Katherine Langford – A young star seriously on the rise
Some actors slog it out for years before tasting the tiniest morsel of success. But, for a chosen few, it happens much, much faster.
That’s certainly been the case for 20-year-old Perth talent Katherine Langford. The beauty began her acting career less than two years ago, but has already wrapped the first season of 13
Reasons Why, a highly anticipated Netflix series based on a New York Times best-selling novel about teen bullying and suicide. It’s directed by Oscar winner Tom McCarthy ( Spotlight) and its executive producer is none other than global pop superstar, Selena Gomez. Langford has also signed on the dotted line for her first major American feature film.
Langford is back in Perth after six months filming the series in LA and is taking time out to wrap her head around what looks set to be a breakthrough year. After a press tour for 13 Reasons Why in February (the show airs in the US mid-March), Langford will travel to Atlanta to begin filming a Warner Bros movie, Simon vs the Homo
Sapiens Agenda, in which she will play the best friend of a boy struggling to come out to his friends and family.
“It’s a really wonderful pro-LGBQTI film,” Langford says of her first feature-film role. “I have a lot of friends who have really struggled with the process of coming out and it’s something I feel passionate about. I’m not consciously pursuing these roles with a social agenda, but I’ve been lucky to be cast in two works that tackle serious issues that I think will speak to a lot of people.”
Langford wasn’t necessarily one of those young girls with stars in her eyes from the time she was a toddler. She describes herself as the “left-of-centre” one at school, creative and musically inclined, but her first true love was swimming, which saw her compete at the national level in her early teens. It was her time as a student at Perth Modern, she says, that encouraged her to take the academic and creative side of things more seriously.
After graduating in 2014, Langford took three day jobs (“hashtag actor”, she groans) and enrolled in a number of pop-up acting classes and workshops around Perth. The natural next step was WAAPA, but in 2016, before she had a chance to enrol, Langford was called to London to audition for Will, a British series based on the life of the young William Shakespeare. She didn’t get the role – that honour would go to another young Perth actress, Olivia De Jonge – so Langford flew to Los Angeles for the annual audition chaos that is “pilot season”.
“Nothing came of that initially, so I came back to Perth and started doing self-tapes at home,” she explains. “I sent a tape off for 13 Reasons Why and got the call. That’s when the stars really did start to align.”
Align they did: 13 Reasons Why comes with some heavyweight credentials, in addition to McCarthy and Gomez. Based on Jay Asher’s novel (first published in 2007 and since translated into 35 languages), it has been adapted for the small screen by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Brian Yorkey. The series co-stars Dylan Minette ( Goosebumps) as Clay, a young high school student who receives a box of cassette tapes from Hannah (Langford) after her death. The box comes with instructions to pass the tapes on to 12 people who made her life hell and offering 13 reasons why she has decided to take her own life.
It was initially slated for development as a feature film for Universal Pictures, but after reading Asher’s book, Gomez – who has more than 40 million Instagram followers and 30 million Twitter devotees – took the book to Netflix’s Anonymous Content division for small-screen adaptation. Did Langford actually get to meet the globally loved star during filming?
“On the last day of filming we had a private movie screening, went to dinner and had a chat. She defies everything you would expect of someone that famous,” Langford says. “She’s down-to-earth, smart and real. She is seriously cool. It’s good to know that you can exist in the middle of a firestorm and still be normal.”
That’s something for Langford to consider as her star rises.