High School, a new Amazon Freevee series, was one of the best things I saw at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival. The show stars TikTok sensations and acting newcomers Railey and Seazynn Gilliland as Tegan and Sara, discussing their childhood experiences in Calgary in the 1990s.
High School will be released on Amazon Freevee on October 14th, but the group decided to release it early in the year 2022 as part of the Primetime lineup for the festival. Clea DuVall, executive producer, director, and showrunner, and writers and showrunner Laura Kittrell all visited the Collider Supper Suite and Media Studio at Marbl to discuss their experiences creating the show.
The Quins sent their long-time friend, DuVall, a copy of their 2019 memoir, also titled High School, as part of the process. Tegan Quin recalls:
Clea texted me and said, I was up all night reading your book. It was so beautiful. Can we talk? And then she called me and, you know, said, don't sell your rights, this would be a beautiful TV show. And she was like, Come and do this with me. We were ecstatic. We never anticipated that we would.
Even if the Quins trusted DuVall, releasing their personal story to the world via a TV series is a considerable commitment. I asked the Quins if there were any limitations when handing over their memoir. Here's what Sara Quin said.
I don't believe we were that specific, but I do think there was a learning curve because, you know, we don't understand television and film as cellularly as Clea does, and I think we've all had a need to be involved in it in a way that other people wouldn't need to be, as well as our collaborations. We're about to 42 next week and I feel like we're pretty skilled at navigating difficult relationships.
In the adaptation of any true story, there is great pressure, but in DuValls case, she also needed to handle the material with the greatest care because the Quins are her close friends. What was the key to protecting her friends and their story while also supporting the series format?
We had so many conversations early on to sort of establish boundaries because there were also certain things in the book that they didn't want to see, and I wanted to be sensitive to them, the people in their lives, and if there was anything that seemed suspicious, or things that we wanted to change. Because also, as Laura and I got into breaking the season, there were certain things that we were just like, What if this happened to Sara instead of Tegan, and, Can we take this liberty? It was really just always wanting to
The next stage of the process was another huge one: finding Tegan and Sara. While the team did go through a more traditional audition process, ultimately, they decided to take their chances on Railey and Seazynn Gilliland, two sisters who had established a loyal following on TikTok.
We saw a lot of good people, but then Tegan discovered these two, sent the video to us, we were like, They're very cute, but absolutely not. They've never acted before. This is impossible. And then from the first second it was like, Oh my God, it's gonna work. And then throughout the entire season, they just kept improving. I'm very proud of them.
As Kittrell should be! Whether you're new to acting or not, the Gillilands deliver big in their respective roles, displaying a tenderness and powerful internalization of emotion that many athletes struggle to master.
I asked them to describe the most terrifying part of the process, although they appear to be pros in the finished product.
The most intimidating part was just being human in general. [Laughs] That was scary. And I'm just learning how to be able to express myself on screen and be able to feel those emotions in front of a whole crew and the cast and everybody.
Seazynn Gilliland has said that she's not interested in joining the fray.
The most intimidating part of the selection process was definitely the hiring process. It was also quite intimidating to know that they might have chosen an actor rather than someone they just found online, and so that was quite intimidating. It felt like it was a responsibility to do well for them, and I hope we achieved that goal.
Are you interested in learning more about the High School team's involvement in producing the program? See the video interview at the top of this article! Also, be sure to check out High School when the first four episodes launch on Amazon Freevee on October 14th, with two additional episodes appearing each subsequent Friday.
A-list Communications, Marbl Toronto, COVERGIRL Canada, Tres Amici Wines, Toronto Star, and Blue Moon Belgian White beer are all grateful.