Sara Quin & Railey Gilliland Interview: High School


Tegan and Sara’s celebrated memoir High School is making its way to the screen at Freevee. Developed by Clea DuVall and Laura Kittrell, the series explores the teenage years of Tegan and Sara as they navigate their music, high school, love, and more.

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. With Tegan and Sara also helping drive the show forward, the coming-of-age drama shines a light on a mesmerizing story and diverse characters.


Related: 15 Best Teen Shows With LGBTQ+ Representation

Ahead of the show’s premiere, Screen Rant spoke exclusively with co-author & real-life subject Sara Quin and star Railey Gilliland to discuss High School, the latter’s initial reservations to star in the series, and more.

High School: From Page To Screen

Screen Rant: I made this joke to Clea and Laura earlier, but I didn’t think I’d ever say the words “I love high school” in my life. This show is phenomenal, it’s emotional, it’s funny, and it’s got so many great characters and actors. Sara, you and Tegan put the book together. What gave you both the confidence and the drive to want to put it on screen?

Sara Quin: That really was Tegan, she sent the manuscript to Clea before it was even out in the world, it was in its sort of final stages, and we were floating it out there to friends and people who we thought might be interested in it. I think Tegan was more strategic than I was, we’ve been friends with Clea forever, but I think she wanted Clea to read it, and Tegan had already sort of floated the idea like, “Could it be a movie or whatever?” Clea wrote back right away and was like, “I can imagine developing this for television, I can imagine developing these characters and having multiple seasons, and I can see it in my mind, trust me to do this.”

We were really focused on our book it hadn’t even come out yet, we had a rigorous press schedule, we were also touring, we had an album out. So that first year, we’d get together with Clea, and we talked through things with Clea from time to time, but it really was the pandemic that put this into motion, because suddenly, we had a lot of time on our hands. We were able to really get down to brass tacks and focus on figuring out how to develop this and make it into a show. I’m still sort of shocked by how quickly it came together, a big part of that was our partnership with Plan B, our partnership with Freevee, the amazing cast that signed on really quickly.

Laura Kittrell, obviously a fantastic writer, really great partnership with Clea, it just felt like everything fell into place really fast. I feel like the show being set in Calgary, and the fact that we were able to all go to Calgary to shoot the show, everything that needed to happen happened.

Railey, what about Tegan and Sara’s story and the material really caught your interest?

Railey Gilliland: Well, basically —

Sara Quin: You had no choice. [Laughs]

Railey Gilliland: [Laughs] Well, I didn’t know the full story, I didn’t read the book, they just messaged me to audition, so I thought, “Okay, that’ll be fun, not knowing anything about it, really.” But, when we got the sides for the audition, I read part of it, and I thought, “Maybe we’ll relate to quite a bit of it.” Obviously, going into it, I thought that we would relate to some because we’re both twins, and we’re all gay, so I thought, “Okay, that’s pretty cool.” Reading the audition sides, it was just like right off the bat, I thought, “This is something that me and Seazynn had already experienced,” so it just made me like excited to read the rest of it.

Sara Quin: I have the DM like that I sent you and I just searched it, and I wrote you, “I’m not sure if you’re familiar with our band, but we’re twins, and in a band, and we wrote a memoir about our years in high school, and now we’re making it into a TV show. We just started looking for twins who could play us, do you think you and Seazynn would be interested in auditioning?” Then you lie, and you say, “We’ve heard of you.” [Laughs]

Railey Gilliland: [Laughs] No, listen, we had heard of you, because people had commented —

Sara Quin: So that’s what you said, you said, “We’ve heard of you guys, people always comment about you guys,” and then you said “Yeah, sounds interesting.” [Chuckles]

Such a unique way to bring you all together, TikTok. Railey, what was it like having to embody a real person who was on set often for all eight episodes?

Railey Gilliland: Well, thankfully, we had a really great acting coach, and she was really helpful with that, so any questions I had, I could go to her, but we were getting close with Tegan and Sara and getting to know them very well. So, I was just able to ask them questions anytime I had any, and continue getting to know them and getting to create the character better on screen throughout the three months that we were there.

Sara, how important was it to help find the cast, even outside of your younger selves?

Sara Quin: Clea and Laura were really inclusive in the casting process, especially when it came to people like our parents, for example. We definitely had conversations with them about how thoughtful we wanted to be about the storylines that we were going to tell, and where we would fictionalize, and where we felt it wasn’t appropriate to fictionalize. We obviously wanted our parents to feel, similar to Seazynn and Railey, you want people who feel representative of the real-life people, because we obviously have parents, so we were like, “They can’t be completely different than the people we grew up with.” But then on the other hand, you want the actors to build these characters and embody them in a way that feels authentic, there’s lots about Cobie playing our mom that feels [amazing].

The first day of Cobie shooting, I saw her at the University of Calgary, sitting in the auditorium at school, and then walking through the hallways, and I started crying. I’m watching it on the screen as they’re running the takes, and I’m like, I have imagined my mom at school, I was a child in elementary, when she went back to do her bachelor’s, and I was in high school, when she went back to do her master’s in social work. I was not there with my mom, I wasn’t in class with my mom, but I have imagined her a million times sitting in school and being at the University of Calgary. That was really different than watching Seazynn and Railey portray certain moments with friends on screen, I was in those moments, so I was kind of like, “Whoa, this feels really similar,” or, “Oh, this feels totally like a fresh perspective.”

But with my mom, seeing my mom’s story portrayed was really moving for me, because I’m also around the same age that my mom was when I was in high school. So, to think about my mom in university, getting a degree and studying and then going to work after school, and then coming home and dealing with us taking acid and having sex with our friends, it’s just like all of a sudden, I was like, “Yeah, wow, I have such a different perspective of what my mom was going through.” I love what Cobie brings to that role, she’s just so fierce, and I think everybody, all the casting on the show felt really, really strong. I love everybody on the show.

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:

Next: 10 Best Shows About High School, According To RankerHigh School is now streaming on Freevee.


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