Sex Lives of College Girls Cast on Their Characters and That Naked Party

From co-creators Mindy Kaling (The Office) and Justin Noble (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), the 10-episode HBO Max original comedy series The Sex Lives of College Girls (which has already been picked up for a second season) follows college roommates Kimberly (Pauline Chalamet), Bela (Amrit Kaur), Leighton (Reneé Rapp), and Whitney (Alyah Chanelle Scott) as they arrive at New England’s prestigious Essex College and try to acclimate to their new surroundings. As they get to know each other, they’re also getting to know themselves better, living life on campus with all of the freedoms that come with that.

During this interview with Collider, co-stars Chalamet, Kaur, Rapp and Scott talked about why they were so excited to be a part of this show, their reaction to reading the pilot script, getting to explore sexuality without guilt, the Kimberly-Nico (Gavin Leatherwood) dynamic, the mess that Whitney has gotten herself into with her coach, Leighton’s journey of self-discovery, the decision Bela has to make, and going to that naked party.

Collider: When the opportunity to be a part of this show came your way, what was it the most appealed to you? Was it Mindy Kaling? Was it the subject matter? Was it your specific character? Were you just hoping that you would get to attend a naked party, at least once during the season?

PAULINE CHALAMET: It was literally all of those things. It was everything, and the naked party too. It was all of that. It was sex, girls, Mindy Kaling, and funny.

ALYAH CHANELLE SCOTT: I was really fascinated and interested in the relationships of the four girls. I thought it was just funny that they’re all so different and thrown into this space and have to navigate becoming friends, and that it happens in such a natural way and in such a funny way. And also, that they have so much agency over their sexuality and their sexual experiences. I feel like that’s something that I was really excited about and something that I rarely see, especially in this age of young women.


RENEE RAPP: I was excited too because, reading the pilot, I loved the title. The comedy is so dry and so strong on the page, standing alone. We wouldn’t even really have to do much and it would be funny. And so, I was like, “Okay, this will be fun. There’s room to play. Even if I don’t do something right, it might still be funny.” The writers’ room is really strong and that pilot was damn good on paper.

AMRIT KAUR: Yes, the pilot was phenomenal. I didn’t actually read the pilot until I was cast. All I knew was the audition sides that Justin [Noble]’s assistant wrote, who’s also a phenomenal writer. Just having a brown girl that’s sexual on screen was very exciting to me, and saying all of the nasty things that she says, I was like, “I’ve never seen a brown girl say those crazy things on screen before. How is she allowed to do this?” That was all very, very exciting to me.

Image via HBO Max

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I love how, even though all of these girls are a mess in their own way, they still embrace who they are. They’re not making apologies for who they are, or what they’re doing or exploring, and there isn’t guilt about it. I just love how there’s a celebration of that, on this show.

CHALAMET: Yeah. Something that the four of us had so much fun doing was being able to explore the character’s sexuality or the character’s relationship to sex, in very distinct ways, and feel that there was a nice support system behind it because there you’re living with these other girls who go about it so differently. There was a real attraction to the pilot and to our individual characters, just because it was amazing that there isn’t that shameful idea around sex. I would say it’s more like we’re navigating our feelings of embarrassment because we don’t really understand what it is. Reneé can speak more to Leighton because she’s going on her own journey, but there tends to be more of a nuanced acceptance that sex is happening.

RAPP: I completely agree with you. I think you even still see that in Leighton, just in the sense of, a lot of times, and not all the time, but it’s a very real experience for queer people where it can be portrayed as someone whose environment around them is not accepting of their identity or sexuality, or things like that. That is very real and happens more than I would care to talk about. With Leighton, there’s also a part of her doing it to herself. So much is internalized and she’s like, “Well, I don’t wanna be this because I don’t want that to change my identity.” I think if she had a part of herself that was like, “It doesn’t change anything about you. That’s just inherently you and you just need to be graceful with that part of you. That’s beautiful and as it should be, and you don’t need to take on these outside stigmas of what that looks like or why that’s not okay.” Of course, I think that stems from familial things and in communities where she’s been. At least for me, it was nice to see that there wasn’t a character that was like, “You can’t do this and you can’t be this.” That wasn’t necessarily my experience, at all times. It was more similar to Leighton’s of being like, “Okay, what does this mean for me? How will this change how I’m perceived? In spaces where I walk in, is that gonna read on me now? Is this gonna be a thing that’s added?

KAUR: And guilt and shame is something that’s taught. We come out of our mother’s womb with our vaginas open and our dicks flying out, and then we’re taught to be guilty and shameful about it. That’s what Bela also has to deal with. She’s so out about her sexuality, but then there’s so many people that challenge her and go, “Why are you so sexual?” And she has to reconsider, “Should I be guilty? Should I be shameful about myself? Is being sexual shameful?” That’s something that’s taught. It’s not inherent in us.

SCOTT: Something this show does interestingly is that, maybe besides Bela, each of us have this secret, this thing that we’re trying to keep away from each other and this thing that, maybe we’re not ashamed of but embarrassed about. We think that we’re so alone in this experience of having a messy sexual life and everyone else has it so together. I’m in this situation that I don’t know if I’m proud of, and we’re all in that space, separately and in very different ways. And then, we come together and maybe try to cover up the fact that we’re in that situation. It’s funny to see how they’re all just such a mess and trying to figure it out, but they don’t really know that.

