Kather­ine Lang­ford – A young star se­ri­ously on the rise

The Sunday Times - - HOTLIST - Story Pip Christ­mass

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.

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Pic­ture Daniel Wilkins

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