You may know Railey Gilliland and Seazynn Gilliland from TikTok, and if you do, you may not have expected them to take on the lead roles of in High School, an eight-episode series adapted from Tegan and Sara's Tegan Quin and Sara Quin's 2019 memoir of the same title. And if it came as a surprise to you, that's OK because it came as a surprise to the team behind the show as well.
The team originally cast a "very wide net all over the world" in order to find female teenage twins to take on the parts of Tegan and Sara, but the Gillilands' account ended up appearing in executive producers' social media feeds and the rest, as they say, is history.
"I saw a video of Railey, and she was giving a tour of her car, and there was just a sweetness and a vulnerability," Tegan Quin said during a Television Critics Association press tour panel for the upcoming series.
Although Tegan went on to explain that it can be "very scary to imagine bringing in non-actors and non-musicians" to a show about budding musicians being made for Amazon Freevee, "there was just something undeniably watchable" about the younger set of twins that made the real-life twins whose relationship the show draws from, as well as their showrunners Laura Kittrell and Clea DuVall (who also directs), the right ones to hire, even if it meant a little extra work for everyone.
"Making a TV show is a very weird process; it's a lot of work, especially if you're not seeking it out," DuVall noted. "They worked with an acting coach that our casting director found for them. And the casting director, before we had the acting coach meeting them in person, she was like, 'Don't get your hopes up. It's impossible; turning non-actors into actors is just basically impossible. So, keep looking, this isn't going to happen.'"
DuVall went on to say that casting director, who she did not name and there are three credited on the series and we don't want to call out the incorrect one, did change her tune once she started working with the Gillilands, though.
"They really put in the work," she said.
The Gillilands also took music lessons in order to capture Tegan and Sara's musical tone, which is just in its infancy in the series.
Set in the 1990s, High School is set among both grunge and rave cultures and explores self-discovery and self-identity, including embracing one's sexuality. The girls have to find their own voices, even as they are closely tied, not only through their genetics and living arrangements, but also, eventually that music.
"We didn't get along and our relationship was quite fraught and there was a lot of conflict and tension, and it makes watching the show exciting," Tegan said.
The show, which you can see a first look at via a teaser below, includes the creation of "Tegan Didn't Go To School Today," the first song Tegan and Sara ever wrote. Including it in the show was a way to show "that young people can do amazing things right even out of the gate," said Sara Quin. "Sometimes our first instinct is our best instinct."
"Tegan and I always felt like it was really effortless: that writing music just happened really naturally. It was really the people around us responding to us that made us realize that that we weren't terrible," she continued. "I think [our piano teacher] thought that we were not necessarily talented in the area of music. She thought we were very enthusiastic, but I think when we suddenly locked in and started writing songs, the adults around us actually really encouraged us to keep going, and it gave us something to really focus on because we were certainly not focusing on academics."
High School will premiere Oct. 14 on Amazon Freevee.