And this, this hits so many topics, and it was such a pleasure to be on this show and to work with this kind of movement. I mean, working with 13 Reasons Why was such a blessing in so many ways. 

I saw online that some fans were a little hesitant about this season after the finale of season three. Do you have any words of encouragement for them to just finish the season just so you can relax their minds and let them know, "Hey, the season wraps up decently"?

Yeah, this season really wraps up beautifully, and I think they're also going to enjoy the performances from the other actors, especially Brandon and what he goes through at the end and how he portrayed that.

It's just like any new show or any show that you don't want it to end. You have to get through a couple of episodes to really, really own the story and get into it for yourself. It always takes a couple episodes to really warm up and then all of a sudden, your mind's in that imaginative cloud and you just get to take the ride. 

How did you feel personally about the series finale, and if there's a future for these characters again in some capacity, would you ever want to come back and, I don't know, maybe do something else with these characters and these actors?

With Winston? Yeah, of course. I mean, my coach who was coaching me during the season told me, 'Right before the show ends you'll feel that you can play Winston through and through,' and he was right. It was the right moment with the prom where I felt a calmness. There wasn't a constant battle between two minds, between Deaken and Winston. He finally let me in, so now that the show is over I have so much more to offer and to give. But I think Winston moved on, and maybe he'll come back and maybe he won't. 

The fourth and final season of 13 Reasons Why is currently streaming on Netflix.

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