Flynn, the 24-year-old actor who portrays Justin Foley on the Netflix show, the second season of which was released Friday, compared Bryce Walker (played by Justin Prentice) to Harvey Weinstein and President Donald Trump.
“As much as we’d all like to see Bryce get what Harvey Weinstein got, or didn’t get, we have these situations right now that are so loud and clear,” Flynn told BuzzFeed News during a set visit in November.
“Bryce is more of the Trump in our show. He’s the guy who clearly has all these fucking allegations against him, all these disgusting qualities, and no one’s saying a goddamn word about it.”
At least 70 women have accused Weinstein of sexual assault or harassment, while at least 16 women have made similar accusations against Trump. (Weinstein has admitted to inappropriate behavior but denied any allegations of nonconsensual sex; Trump has denied all the allegations against him).
Season 2 of the Netflix series addresses the fallout of Bryce’s confession that he raped Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford), an act that led her to kill herself, as well as the realization of Jessica Davis (Alisha Boe) that Bryce raped her at a different party.
When Justin testifies during the Baker family’s negligence lawsuit against Liberty High School that Bryce raped Jessica, the students fail to see any justice from the court.
Justin subsequently distances himself from Bryce, realizing their friendship is not mutually beneficial and was more about Bryce’s “ownership” over Justin. This means Justin is finally able to break free from “bro culture,” as the actor described it, and try to do right by Hannah, Jessica, and Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette).
When Jessica and Justin report her assault to the police (Justin as a witness), it opens up a separate court case against Bryce, who gets arrested for sexual assault. However, he is sentenced to only three months of probation, even after Jessica delivers a powerful closing argument directed right at her rapist.
Justin is also arrested, for being an accessory to the sexual assault. He serves a little over one month in a juvenile detention center.
Flynn said the lenient sentences mirror some lenient, real-world punishments administered out to young men convicted of sexual assault.
“We’re not trying to give fans what they want,” Flynn said, noting that most of the 13 Reasons Why fandom want to see Bryce suffer the harshest of consequences for raping Hannah and Jessica. “I think we are doing a really good job of not catering to that and just catering to the truth.”
Sexual assault and rape culture were major components of the show’s first season, but the topic felt all the more relevant to Flynn toward the end of filming the second season. At the height of the #MeToo movement, Flynn said he would come to set each day after reading about yet another accusation against a famous man.
“I sit there every night and go, How are we as a society letting all this happen? How are we not doing anything about it?” Flynn said. “It’s sometimes hard for me to get up and come here when I’m just like, The world is on fire.”
Flynn said exploring these dark topics on a television show is “a really good thing” because it helps raise awareness about the prevalence of sexual assault.
The actor said he hopes that seeing the aftermath of Hannah and Jessica’s assaults helps viewers realize “that’s happening next door, that’s happening in our White House, it’s happening everywhere.”
“Even with the Harvey Weinsteins and Kevin Spaceys, they’re going off to some retreat and getting treatment for their problem and we are continuing to let these things happen,” Flynn said. “I think on our show, we are continuing to let it happen, which is very important to me because it shows what’s really happening. It shows the truth of it all.”