Learn about two of pop music’s more unique duos with High School. Based on Tegan and Sara Quin’s memoir of the same name, the coming-of-age show explores their high school years as they navigate the early stages of their love for music, their sexuality and their relationships with family, friends, and each other.
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. The latest entry in the coming-of-age teen genre may take viewers back in time, but proves to be far ahead of its own with its storytelling and characters.
In anticipation of the show’s premiere, Screen Rant spoke exclusively with stars Cobie Smulders and Kyle Bornheimer to discuss High School, the former’s friendship with co-showrunner Clea DuVall, developing their characters’ unique relationship, and more.
Smulders & Bornheimer On High School
Cobie Smulders: You’ve still got DVDs. Grant says, “I do not stream, I will only watch things on a DVD.”
Kyle Bornheimer: [Laughs] You’ve got the hard media copies. I don’t know if you watch the show yet, but there’s a great VHS [collection], I think it’s mostly VHS in the household in the show, but there’s a shelf of lots of [movies], Patriot Games, I’m sure it’s in there.
Screen Rant: I didn’t notice it, and I was keeping my eyes peeled to see if I recognize anything, I’ll have to go back! I love this show, I watched all eight episodes last night, and I just had a blast from start to finish. What about it really caught both of your interests to want to be a part of it, Cobie if you want to start, then Kyle?
Cobie Smulders: Sure, I’ve had the privilege of working with Clea DuVall before, I got to shoot her first movie with her, The Intervention, and we’ve become friends since then. She mentioned the project early on while she was writing it, and I was kind of jealous, and then she kindly offered me this role. So, I was sort of wanting to say yes before even reading it, but then I did my due diligence, I read Tegan and Sara’s biography, High School, and it was just so brilliantly written. I loved the way when I read the scripts that the episodes were very similar to the book, how we’re going from different points of view, I thought it was a really interesting way to tell the story visually.
The time that the story took place, in the ’90s, I’m the same age, I was kind of going through the same things, it was all really exciting to me, it was a really exciting story to be a part of. I always go ego in a project, and sometimes I like the people, or I like the material, but it’s very rare that you have a combination of loving the people and really loving the material. So, it was an, “Of course, yes.” And we got to shoot in Calgary, Alberta, which is close to my hometown, so it all kind of lined up in a great way.
Kyle Bornheimer: A lot of the same things, especially that last point about it sort of checking all the boxes in a way that not everything that comes across your email inbox does. When I first got introduced to this project, Cobie also mentioned something that I really liked, as well, which is the different perspectives that are in the book, and that Laura and Clea did for the show, where we see it from Tegan’s point of view, then we see it from Sara’s point of view, we see it from Simone’s point of view, in this very natural way. It almost sneaks up on you that that’s what they’re doing, and it’s very organic, but it adds a style to it that really spoke to me, and individualizes that we’re making a lot of commentary, or we’re presenting a lot, about coming of age and finding your sexuality and a lot about the ’90s and what the ’90s meant for all that.
But it’s also just two human beings in this world, bouncing around, having trouble figuring out themselves, individually. One of my favorite things about the entire the book, and the script, is that when we meet them, they’re just being kind of brats to each other. Tegan and Sara did not try to paint themselves as saintly kids, Laura and Clea did not try to paint the characterizations of them as saintly, they’re kids that are sometimes little brats to each other, and they get physical with each other. Sometimes they’re so mad, which I liked seeing that in two female characters, as well, kind of losing their temper, I thought it just really humanized them. Early on, I noticed that, I knew for a variety of reasons that I was in a really solid project.
I definitely loved the way it would bounce around. It does really bring a three-dimensional layer to every character. What was it like developing the rapport with one another for filming, because you have such a unique dynamic throughout the show, especially as it progresses?
Kyle Bornheimer and Cobie Smulders: [Talking at the same time] You, you want to, I don’t wanna, yeah, okay. [Laughs]
Kyle Bornheimer: Yeah, we’re we haven’t figured it out.
Cobie Smulders: Luckily, Kyle is an excellent, kind human being, and I present myself in the same way.
Kyle Bornheimer: [Laughs]
Cobie Smulders: We got along really great, and we kind of jumped into it, eh, Kyle? We didn’t have like rehearsal or whatever, we talked on the phone once or something, maybe, I can’t even remember. I think we just lucked out that we’re both nice, normal people, and got along really well. I find that there’s an awkwardness anyway to these two people, so it was nice to not have to be like, “Oh, honey, sweetie, baby, I love you so much.” This kind of finding it anyway, as we were getting to know each other, was very easy for us to do. But, it was definitely a kinder process to be able to be on camera, kind of awkward around each other as well.
Kyle Bornheimer: Yeah, I think the same compliments to Cobie, just a kind professional, who’s very funny on set. It was really important for the girls, for Railey and Seazynn, this is the first time they’ve ever been on set, and Cobie was there a little earlier than I was, and I think it helped foster this really great balance of professionalism, but also, “Hey, this is fun to do and light, as well.” That’s a really important thing on a set is, “We’re here to do a job and there’s a lot of people working very hard to get the day in on a very tough job, but also you have to stay loose, and you want to have fun, this is a really fun job to have, we’re very lucky to be able to do what we do.”
I think we all, especially as you get older, you really realize how fortunate you are, and you want all your onset experiences to be that combination of, “We’re all working hard, but we’re also appreciative that we get to do this fun job.” I thought Cobie really helped foster that, started kind of modeling that for Railey and Seazynn, and I think I really appreciated that she was doing it, and tried to do it as well in my own clumsy way.
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.
Check out our other High School interviews with:
- Clea Duvall & Laura Kittrell
- Sara Quin & Railey Gilliland
- Tegan Quin & Seazynn Gilliland
Next: The 10 Best Coming-of-Age Movies of the 90s, According to LetterboxdHigh School is now streaming on Freevee.