You may know actor Clea DuVall from her roles in films including Argo and But I’m a Cheerleader, and on television in The Handmaid’s Tale and VEEP. She’s also a writer and director. One of DuVall’s most recent projects is High School. The coming-of-age drama is based on the New York Times best-selling memoir of the same name, from Grammy-nominated recording artists Tegan and Sara Quin. High School is available on Amazon’s Freevee, a premium free streaming service. We caught up with Duvall to learn more about the series, and why it’s a passion project for her.
A headshot photo of Clea Duvall, producer of "High School" on Amazon Freevee

What is 'High School' about?

High School is based on the memoir by musicians Tegan and Sara. The show focuses on their teenage years where they explore their relationship to themselves as artists, their sexuality, and each other.

How did you originally connect with musicians Tegan and Sara Quin?

Tegan, Sara, and I met at one of their shows 15 years ago and have been friends ever since.

You read an early version of their memoir, in what ways did it resonate for you?

Growing up as a gay kid, I was always trying to find ways to fit myself into the stories I was seeing on screen, but nothing was ever a perfect fit. When I read High School, it was the first time I felt like my experience was being represented. Even though I was in my 40s, feeling seen was very powerful.

As an actor yourself, do you bring a different perspective to directing?

I think so. I‘ve had the privilege of working with some of the best directors out there, and some directors who were … not as great. That has taught me invaluable lessons about how to engage with crew and cast. Creating a safe and happy environment on set allows everyone to do their best work.

You've written and directed many episodes. Do you prefer one over the other?

For me they go hand in hand. I’m a very visual writer and it’s impossible for me to write without simultaneously planning how I’m going to shoot it. Each comes with its own set of challenges and rewards.

How did you find the lead actresses Railey and Seazynn Gilliland?

Tegan’s TikTok algorithm brought them to us. It seemed like a bonkers idea to hire two pizza parlor managers as the leads of our show, but it really paid off.
An image of two teens leaning against a wall sitting on the floor and looking at the camera. Text on the image says "Freevee Original High School Stream Free Freevee"

The story is set in the ‘90s, but do you think it’s relevant for any time?

No one is spared from the pain (and occasional joy) of adolescence. Coming of age, self-discovery, love, finding your voice. These are experiences we can all relate to, no matter the year or how old we are.

Is it fun reliving the age of grunge and ‘90s trends?

It is! I know it makes me sound old but … Man, I miss the ‘90s.

What have been the most challenging and most fun aspects of bringing 'High School' to the screen?

Getting it right has been the biggest challenge. Because of my relationship with Tegan and Sara, it was extremely important to me that we made a show that made them feel happy they let us tell their story. The most fun was getting to collaborate with our crew and cast. I loved everyone and felt inspired to come to work with them every day. I also enjoyed deep diving into all the music I listened to as a kid, and getting to use so many of my favorite songs in the show.

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