Selena Gomez executive produces the new Netflix series Thirteen Reasons Why and the pop star says the subject matter of teenage bullying is something with which she can relate.
The series is an adaptation of the best-selling young adult novel of the same name, written by Jay Asher, and tells the story of a high school girl who kills herself, leaving behind cassette tapes that detail the 13 people she blames for pushing her to suicide.
Gomez discussed the project with the New York Times, along with her mother Mandy Teefey -- also executive produces -- and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Brian Yorkey (Next to Normal), who wrote the adaptation. Gomez and Teefy first acquired the rights to Thirteen Reasons Why in 2008 when Gomez was just 15 and a major teen star with a starring role on the Disney Channel series Wizards of Waverly Place -- an experience she said influenced her interest in Asher's story.
"I think [Asher] understood that I knew what it meant to be bullied. I went to the biggest high school in the world, which is the Disney Channel," Gomez told the Times. "And my mom had a lot of history dealing with [bullying]. I heard her stories growing up. She's very open about it."
Still, even a the height of Gomez's career to date, it's not like she can avoid bullying in the age of social media. When asked whether she reads the comments on her Instagram feed, she said it's unavoidable.
"I delete the app from my phone at least once a week. [brittle laugh] You fixate on the [negative] ones. They're not like, 'You're ugly.' It's like they want to cut to your soul," she said. "Imagine all the insecurities that you already feel about yourself and having someone write a paragraph pointing out every little thing - even if it's just physical."
While Gomez had initially intended to star in a film version of Thirteen Reasons Why, she said she is glad now to be behind-the-scenes in this television series format.
"The older I got -- once I left my series, once I started to go for roles that weren't that age range -- it organically began to become a project that I knew I would be behind the scenes with," she said. "I actually like that I'm not in it. To be honest, this book has such a huge following. I wanted it to be credible. If I'm a part of it, that's going to cause a whole other conversation."
Now, she hopes that her role as executive producer can help to boost her acting career as well.
"I could do any tomboy/teen princess movie in the world if I wanted to. I could do those for years. But I want to be a part of projects that have value, that really matter. And it's really hard to do that," she said. "Sometimes I feel defeated. I'll audition for a part that I feel very passionate about, meet with people, tell them I'm willing to go places. I think they think I won't go there. To be honest, I don't think it's going to happen anytime soon for me. I think I look really young and image-wise, it's difficult for people to grasp. But early on, my mom taught me that sometimes you just have to create those projects for yourself. That's what I want this to be: a launching pad."
Thirteen Reasons Why begins March 31 on Netflix. Read the full interview here.