Reneé Rapp talks Leighton's insecurities and what comes next on The Sex Lives of College Girls
The Sex Lives of College Girls (TV series)
Warning: This post contains spoilers from the first five episodes of The Sex Lives of College Girls.
Odds are, Leighton (Reneé Rapp) is judging you. As the resident mean girl of The Sex Lives of College Girls, it's kind of her thing. But there's more to Leighton than meets the eye, a fact that even Leighton seems to be learning as the HBO Max series progresses.
In the comedy's first five episodes, Leighton has been abandoned by her high school besties, gotten in trouble for drinking on campus, and found herself unexpectedly falling for Alicia (Midori Francis) from the Women's Center. But her journey is still just beginning, which is why EW spoke with Reneé Rapp about all things Leighton.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I know this audition process was entirely over Zoom. What was that like for you?
RENEE RAPP: The pandemic had just expanded — what was two weeks ended up being like two months. I had a call with my agents and they were like, "Okay well you're not going back to your old job anytime soon, we think you should start auditioning for TV and film." College Girls was either the third or fourth self-tape audition that I had gotten. And I remember reading the script for the first time and reading the character breakdowns and I was like, "Yeah I know this, I know this world." Then we did it and when my agent called me and said, "They want to see you for a callback," I was like, "Oh you're drunk." [Laughs] I got so excited because I hadn't gotten called back for anything like that before so I was pumped! It was a very weird process of obtaining a job I in no way thought I was cut out for, and then getting it on Zoom was even weirder. I felt like an alien.
It is crazy how the casting is so good on this show, given the circumstances.
It is wild. I look at the four of us a lot and just our entire cast, we're a bunch of, I don't know if this is usually how television goes, but every single one of us is like an alpha personality in our own way. Everyone is such a huge personality, it's so funny. The blend of people is so wild to me. And we're all together thriving off one another. And it's so cool.
Were you always auditioning for Leighton?
Yeah. So I auditioned for Leighton and then I was pinned for Leighton for a couple of months and then they were like, "Would you audition for Kimberly?" And so I'm pretty sure what happened is Pauline [Chalamet] and I switched roles for one audition. Which was very exciting. My internal dialogue is a lot more like Kimberly's so it was actually kind of hard because I was like, "I don't know how to do this, because this is how I feel all the time." With Leighton, I was covering up. I was like, I got that, I know how to hide. She's such a stretch. But yeah we both switched roles for a sec, I always forget about that.
What do you connect to with Leighton?
With Leighton, I connect to her identity, I connect to her queerness. I wasn't closeted ever in my life but I understood that whole self-discovery journey and being a little bit wary of it because, sadly, you're very afraid that it's going to completely change the way people perceive you, and sometimes it does. So definitely that. But also, Leighton's super f--king insecure. I think the people who present the most confident in the world are probably the people who know they're super insecure, so I relate to her in that realm too because I'm a very insecure person. She really struggles to open up, too.
Do you get frustrated with her?
She's so frustrating! If you're shitty to everybody, no matter what you're going through, people are only going to see the shitty side of you, as they should. Leighton can be such a dick. I wish she would stop.
I will say I'm super jealous of her tiny Smeg refrigerator.
Oh my god, every day we would go in there I would be like, "This woman has so much money it is outrageous." First of all, I've only seen those on the internet with famous influencers who are like, "Thank you so much Smeg for gifting me this." There's a marble tissue box also. It's very posh. It's a little scary.
Do you think it's a comfort for her to have her brother on campus?
For sure, I think so. He's like the only sense of normalcy for her that she can cling to anymore. That's somebody who's becoming her rock and maybe has been previously. He's definitely needed.
We saw her kiss Alicia, but where does she go from here? Is she finding a sense of stability at college?
I think she finds, maybe not necessarily a sense of stability, but she starts trying to figure it out. I don't think she's trying at first but now, she's like, "I'll give this a shot." She's doing her best. She doesn't have her footing but she is now like, "Okay I need to find my footing." Which is nice to see.
I also feel like she's learning that these roommates could be legit friends.
Oh for sure! She's been such an asshole that she hasn't been able to see anyone for who they are. So now that she does, she sees potential friendship. She and Whitney [Alyah Chanelle Scott] start to have these moments. Leighton's not necessarily thoughtful but she is trying and so they start to have these friendship moments. And even I think Leighton softens a little bit with Bela [Amrit Kaur], which was fun.
Did this feel like this was a special project when you were working on it?
I definitely thought going into it that this might be something, just by the nature of Mindy [Kaling] and HBO Max. And then the first day we were on set, I just kept saying, "What the f--k is going on?" I definitely, at that moment, was like, "This is a lot bigger than me." I never thought this would ever happen. As soon as the show started coming out, I was so nervous about everything. Then once it was out to the public and people were like, "Oh this show's kind of good," I was like, "You know what? The show's kind of f--king good!" [Laughs] There was a lot of anxiety surrounding it but it was really exciting.
New episodes of The Sex Lives of College Girls premiere Thursdays on HBO Max.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
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