Sonoma County places and faces show up in Netflix series ‘13 Reasons Why’
By now, it’s well-known that the high school scenes in the hit Netflix series “13 Reason Why” are shot at Analy High School in Sebastopol, where filming for the third season is set to resume in August. Called Liberty High in the show and set in the fictional town of Crestmont, Analy has been a key locale since the series premiered in March last year.
“It was really tough to find a high school with an iconic look that would be different than any other high school show,” Joy Gorman, one of the executive producers for the series, said in a recent email interview. “Analy has such a beautiful facade and campus, and yet it feels like a diverse cross-section of students would go there of different socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds. We didn’t want Liberty to seem like a pristine boarding school, but still wanted it to be beautiful on camera.”
Analy is not the only Sonoma County locale to play a role in the controversial show that deals with teen suicide. For the show’s second season, which drew 6 million viewers within its first three days of release on Netflix in May, scenes were shot at the Epicenter arcade and indoor sports center in northwest Santa Rosa last August and the downtown Santa Rosa Plaza last September.
Local scenery provides a wholesome contrast to the often provocative tone of the series, a stark difference that adds to the show’s visual and emotional impact.
“We were looking for an idyllic town that felt like it could be anywhere in America, and also didn’t look familiar, like you’ve seen it on television before.” Gorman said. “We thought there was something very inspiring and magical about the lush greenery and history of Sonoma County, and it gave the show a more elegant look than what audiences expect to see in a show about teenagers.”
Concerns raised by mental health professionals and a parental watchdog group over the show’s depiction of suicide, rape and sexual abuse prompted the inclusion of warning advisories for the second season. But the series also has prompted others to speak up in its defense.
“These things really happen, not just on TV. Is it pretty? No. Is it hard to watch? Absolutely,” said one of the show’s local fans, Santa Rosa contractor Jessica Hampton, 47. “I think anything that can open a dialog with children and parents or peers about these things is critically important.”
For Hampton, one of the pleasures of watching the series is spotting glimpses.
“As a West County native, I’ve really enjoyed the local scenery in ‘13 Reasons Why.’ My friends and I watched the first season together, and in addition to being totally drawn into the plot, we would point excitedly when we saw some location we recognized,” Hampton said.
Actress Katherine Langford, who won a Golden Globe award for best actress in a series for her portrayal of Hannah, announced in late May, before the show was renewed again, that she wouldn’t return for a third season. A spokesperson for “13 Reasons Why” said it’s too soon to disclose what direction the story for the third season will take. Release is expected midway through 2019.
Even as the show’s star moves on, “13 Reasons Why’’ has opened the door for some Analy High School students and recent graduates to work as extras or interns.
“I was an extra twice,” said Joseph Mossbridge, 18, who graduated from Analy last May. “The first time, there was announcement made by the school and it was a volunteer thing, and the second time I was paid. That was not through the school. That was through a website called MyCastingFile.”
Mossbridge’s first scene was shot at Analy High School’s football stadium, and the second, set during a “spring fling” dance, was filmed indoors at a studio on Mare Island, he said.
“We shoot not only in Sonoma County but in Vallejo and San Rafael,” said producer Gorman. “None of our show is shot in L.A. It’s 100 percent shot in Bay Area. Some of the characters’ homes are in San Rafael, and we shoot many interiors in Vallejo on stages. We have a pretty believable set of Analy High School and the gym and offices on our stages. It would blow your mind to walk through it - really feels like you are there.”
To an Analy student, even scenes that are actually shot at the high school can look very different on screen.
“The strangest experience is watching it,” Mossbridge said. “It was weird to me to go ‘Oh, wait! That’s my history classroom!’ It’s the math classroom or something in the show. Or like, ‘I walk through that hallway every single day.’”
As for his fellow students’ reaction to the content of the series, reviews are mixed, Mossbridge said.