When actor, director, writer Clea DuVall met Canadian indie pop duo Tegan and Sara 15 years ago, she became both friends with the twin sisters and a frequent creative collaborator.
Tegan and Sara have contributed music to DuVall’s projects, and now DuVall is the co-creator of the new Amazon Freevee series “ High School,” which is based on the sisters’ 2019 memoir of the same name.
“A luxury that I had in reading the book was I know all the other people in the book, so I know how expansive the world is and how interesting all those other characters are. The idea of being able to tell not only Tegan and Sara’s story, but expand the world around them, just felt like such a rich area.”
“High School” tells the story of twins Tegan and Sara Quin, who are beginning high school in Calgary, Alberta, in the 1990s. Each sister is struggling with self-identity, and while it seems they’re growing apart, what they don’t know is that their experiences mirror the other. When they find their stepfather’s old guitar in the basement it brings them back together, as they begin writing and singing their own songs. The show is produced by Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment production company.
“It was very important to me that the show feel timeless, not lean too hard on the ’90s nostalgia, and allow it to be just a quiet, intimate story because it is. It’s the process of coming of age, self-discovery and coming to terms with sexuality,” said DuVall. who also served as a co-writer of the series and directed multiple episodes, including the pilot.
Tegan Quin gets the credit for finding the stars of “High School,” twin 21-year-old sisters Railey and Seazynn Gilliland, by stumbling upon their popular TikTok accounts.
“She was like, ‘These kids are adorable,’ recalled DuVall, and we were like, ‘Yeah, they are. They’re not actors. That’s crazy.’ But there was something about them that was, you know, very, very special… I don’t know that I’ve ever seen actors put in so much work for a role. They really took it seriously, and they understood the responsibility of carrying a show. I was so blown away by what they did, I’m so proud of them and just love them so much.”
DuVall admits adapting your friends’ story for television is nerve-wracking.
“I was terrified pretty much the entire time because of our friendship and because I loved the book so much. I just didn’t want to screw it up, you know? It really stressed me out.”
DuVall, who has acted in projects including “Veep” and “The Handmaid’s Tale,” has become a rising behind-the-camera talent as well. She co-wrote and directed the holiday rom-com “Happiest Season,” starring Kristen Stewart.
When choosing projects DuVall likes to ask herself: “‘Is this contributing something of value? Is this something that could have an impact on somebody?’ I’ve made things that have had an impact on people’s lives and those are the most meaningful things of my career. Things I’m really proud of.”