Anne Winters on Chloe's abortion on '13 Reasons Why': 'I loved how they showed the entire journey' (Exclusive)
WARNING: Spoilers for season 3 of "13 Reasons Why" below
Season 3 of "13 Reasons Why" was a breakout one for Anne Winters.
The actress, who plays Chloe Rice on the controversial Netflix series, first joined "13 Reasons" in its second season as football star Bryce Walker's girlfriend. At first, the character could be taken as a surface-level one, based on past portrayals of high school cheerleaders who date the big man on campus football star.
But, through the show's sensitive writing and Winters' incredible handling of her character, Chloe has proven to be anything but surface-level: Between the abuse Chloe has been put through at the hands of her boyfriend in season 2 and season 3's emotional second episode, in which Chloe gets an abortion, we see an embattled young woman who comes out stronger on the other side.
AOL's Gibson Johns recently sat down with Anne Winters to discuss season 3 of "13 Reasons Why," that pivotal second episode and the handling of Chloe's abortion on the show. Read our full conversation below:
How does it feel to have season three of "13 Reasons Why" out there for people to see?
The time in between filming and when it came out was so long, I almost forgot everything that was happening. But, when the trailer dropped, everything came back again. I loved how they made the trailer about how Bryce died, because in my mind that was the biggest secret. It gave me permission to talk about the season. I’m glad that they chose to take the season that way, because I think it was really smart. The first two seasons everybody hated him, so it could really be anybody that killed him.
What do you make about how this show has evolved throughout its first three seasons? It's touched on so many huge topics for teenagers.
Brian [Yorkey], our creator, is really smart in that way. After every season, even in the second season when I booked it, everything is so secretive. I had no idea where it was going to go, because there was only one book, and every season Brian has completely shocked me with what he can do with this story. Our show really spotlights a lot of topics, and we’ve covered a lot of massive, relevant things that are going on right now and showing them in a really raw and real way. The sky is the limit with this show.
When Chloe is introduced to the show in season 2, I feel like we're supposed to think in a certain way about the archetype of who she is at first, but talk to me about taking that character and showing how deep and complex she is.
In season 2, you see Chloe as being really into her social life and valuing her friends and what she appears to be to her peers, and that’s really relatable to a lot of girls trying to hide things and being very into the surface things that look important in high school. But, when she goes through the experience she went through with Bryce in season 2 and realizes she’s in way over her head and that maybe this guy isn’t the right guy for her, even though he’s the most popular, she has to really dig deeper and understand what she wants. It isn’t until season 3 that she goes through that journey in episode 2 and realizes he isn’t right for her and that she deserves better. She also realizes that she can make decisions and be on her own and really grow up and become an independent woman, which was cool to see.
From your perspective, as the actress who plays her, do you think Chloe struck with Bryce because of the abuse he put her through? Do you think she was in love with him? Or maybe both?
I think there’s both aspects to it. She understood him more than anybody else, so when Jessica was telling her things she just said she didn’t understand him. That’s every girl in a relationship, and I think that comes from love or what she thought was love. He’s a really good manipulator and every time she was on the fence, he would be really nice to her. He’s good at reeling her back in, and she fell victim to that.
How do you and Justin Wright Prentice, the actor who plays Bryce, set up the dynamic of that relationship? I’m sure there has to be some level of trust there.
Justin is the nicest guy ever, unlike his character, and he just made me feel really comfortable. In the first season, he had a lot of those scenes, so he a bit more [experienced], but for me it was the first time I had done anything like that. We had a girl director for most of our big scenes like that, same with my abortion scene in season 3. They have a private set, so no one’s really there except for the camera, the director and the actors in the situation. I always felt very comfortable and he’s hilarious off set, so it makes it easy to relax and then be in that moment.
Let’s talk about episode 2 or season 3, "If You’re Breathing, You’re a Liar," which is tracks the before and after of your character, Chloe, getting an abortion. When you read the script, what was your reaction?
When I read the script, I was really shocked -- in a good way. I knew we’d be tackling abortion in some way, but I didn’t know to what extent and a lot of shows that are out there show abortion scenes and that’s it, but I loved how they showed the entire journey of her not even being sure if she wanted to do it or not, being still with Bryce and not sure if she was going to tell him, going to dinner with his mom and her saying she shouldn’t be there. There were so many things that led up to her decision, and I think that was really important for them to show. Also, having Zach there by her side was very, very nice, and it showed her what a guy is supposed to be like. He was a great character to have there.
How do you prepare for an episode like this? It’s Chloe’s primary episode of the season, and it’s obviously extremely intense and emotional.
Netflix set me up in a meeting with producers, and we got to ask this doctor who performs abortions any question that we wanted, and she was amazing. She went through the entire process and told me everything, like the difference between different trimesters and what differences that makes, how some people react, how teens react and everything. I had notes and notes from that meeting, but, that being said, at the end of the day, it was Chloe’s first time, and I wanted to portray that truthfully. So, I had the logistics of what I would be feeling in the moment, but how I would react was very up for grabs, and I wanted it to be in the moment and be where Chloe would be. She’s never done that before.
"13 Reasons Why" portrayed Chloe's abortion in a very real, raw way -- almost technical, which is very different from how I remember other shows presenting abortions in the past. For example, we hear the machine going as the procedure is being performed. What did you make of how it was presented overall?
I made sure to have them put that machine on every time. That was my way of getting there, because when the machine turns on, that puts that in that headspace so fast.
It really reminds you of what is actually happening in a moment like that, and it was really striking as a viewer.
The whole thing was just crazy. There’s so much that happens that’s painful in the lead-up. It’s a whole process, and I’m glad they showed if all. I’ve gotten a lot of feedback where people told me that they used to judge girls that made that decision, but after seeing Chloe’s journey, they see a different side of it.
Can you tell me more about how fans have reacted or reached out to you since the season dropped?
I try to go through my DMs, but I get a lot of girls who say they can relate and, as I said, the judgement of them judging people before, but then changing their tune after seeing the episode. That’s the whole point of doing an episode like this, because people are uninformed and they judge before ever really understanding. I’ve also gotten a lot of compliments on it, which feels nice.
At the end of the day, a huge part of how real and authentic it feels is because of how amazing your acting is throughout the episode.
What’s funny is that that was the second time we filmed it. I filmed that scene right when we first started filming the entire season, then two months later they called me and said they needed me to come in and re-film the abortion scene, because the lighting wasn’t right. So, I went back, and I was nervous, because I wanted it to feel like her first time, but I still think I put myself back in that headspace.
What effect has "13 Reasons Why" had on your career and your social media following?
"13 Reasons Why" definitely blew up my career, I would say. Once you’re out there from a show or social media or TV, it puts you on the map and it’s really helped me. My first year on the show, my social media following went up, like, 200K in the first week, or something crazy. I’m really happy about this season, though, because last season was fun, but this season people got to see me do something real and emotional. People can see my work, and it’s really rewarding for me as an actress.
You're currently filming season 4. What do you even know about it as someone on the show? Do you get told anything other than what your character is involved in?
I can’t tell you anything, but I also don’t know anything. [Laughs] For real. They don’t tell us anything, and they gave us pages for just that scene for that day. I have no idea what’s going to happen next season.
How does it feel knowing you’re going to get closure for Chloe, as Netflix announced that the next season is the show's last?
I really like that, and I think that Netflix knows the story has been told, and we’ve covered so much that it’s done. Where is it going to go? We’ll see.
This interview has been edited and condensed. Steam "13 Reasons Why" on Netflix now.