One on One With Tommy Dorfman, the Star of 13 Reasons Why

One on One With Tommy Dorfman, the Star of 13 Reasons Why

One on One With Tommy Dorfman, the Star of 13 Reasons Why

The actor sits down with V to discuss his own experiences as a high-school student, the next season of 13 Reasons Why and his sense of style.

The actor sits down with V to discuss his own experiences as a high-school student, the next season of 13 Reasons Why and his sense of style.

Photography: Raf Tillis

Styling: Scott Shapiro

Text: Danielle Combs

The first season of 13 Reasons Why has made such a huge impact culturally and emotionally. How did it feel stepping back into such a loaded role?

It requires a lot of focus. It’s the first time I’ve had six months off playing a part. Prior to this I only worked in theatre in New York, and school—I never had really done any film and so those emotions live on stage and you don’t typically revisit it. It was interesting to shoot a whole season building off of this character, and then have six months off and in those six months so much is changing because the show came out, along with the response being what it was. Coming back and trying to refocus, reground and figure out where this character is now and his journey within the context of the story we’re telling in season 2 and developing the character’s growth is a new challenge for me.

High school has the ability to shape and mold young adults. What was your high school experience like compared to the school you’re portraying on the show?

I went to a hippie school in Atlanta, so we didn’t have jocks necessarily or even cheerleaders, but we definitely had the cool kids. Everyone was still separated into cliques. Where Ryan, [my character on the show] and I are most similar is the fact that I was a bit of a nomad and I didn’t really have a close-knit group of friends that I went to school with. I was barely in school, whereas Ryan is very focused on school and very focused on getting into a good college. But I barely applied to college when I was in school. I didn’t want to be there at all.

Did you not want to continue education because of how you felt about high school or just because it was not of interest?

It just wasn’t of interest to me. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to be a performer of some context, but I had developed a sort of safe community outside of school in the context of going out with older gay people and I thought that might just be my life. But then I remember when I was graduating everyone was getting into these really good schools and I started to feel really shitty about myself and terrible about myself and I got my act together enough to get into a shitty school and transfer to a decent school.

But then college had it’s own set of trials and tribulations if you will.  I’ve changed in growing up, and it’s funny that you say how high school can shape you, it definitely shaped me but it has no relevance to me today. I try to remind my cousins who are struggling in high school with bullying that they should just focus on graduating and they’ll be able to forget what happened—and eventually you’ll grow up and start to do your own things. I was definitely not the kid who people thought I was going to succeed. But here I am.

Considering the show features an array of heavy topics that are prevalent in today’s society, is there any topic that isn’t highlighted that you would like to see in season 2?

I think our show does a really good job with having a diverse cast with a lot of different topics that we hit on. I think some things that maybe are missing and whether they get explored or not in season 2 or ever, maybe it’s a different show, is disabilities. Kids who struggle with disabilities in high school. We definitely have gay stories; we don’t have any trans stories or other stories of people who fit on that fluid spectrum. But I don’t think it’s our show’s job to do everything, I think that’s how the people in my life can’t provide everything for me, there’s another show that will tell those stories hopefully.

As an actor has there ever been a particular type of character you wanted to play or a specific genre?

No, I always wanted to be a chameleon, in that way. I feel like my acting is very research-oriented and I was this way when I was studying in school. I really like creating characters and playing someone like Ryan hits close to home in a lot of ways and is similar in a lot of ways, but to me I find a lot of differences between us and I’m honing what that person’s experience is. In college, I had a lot of fun doing that and for me it’s all just about storytelling and it’s educational too because it opens my eyes to different worlds, playing people with different socioeconomic backgrounds, people who are straight, people who grew up in this kind of family, in these types of circumstances.

Your fashion choices have garnered a lot of attention. What influences your sense of style?

I [tend] to look at other people as well as and the characters I play for inspiration. I think we all are multi-faceted human beings and I like to express the different parts of myself with what I wear and it changes day to day. So sometimes it’s just sweatpants and a t-shirt and sometimes it’s a runway skirt and a full look.

It depends on how tired I am or how creative I’m feeling that day, or if I’m inspired by someone else. I totally emulate and copy and play and do my own twist on things. I think that’s what fashion kind of is about.

What are some of your icons that you look up to in fashion or film?

I think for fashion, I like risk-takers. People who don’t prescribe to one thing all the time. I love the Gagas and the Madonnas of the world, people who go through phases and how you can track those historically is really fascinating—people who don’t take it too seriously. In terms of designers, I’ve always resonated with Yves Saint Laurent. When I was in high school, I did a whole school project on him and I [actually] went to the archives in Paris on a trip. I loved this idea that he put women in suits and it was such a mile marker that allowed other designers to feel comfortable to do that. And I look at designers today who are pushing boundaries like Palomo Spain, Eric Schlosberg, people I’ve been fortunate enough to be friends with and have had the chance to know since living in New York.

Fashion is definitely a medium you can use to communicate to the world. What does your sense of style say about you and what is it saying now?

I feel liberated. I feel like I dress the way I dress because it’s liberating. It gives me freedom with myself, it doesn’t constrain me to one thing and I dress publicly the way I dress for the same reason to let other people know it’s ok. If they want to wear a skirt or they want to be fluid in their dressing.



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