Inside the World of Dylan Minnette
The ‘13 Reasons Why’ star was the Netflix show’s beating heart. But he’s found that jamming out with pals is just as rewarding.
You’ve likely seen him star as Clay Jensen on Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why or have heard him providing vocals and rhythm guitar in the indie-pop band Wallows; but if not, then you know Dylan Minnette because he’s extremely multi-faceted. Just a quick glance at his Instagram is enough to confirm such a statement.
Like most of the world though, Minnette was forced to slow down while quarantining with his girlfriend Lydia Night since the pandemic broke out in March. “It’s interesting because I feel like whenever I’m working, or touring, or whatever it is that I’m doing, I usually am always sort of begging for this time off mentally, you know?” the actor and musician told VMAN. “And I have been thankful for the time off, but it’s funny now that I have all these months where I haven’t had to be out working and doing something, I sort of feel like I’m going to appreciate it so much more when I get back to it.”
Keeping a positive mind despite some set-backs that the pandemic threw his way, Minnette talked about what the extra time allowed him to accomplish with an air of gratitude. Over the past couple of months, his focus shifted from acting to his band Wallows, given there’s only so much an actor can work on when most production is halted. But given Wallows’ tour was cancelled along with the rest of live music this year, Minnette dove into writing the band’s next project.
“I feel like there’s a lot of doors that have opened up that otherwise would not have, even creatively in music,” he said. “We’ve created some new stuff and are doing some new things that we otherwise wouldn’t have been doing if we were busy touring, and it’s some of my favorite that we have made.”
After discussing quarantine life—and mention of a new cat, who he “loves very much”—the conversation turned to 13 Reasons Why. Minnette’s been playing the lead role of Clay Jensen since the series started in 2017, and viewers of the show know that his character has been through long-standing emotional and mental tumult. Now that 13 Reasons Why has come to an end after the fourth and final season hit Netflix in early June, Minnette spoke of the series with more thankfulness than melancholy.
“Episodes 9 and 10, the last two, have stuck with me because they’re so emotionally draining, heavy, and have some full circle moments that I just really soaked in and appreciated doing. I’m personally really—in terms of the whole of the show—proud of how it ended,” said Minnette.
In the last moments of 13 Reasons Why — mini-spoiler alert — Clay takes a defiant stand on the podium in front of his graduating class. After constantly jumping over hurdles in terms of mental health throughout the series, Clay’s speech convinces his peers that, even through the darkest of times, life is a valuable and precious thing with something new everlastingly on its horizon—whether it be music to listen to, people to meet, or things that will blow you away.
Given Clay Jensen’s persistent jeopardy and emotive closing words, Minnette detailed his own experience of acting that role. “It was going to be the most difficult season for a lot of reasons and in a lot of ways. Every episode had at least one huge thing for Clay and it was stressful in that way,” he said. “But overall, I had the most fun because I wasn’t bored by anything we were shooting. It was all really challenging, which is what keeps things interesting for me.”
Upon finishing the show, Minnette decided to narrow in on Wallows before jumping into another film or television series. He said that acting isn’t his largest concern right now, but if something he was both inspired and excited by came along, he’d join. Though we may not see him on screen for a little while, Minnette will likely still be making waves this year—in the form of music.
Following their debut album Nothing Happens in 2019—which included the track “Are You Bored Yet?” featuring Clairo—and the single “OK” from earlier this year, Wallows’ latest track was a cover of The Beatles’ notorious tune “With A Little Help From My Friends”. Minnette and the band released their rendition of the song at the end of May, and donated all the proceeds to Feeding America, supporting those in need as COVID-19’s economic consequences continue.
Cole Preston, who typically plays drums for Wallows, originated the idea for them to cover the song and they each recorded their respective instruments remotely, agreeing that John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s lyrics remain supremely relevant. “The Beatles’ music is so unbelievably timeless,” Minnette said of Wallows’ cover. “Hearing the song even with the modern production and sounds Cole used, it’s still amazing because there’s nothing cheesy about that song at all.”
The track’s artwork is also a reflection of the times, as each Wallows member was reenvisioned to look like a virtual avatar from a video game. “I’m pretty proud of the artwork because the theme feels very much like what’s been going on for the last few months,” he said. “We wanted it to look really bad, like underground, PS2, early 2000s graphics, and we just look so weird, I love it.”
Minnette said the rest of his year is going to be spent chiefly on Wallows’ second album—which he’s hoping culminates by the year’s end—along with more tracks releasing in the near future. “I’m excited about what’s going on with Wallows right now,” he said. “I’m just happy that people care, and it feels like there’s more people paying attention than ever and that’s really rewarding.”
Before the phone call with multi-hyphenate Minnette came to its end, the closing topic included optimism and the importance of using his platform for political action. Even though he’s embracing the radically changed circumstances created by the pandemic, Minnette admitted he’s fearful for election time. But rather than having a “we’re doomed” mentality, he talked with gusto about being one of the many voices trying to change the outcome of this year’s presidential election.
“I’m also inspired and excited by little inklings of change that are hopefully starting to unfold in front of us. So I’m moving forward with educating myself and being a voice and using my platform correctly,” said Minnette. “I hope things change for the best and I truly hope we get Trump out. That will be the biggest step forward.”