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Railey and Seazynn Gilliland should have guessed something very important was about to happen when they received a powerful Zoom call in late October 2021.
The identical twins had a few auditions at the time for the lead roles in High School, the series based on the best-selling memoir by Calgary-born pop stars Tegan and Sara. Soon they were face to face with Tegan and Sara Quin, producers Clea Duvall and Laura Kittrell and directors Courtney Bright and Nicole Daniels. They all gathered via Zoom to excitedly tell the sisters the good news: They got the part! Then they wait for a response. He waited.
“They were recording it, because I’m sure people really enjoyed it,” Seazynn said, in a joint Zoom interview with her sister Postmedia. I didn’t have much to say.”
“A blank face,” Railey explained.
“Even then, I was still thinking ‘I’m going to hate this job,'” says Seazynn.
Okay, so this part of the story is anti-climactic. But it fits well into the stranger-than-fiction, fish-out-of-water story of two pizza shop workers from Fresno, Calif., who end up winning dream roles on a high-profile television show despite never having been there before. gaming experience. Before the audition, they didn’t even know who Tegan and Sara were. At the time of this interview, they had not yet finished reading the television documentary on which it is based. It’s the kind of story that’s sure to have devoted young thespians crying into their pillows with envy. But the truth is that neither sister had ever thought of playing. When the opportunity arose, Railey had to forcefully convince Seazynn that auditioning would be the right move.
“Railey is a do-it-yourselfer,” says her sister. “He’s the type of person who will wake up on a random Tuesday and say he’s going to Oregon. So you practice a lot with this little trip. This sounded like that. He was very passionate about it and what he wanted to do and, of course, they needed both of us. So I thought I don’t want Railey to miss this and we have to do it. “
Until then, all the sisters were doing was on Railey’s TikTok account. He had a series of videos showing him giving random information about his day, often from the front seat of his car. She also put her sister through a short dance routine and lip sync. But by an algorithmic miracle, the videos caught the attention of Tegan Quin, who was stressed about finding identical twins with the game and musical chops to play the 15-year-old versions of herself and her sister. He loved the videos. There was something real about the sisters and the way they interacted. He immediately started sending links to Sara.
This time, the producers cast a wide net, seeing a number of twins with the same talent. Through it all, Quins was adamant about getting Railey and Seazynn to try out for the roles.
In a separate interview Tegan says: “Sarah and I became interested in them.
Of course, the Gillilands had obstacles. They weren’t actors, for one, and they weren’t musicians, for another. But the immediate challenge was that Tegan and Sara had no idea how to contact them.
“So Sara and I do TikTok,” Tegan said. “We were like ‘Help us find these girls, we want them to respond to us.’ Within an hour, Railey wrote and was like ‘What?’ “
They were cast in late October and immediately began taking lessons and music. In March, Railey and Seazynn were in Calgary playing Tegan and Sara, respectively (the producers let them decide who played) for three months.
High School, which premieres on Prime Video on October 28, follows the pre-fame lives of Tegan and Sara Quin in the 1990s, offering a funny and touching coming-of-age story about teenagers who experience first love, peer pressure, drugs, and family conflict as they explore their new talents as songwriters and musicians.
The Gillilands, who turned 21 in Calgary earlier this year, deliver incredible performances despite their inexperience, capturing their characters’ humor, loneliness, trauma and resistance as they negotiate puberty.
“It was all brand new,” Railey said. “It was difficult at times and very difficult to do what I wanted the audience to see and to be able to let go of my fear. It’s so crazy because, going into it, I wouldn’t have thought about everything behind the scenes. I was blown away by the staff and ‘hit your mark’ and all these words. I was like ‘What does this mean?’ “
Because the Quins were also on set every day as hands-on producers, it would prove daunting to create the most vulnerable moments of the character’s adolescence as the real version sits a few feet away. But while the Quins were helpful and offered advice on things like playing the guitar, they seemed a bit cold when it came to the details of the game.
“Yes, there were a lot of questions, (but) no questions about ‘How can I play this?’ ” Railey said. “Because we weren’t trying to play it exactly like them, we were playing it like us. Also, the scripts were so well written that we didn’t feel the need to do that.”
Seazynn says she’s unsure about her future in the business, while Railey says she “loved acting” and hopes to continue beyond the series. In the future, however, the two are hoping for more seasons to explore the early lives of Tegan and Sara.
“Before this, I didn’t know who they were,” says Seazynn. “In a few of Railey’s TikToks, people would say we reminded them of Tegan and Sara but we never looked at them or found out who they were or what they did. Before this, we weren’t fans, but we definitely are now.”
High School airs on Premier Video on October 28.