RAPP: That’s also so real too. I feel like that’s like every sexual or intimate experience that I had, as a kid, feeling like, “Oh, my God, I’m the only one that feels this way.” I’ll talk to [my co-stars] about certain things and [they’d] be like, “Yeah, 100%, that happened to me too.” And I’d be like, “So, we’re not alone? We’re all sad?” That’s real.

CHALAMET: Also, you always think that everybody has it figured out, and that’s not true. Everybody always thinks that everybody else has it figured out. It’s the perpetual cycle of what’s right. There is no right. You’re born alone, you die alone, so you live your life.

Image via HBO Max

Pauline, your character is the one that’s really wanting a relationship to go along with the fun. She develops this crush on Nico and that relationship is so cute, but how does that go for her? What can you say about that and how messy that will be?

CHALAMET: Without giving anything away, I think Nico is instrumental to Kimberly’s realization that you can only be yourself in life that. You have to keep on your own path. People and events are gonna come in and destabilize you, and the moment where you start veering from what you think is correct, or how you wanna be in the world or behave, is the moment things start to not go so smoothly. It’s so incredibly impressive to Kimberly that someone of Nico’s social class and those looks and the frat life, and all of that, would be interested in a freshman girl from Gilbert, Arizona, so she lets herself fall into that, which I completely understand. I think that Nico is very helpful for Kimberly to then realize what lays ahead in life and what to be weary of.

Alyah, your character has gotten herself into a real mess, trying to succeed in athletics, but also getting herself tangled up with her coach. What can you say about where that leaves her?

SCOTT: I think it leaves her in a mess. There’s just a pile of shit. She really creates it for herself. I’m so mad at Whitney. I’m like, “Girl, stop, please. Haven’t we learned?” But no, she really hasn’t, and I think that’s a lot of the experiences of young women as well. They cling to these older men or people who seem to have it more together because it gives you a sense of confidence that someone like this could be interested in you and could really desire you. You forget what it looks like and what it actually is from the outside, which could be a little predatory and a little strange. But she so desires being desired by him. It gives her so much. Maybe it’s the rebellious nature of her, with this thing she has with her mom, where she just wants to be free to make her own decisions and it makes her feel more grown. But it really leaves her in a mess. She has to reckon with a lot of mistakes that she makes, in a way that she really doesn’t want to. She doesn’t wanna admit that she’s messing up. She doesn’t wanna admit that it’s going wrong. She wants to say, “I have it all figured out,” and she really doesn’t.

Image via HBO Max

Reneé, would you say that, with your character, how she presents herself and who she knows she is will line up more, by the end of the season?

RAPP: Baby’s got a long way to go. The one really endearing quality that Leighton has, that you see throughout the season, and much more so in later episodes, is that she is so consistent. It makes you realize that when she gets into situations, like in the women’s center, and she finds people who she, at first, is so judgmental and so rude to, she starts to realize that she finds comfort in those situations. I don’t necessarily think her presentation changes. You just get to see more cracks and crevices of it. It doesn’t go away in Season 1, but you definitely see it, more so throughout, and you see it in different relationships, which I love. Once we get into scenes where we’re one-on-one, or smaller moments, and Leighton has scenes with people from the women’s center, you start to see those cracks and crevices. You see how the presentation could be different, but you never get there, which makes you really want it to. You see how desperately she wants it to be that. She’s just not willing to let that go yet, which makes my heart break. You’re like, “You’re trying to be yourself, you just are so in your way. If you would allow yourself to go there, you’d be so much happier.”

Amrit, for your character, how hard is it going to be for her to figure things out? She knows what she wants and she seems to know what she needs to do to get it, but other people really seem to put up obstacles for her.

KAUR: I mean, that’s reality thought, isn’t it? We all have these ideas. I have these big dreams, but there are these systems of patriarchy, of racism, and of misogyny, that are always in the way. She has to decide whether she wants to be a part of this club, where she has to accept being a second class citizen, or she wants to go a different route, which often is harder and takes longer for people of color, but maybe she can be more authentic and truer self, as a result of that.

I love watching your characters together because they do become that sounding board for each other, they become that shoulder to cry on for each other, and they become the person that they can go to naked parties with. There really aren’t a lot of people that you can do all of those things with.

KAUR: That was very fun, that day. Pauline and I had a pact. We were making sure that, if anything slipped out, we had each other’s backs. I’ve never seen that many balls and pussies in a room before, I can say that. I’ve officially seen all shapes and sizes.

The Sex Lives of College Girls is available to stream at HBO Max.

‘The Sex Lives of College Girls’ Renewed for Season 2 at HBO Max

The show currently ranks among the streamer’s top titles after premiering in November.

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https://collider.com/sex-lives-of-college-girls-cast-interview-pauline-chalamet-amrit-kaur-rene-rapp-alyah-chanelle-scott/ Sex Lives of College Girls Cast on Their Characters and That Naked Party

Bobby Allyn

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