Christian Navarro, a star of 13 Reasons Why, has defended the Netflix show against criticism from some parents and school officials who say it glamorizes suicide.
Schools across the country have issued warnings to parents over concerns about the show.
At the PEOPLE and Entertainment Weekly Upfronts party Monday night, Navarro noted the involvement of mental health experts during production.
“I think they’re not watching the same show. When we were working on it, we had tons of mental health experts on set at all times, our producers were very diligent on making sure that the tone was inclusive and helpful and not harmful,” Navarro, 25, told PEOPLE.
He said he respects the varied opinions, even suggesting it can be a valuable show for parents to watch with their kids.
“I think there’s always going to be controversy. I respect their opinion, especially when it comes from a place of trying to protect their kids. I think they should listen to their children though, this is happening right now all over the world in high schools. I think the parents should watch it with them,” the actor, who plays Tony Padilla on the show, said.
Each episode of 13 Reasons Why — which premiered on Netflix March 31 — follows a series of audio recordings a teen left behind for her classmates and peers explaining why she decided to kill herself. Throughout the series, there are instances of sexual assault, rape, underage drinking, driving under the influence, body shaming and, ultimately, a graphic scene depicting the teen’s suicide.
In April, one of the writers from the Netflix show, Nic Sheff, defended the more graphic scenes, telling Vanity Fair, “Facing these issues head-on—talking about them, being open about them—will always be our best defense against losing another life.”
He added, “I’m proud to be a part of a television series that is forcing us to have these conversations because silence really does equal death.”
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And Selena Gomez, who has an executive producer credit, says she took her role in the series very seriously. She has spoken about her affinity for the heartbreaking, yet very relatable, plot and characters, which were drawn from Jay Asher’s 2007 young adult novel of the same.
“I see myself as Hannah so much,” Gomez told The Hollywood Reporter in February. “I wanted it to feel like anyone can see themselves in this.”
If you or someone you know needs support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386or text “START” to 741-741.