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How The Sex Lives of College Girls Brought Comedy, Heart, & Authenticity to Its Queer Character

How The Sex Lives of College Girls Brought Comedy, Heart, & Authenticity to Its Queer Character


Out chatted with co-creator Justin Noble about the beloved HBO Max series, and its gay character Leighton, ahead of the show's season 2 release.

School is back in session for the girls of Essex College!

The fun and quirky binge-watch that got us through the tail-end of the pandemic is back for its sophomore season. The Sex Lives of College Girls centers four (unlikely) freshmen roommates who get their first taste of independence, giving Sex and the City meets the prequel to Girls -- all with a very2022 comedic flair.

Out chatted with show co-creator Justin Noble about the HBO Max series, which he tag-teamed with comedy queen Mindy Kaling.

"We just kind of jived creatively," Noble tells Out, nodding to the pair's initial work on the hit Netflix show Never Have I Ever.

Noble and Kaling's writing chemistry for the high school comedy led them to their next big thing: College.

It wasn't long before the two were strolling through each other's alma maters, rehashing their college days, and discovering hidden gems that would later be inserted into the lives of their four leading ladies.

"We were constantly pulling from our own experiences-- It basically turned into group therapy," Noble jokes. "We're airing our dirty laundry all the time to find storylines for these girls."

And with a majority-women writer's team, oh do the stories flow. Even if you haven't gone to a naked party like Kimberly (Paulette Chalamet) and Bela (Amrit Kaur), driven to a casino for a secret hookup like Leighton (Renee Rapp), or had an affair with your soccer coach like Whitney (Alya Chanel Scott), the stories are easy to chalk up to those "wild college years." It feels like maybe you, too, would have hooked up with your coach, if only you had been recruited for a D1 sport.

Much of Noble's college experience was poured into queer character, Leighton. Closeted in college, himself, the writer's goal was to "externalize the internal struggle" of coming out.

Though a universal experience among queer people, Noble acknowledges that the inner battle often goes unexplored on the screen as it's "historically very difficult to dramatize."

"I've seen so many coming out stories where it's about parents who are religious and won't accept them... and yes those [stories] are absolutely true. But for me, the more interesting thing is the universal experience where you have to come to terms with it yourself."

Throughout season one, we watch Leighton grapple with her sexuality, creating a firm divide between her college life and her romantic life. In college, she dates men and exudes a cool confidence other girls envy. Behind closed doors, she hooks up with women via dating apps and loathes herself for being queer. This all changes when her two worlds collide in the final episode, and she finally says the words she's tried so persistently to deny: "I'm gay."

"The one detail that I was adamant on surviving in [Leighton's coming out] scene was that she didn't want this, it wasn't a win for her," Noble says. "She thinks it's really going to make her life harder, and that's a true fear a lot of queer people have."

As a judgey, uberwealthy, slightly elitist New Englander, it'd be easy for viewers to write Leighton off as an out-of-touch mean girl. Yet, she still manages to make viewers want to root for her -- what Noble calls a testament to queer actress Rapp's talent. Despite the series' extensive casting process, the creators knew almost immediately after meeting Rapp that they had found their Leighton.

"She had the role in her hand pretty much the whole time. She just oozes Leighton for us," Noble says of the quippy actress who formerly won over hearts as Regina George in Mean Girls on Broadway.

"She had this air about herself where we immediately believed her as this person who could make a cutting joke at another character's expense without seeming off-putting or unlikeable, and that is such a hard needle to thread."

The season two trailer teases a bolder, much more self-assured Leighton: a college girl coming into her own on her own terms. So what does that mean for the character? Well, lots of sex (obviously) and an open door to an authentic relationship with her three roommates. Because -- salacious title and all -- the show really is about female friendship at its core.

And Noble says it best: "It's really just a love story between four girls who were randomly assigned to live together."

The first two episodes of TheSex Lives of College Girls season 2 premieres Thursday, November 17 on HBO Max.

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