Clea DuVall is back on television with a new kind of project in High School. The coming-of-age drama series acts as an adaptation of the memoir of the same name penned by Tegan and Sara, the beloved Canadian indie pop duo, as it explores their teenage years, their relationship with their mom, and embracing their queer identities.
Railey and Seazynn Gilliland lead the cast of High School as Tegan and Sara, alongside Cobie Smulders, Kyle Bornheimer, Esther McGregor, Olivia Rouyre, Amanda Fix, and Brianne Tju. Much like Happiest Season before it, DuVall brings her perspective as an openly gay woman, along with her co-showrunner Laura Kittrell, to telling Tegan and Sara’s story with a keen sense of authenticity.
Prior to the show’s premiere, Screen Rant spoke exclusively with co-showrunners Clea DuVall and Laura Kittrell to discuss High School, bringing Tegan and Sara’s story to life on screen, their drive for LGBTQ+ authenticity, putting together the music for the series, and more.
DuVall & Kittrell On High School
Screen Rant: I didn’t think I’d ever say the words, “I love high school,” but this show is phenomenal. The characters, the story, it’s all just so moving. What was it about Tegan and Sara’s story that really caught your interest to want to bring it to the screen?
Laura Kittrell: Part of it was I’ve never read a book that so accurately describes what my high school experience was, in terms of my friend group and my queerness, and I think a little bit my relationship to my parents. When I came on board, Clea had already written the first two scripts, and those even enhanced all of the things that I was feeling from the book. It felt like just exactly the thing that I had been looking to work on, maybe my entire life.
Clea DuVall: I mean, I had the same experience reading the book, I just felt so seen, which even though I was a woman in my 40s, there was something so healing about reading something that so closely mirrored my experience that I really wanted to bring it to life via a television show, because if it had that impact on me, then I knew there had to be so many other people who had not felt their experience represented in that way, too. I couldn’t be the only one, and then I met Laura, and she was like me, there was at least two of us out there. [Laughs] It was also just so unique in the way that there are two people who everyone thinks should be identical, having very different experiences in discovering their sexuality and developing relationships with themselves and with the people around them. It just felt very fascinating to me.
How much of the show is directly from the book and from Tegan and Sara’s experiences, and how much would you say is from your own experiences?
Clea DuVall: We would take events from the book, and then build stories around them. There’s a lot from the book in the show, but Laura and I couldn’t help but project our teenage years onto the show. So, I feel like it’s a really healthy mixture of both.
Laura Kittrell: Yeah, yeah, I think that’s true.
What was it like finding the cast for the show? Because younger performers, sometimes they’re not quite ready to step into the spotlight, especially with a show like this.
Clea DuVall: Well, finding the actors to play Tegan and Sara was very challenging. Because, we read so many wonderful actresses, twins who were so good, but just didn’t have the quality that Tegan and Sara have. Maybe it is their queerness, because we weren’t seeing twins where both of them were gay. It’s a big ask, two gay twin girls who are the right age who are also actors just felt like we were out of line asking for something so big. But then, thanks to TikTok and their algorithm, Railey popped up in Tegan’s feed, and we were just sort of handed these, not just one needle in a haystack, but two identical needles. We got very, very lucky.
What was it like developing the music list for this show? I love the soundtrack, that era has such a great range of music. Was a lot of it from both of you, was a lot of it from Tegan and Sara, or was it a good mix of the two?
Clea DuVall: It was really Laura and I and our music supervisor and our editor who brought the music. Even though it’s a show in the ‘90s, and we’re all very familiar with the ‘90s bands, we never wanted to use the most popular song from a band, unless it was connected to the story or something directly from the book, like a lot of the Smashing Pumpkins stuff was from the book. But we wanted to still create the opportunity for discovery with music, for people who might not be familiar with the deeper cuts, who know “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” but they’re not going to know “Sliver.” We wanted to be able to have audiences have, especially the younger generations, to get to experience that discovery.
Was there any one song that you just knew had to be a part of the show?
Clea DuVall: I feel like there are a couple for me.
Laura Kittrell: The Sinead O’Connor, I feel like you brought up very early on. There’s a Tori Amos moment that I wouldn’t have thought had to be in the show, but as soon as it was brought up, that was a huge song for me, and I’m very excited to see it there.
Clea DuVall: Yeah. I think the Hole song that is the very first song in the show was a big one for me, because that’s my favorite song off the record.
Both of those are great choices. This season ends on such an interesting note. Are there plans for more in the future?
Laura Kittrell: We hope so.
Clea DuVall: We hope so.
Do you already have an arc in mind for where you want to go with Season 2?
Clea DuVall: We have a lot of ideas. We have a lot of ideas.
How is it sounding when you talk with Amazon and Freevee, do they sound confident in keeping this ball rolling?
Laura Kittrell: I think they’re happy with the show, they seem very happy with it. Also for us, like we talk a lot, we hang out a lot anyway, unrelated to the show. I feel like it’s a good sign that when we are hanging out for fun, we then just start talking about things we’re excited about for season 2, in a totally natural way. That makes me happy.
About High School
Based on musicians Tegan and Sara Quin’s best-selling memoir, High School is a story about finding your own identity—a journey made even more complicated when you have a twin whose own struggle and self-discovery so closely mimics your own. Told through a backdrop of ‘90s grunge and rave culture, the series weaves between parallel and discordant memories of sisters growing up down the hall from one another.
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Next: Happiest Season & 9 Other LGBTQ+ Rom-Coms Perfect For The HolidaysHigh School is now streaming on Freevee.