Selena Gomez's new project is definitely a personal one.
The 24-year-old actress executive-produced the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why
, which is based on Jay Asher’s bestselling novel about a teenager who commits suicide, but not before leaving tapes explaining to 13 peers how they each played a role in her death. During a panel in New York City on Wednesday, Gomez explained her connection to the dark subject matter, and referenced her own stint in rehab.
"I think that my [own] high school experience was amplified," she says. "I wouldn't say it was worse, but it made it harder. To be frank with you, I actually was going through a really difficult time when they started production. I went away for 90 days, and I actually met a ton of kids in this place that were talking about issues that these characters are experiencing."
The "Hands to Myself" singer calls her teenage years "confusing."
"Whether it was just kids or growing up in the biggest high school in the world, which was Disney Channel, it was also adults that had the audacity to kind of tell me how I should live my life," she recalls. "It was very confusing for me. I had no idea who I was going to be, what I'm still going to become."
These days, the former Disney star strives to be a good influence on her peers, though admits it's challenging. She also cherishes the relationship she has with fans.
"Whether I like it or not, a lot of people have watched me grow up, and I do feel like, I have these conversations with my fans," she says. "I've never really wanted to be the kind of unapproachable person."
"Whether I like it or not, people have seen a lot of my mistakes and I had to use that as a good thing, because then they’re able to trust me," she continues. "I want to be a part of this, because I think this is what they want, this is what they need.”
Gomez also criticizes social media.
"I can't stand what they're looking at and what they think is reality ... There are 17-year-olds that look older than me and that freaks me out," she says. "We're just so disconnected from people now. Teens just really want [that connection]."
Gomez says her new show definitely "hits home" for her.
"I was there for the last episode. I was a mess just seeing it all come to life, because I've experienced just that for sure," she shares. "It hits a very important part of me."
On Wednesday, she Instagrammed a selfie of herself with the two lead stars of 13 Reasons Why, Katherine Langford and Dylan Minnette.
"After 6 years waiting to find the perfect Hannah and Clay for @13reasonswhy I couldn't be luckier we cast these two," Gomez wrote.
13 Reasons Why premieres Friday, March 31 on Netflix.
Last April, ET spoke with Gomez -- who was originally set to star as the female lead -- about stepping behind the camera
as an executive producer for her highly anticipated new show.
"My mom [Mandy Teefey] and I are actually producing a few projects together. It's something we've always loved to do, creating content that inspires people, that moves people. Why I love filmmaking, why I love making music is because it affects people," Gomez told ET. "That's something I've always wanted to be a part of -- whether I'm in it or not, I want to make things great."