AceShowbiz - The stars of Selena Gomez's teen drama series 13 Reasons Why are standing by the show's controversial sexual assault storyline, insisting the timely topic is a discussion that needs to be heard.
Campaigners for the censorship advocacy group Parents Television Council (PTC) publicly called on Netflix bosses to pull the series from the popular streaming service after objecting to the harrowing storylines featured in the new season two, which was released last week, May 18.
The latest episodes, produced by Selena and her mother Mandy Teefey, tackle issues of rape and gun violence in schools, a year after the first season caused a similar uproar regarding the handling of a teen suicide.
However, the 13 Reasons Why actors are unfazed by the parental backlash, because they know the subject matters are difficult but important conversations to be had by parents and kids everywhere.
Alisha Boe, who portrays sex assault survivor Jessica Davis on the show, was "excited" to tackle "such a relevant topic" in the wake of the #MeToo and Time's Up movements to end sexual misconduct, and explains how educational the first season was for her, even just acting out the storyline onscreen.
"When I booked season one, I didn't know how to have the dialogue (about depression and suicide); I didn't have the language to express that," she told breakfast show Good Morning America. "I was 19, and after filming season one, I was able to have an open dialogue with my mum, my family members and my girlfriends, so I learned a lot".
Co-star Katherine Langford, who played suicide victim Hannah Baker on the show last year (17), also reveals she has heard from so many young viewers who connected with her character's troubles, and she knows the show is making a difference.
"I think this show always had the intention of never being a PSA (public service announcement), but just always having the intention if it can, to promote discussion or instigate discussion or dialogue on issues that are really important and (on) topic," she said. "I think that for me playing Hannah, I was aware of the difference of opinion, and I've always maintained that I think that was important to promote the discussion (about suicide), but also for me, it's also been beautiful to hear from people who resonated with the show, and who resonated with Hannah in particular".
And actor Devin Druid, whose character brings a gun to school in the new episodes, hopes the series can continue to highlight topical subjects and push the "incredibly powerful messages" of young activists, like the student survivors from Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, who have been demanding action on gun control legislation ever since the February tragedy.
After sharing the castmembers' condolences to those affected by America's latest fatal school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, last week - which prompted the cancellation of the show's season two premiere party, he added, "We wanted to be able to take our platform... to stand behind these people and raise their voices and their messages louder than ever, so that, hopefully, we can continue to spread this dialogue and conversation".