Reneé Rapp, star of HBO Max’s The Sex Lives of College Girls said she felt anxious when she first started playing her character Leighton Murray, who is gay.
The 22-year-old actor told People magazine that she worried about negative comments from her peers.
“When the first season came out, I had different people in my life,” Rapp said. “I was really afraid for the show to come out because I felt very judged, and I didn’t feel comfortable.”
Rapp portrays Leighton, a wealthy first-year student at the fictional Essex College and daughter of an alum. Leighton hides the fact she’s gay from her friends and family for most of the first season as she overcomes her internalized anti-gay self-loathing, experiments with her sexuality, and builds a support system among her loved ones.
Rapp, who performed in Mean Girls on Broadway before being cast on the hit show, said she was less anxious when Season 2 premiered in November.
“I actually was very excited for the second season to come out, because I felt much more comfortable to not be terrified to hear something either homophobic or slut-shaming,” Rapp said.
Rapp, who is openly bisexual, said she often had to separate her own experiences from those of her character on the show. She added that Leighton had empowered her on her own queer journey. She released her first album Everything to Everyone on Nov. 11 and is set to reprise her role as Regina George in Paramount’s forthcoming Mean Girls movie musical.
“I don’t think I ever really dealt with those emotions as outwardly as Leighton did,” she said. “I kind of … just let s— go, in a bad way.”
Pauline Chalamet, Alyah Chanelle Scott, and Amrit Kaur star alongside Rapp as her roommates at Essex. The foursome support one another as they grapple with romantic relationships, money problems, career ambitions, and, of course, sex. Mindy Kaling and Justin Noble created the comedy series, which has already been greenlit for a third season.