‘13 Reasons Why’ Star Ross Butler Gets Real On Hollywood’s Asian Stereotyping

Ross Butler, a staple of popular Netflix shows 13 Reasons Why and formerly Riverdale had a chat with Pedestrian.TV about the evolution of Asian-American roles in the film industry.

Three years ago, roles for Asian-Americans were scarce in Butler’s experience but things are beginning to change especially with the highly-anticipated all-Asian cast film Crazy Rich Asians due for international release come August 17. 

“Hopefully, in two to three years there’ll be Asian leads in movies that aren’t based on an Asian story – like an ‘Inception’ with an Asian lead, not just a Japanese businessman.”

Butler doesn’t even want to look at his portfolio as crushing Asian stereotypes anymore – he just wants to portray real people.

“There’s a very large population of Asian-Americans out there and they’re not all martial artists and nerds. They can be jocks too and they can be funny and they can have ‘Amercanisms’ to them.

I want to blend that line – or just get rid of that line of what an actor is and what their ethnicity is. Any ethnicity should be able to play any character.”

In 13 Reasons Why, Butler plays the role of Zach Dempsey, your high-school varsity jock. With season two now available to stream on Netflix, viewers are given a deeper look into Hannah and Zach’s relationship – a specific plot that was wildly debated on social media.

If you watch the show, you’ll know Zach was one of the students to receive a tape from Hannah detailing his mistake. Some viewers believed Zach deserved the tape while others vehemently rejected the idea.

Butler himself believes his character deserved to receive one:

“What Zach did was not that bad but I do believe he deserved to be on the tapes because the tapes were pulled from Hannah’s perspective. So what Zach did was pretty significant. It was Hannah’s story and she thought it was something that was really hurtful.

When you watch what happens in season two between Zach and Hannah, you all of a sudden realise there’s more to it.”

The show itself, based on a novel by Jay Asher, has polarised viewers because of its depiction of sensitive content including suicide, bullying, and rape.

Butler says the cast and crew discussed the overall tone they were going to go forward with and agreed they needed to create the show in the way “teenagers speak to really show what [they] think about and things they do.”

“Anything less would be phoney,” Butler says.

As for the Cosmopolitan backlash he received for some questionable dating advice, Butler says it was a misunderstanding and an example of twitter getting a bit intense.

Basically, a lot of people got quite upset at the TV star for implying girls should learn things to impress boys they have crushes on. But Butler has cleared this up saying it’s a “two-way street”.

“Bring someone into your life that you can learn from and then be open to teaching them things as well.

I think sharing interests is not a bad piece of advice to give and I don’t think you should have to change yourself but learning a new hobby shouldn’t change who you are, it’s just a shared interest.”

Recently, the 28-year-old has found himself a new hobby – writing, specifically a coming-of-age science fiction short story.

“I’ve been trying to figure out how to write about growing up as a minority to someone who’s not a minority.”

The story’s a work in progress but Butler says it may appear on twitter some time down the track.

In the mean time, the actor’s got a brand new project coming up. Butler’s still sworn to secrecy about it all but insists news of it will officially be released in the coming weeks.