“The Sex Lives of College Girls” Showrunner Justin Noble Let Us in on Season 2 Behind-the-Scenes Details

<span class="caption">“TSLOCG” Showrunner Justin Noble on Season 2</span><span class="photo-credit">HBO</span>
“TSLOCG” Showrunner Justin Noble on Season 2HBO

Storied stone architecture, picturesque verdant quads, theme parties galore, relatable conversations about sex and sexuality — enter the world of The Sex Lives of College Girls. The HBO Max series, led by Mindy Kaling and Justin Noble, follows the lives of four suitemates as they begin their freshman year at the esteemed (but fictional) Essex College in Vermont. Together, Kimberly (Pauline Chalamet), Whitney (Alyah Chanelle Scott), Bela (Amrit Kaur), and Leighton (Reneé Rapp) enter the unpredictable, thrilling — and yes, stressful — realm of higher education, and face the realities of what’s often coined “the best four years of your life.”

Although all from different backgrounds and upbringings, the Core Four establish an undeniable bond that drives the relatability and comforting appeal of the series. Season 2 of The Sex Lives of College Girls debuts on November 17, picking up on the events that went down before the girls briefly returned home for Thanksgiving break. We crack open a new chapter in Kimberly, Whitney, Bela, and Leighton’s lives, which showrunner Justin Noble is eager for fans to see.

Ahead of the premiere, Noble, whose resume includes credits on shows such as Never Have I Ever and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, spoke with Seventeen about the new ups and downs our girls experience in the sophomore season. Below, he discusses the importance of queer actors playing queer characters, the evolution of the Kimberly and Nico dynamic, the growth of the girls throughout their next trimester at Essex, and so much more.

los angeles, california   november 10  justin noble, pauline chalamet, alyah chanelle scott, amrit kaur, reneé rapp, and mindy kaling attend the los angeles premiere of hbo maxs the sex lives of college girls at hammer museum on november 10, 2021 in los angeles, california photo by tommaso boddigetty images
Justin Noble (left) with Pauline Chalamet, Alyah Chanelle Scott, Amrit Kaur, Reneé Rapp, and Mindy Kaling.Tommaso Boddi - Getty Images

Seventeen: Following the success of season 1, how did it feel heading into season 2?

Justin Noble: It was awesome to have the show be embraced the way it was. One of my favorite things is an ensemble comedy. I’ve always worked on them, I’ve always loved it. But I’ve also always been that like one gay guy at the table at brunch with a bunch of girlfriends, and so I’ve never been able to really show what my friend group looks like on-screen. So having it out there has been really nice, and then hearing people be like, ‘Oh, I’m more of a Bela and my best friend’s more of a Kimberly!’ That’s all we ever want when we’re creating characters, so it’s been a dream. I’m excited for people to see the next chapter in all of these characters’ lives.

fan question
Hearst Owned

What was the hardest, or most stressful, scene to shoot?

JN: Personally, for me, it was Leighton’s coming out scene at the end of the first season. I always wanted this beautiful moment of her coming out to Kimberly, and I really labored over the script as I was writing that scene, and changed it a million times. Then it got to the set, and it’s just proof about why queer actors should portray queer roles, because there was such a natural understanding of the scene that Reneé had that was so beautiful. We actually had to pause after the first take because, honestly, I was sobbing. Multiple people were crying and it was just too good. We were going to film it a bunch of times because that’s what you do in television, but it was so emotional and real that it was difficult to get through. I, at one point, had to step off the stage so that I would not disrupt the take from sniffling.

the sex lives of college girls
Courtesy of HBO Max

17: Did some of your own college experiences inspire any of the show’s storylines?

JN: Yeah, quite a bit. The same for Mindy [Kaling], too. We’re always pulling research from each other and we actually went on this incredibly fun research trip before we started the season, where I took her to my alma mater and she took me hers. But the paramount example is the “naked party” in episode 2. It’s a real tradition at Yale, where I went to school. It’s a really unique atmosphere that as soon as I had experienced it, was like, ‘Oh, this has to be on the show.’ It’s too interesting. Then once we met our wonderful cast, it was so clear that Bela, as portrayed by Amrit, would be the cheerleader leading our girls into this Alice in Wonderland-esque, interesting vibe that they hadn’t been through before.

the sex lives of college girls season 2
Courtesy of HBO Max

17: We learned that Nico [played by Gavin Leatherwood] departed the show after season 1. So what was it like writing in new characters and love interests, with an already established cast of characters in season 2?

JN: Mindy and I love these shows about romance but we’re constantly cycling through new love interests. Much like [shows] like Sex and the City, you want to show all of the characters who are informing the lives of the girls we’re following. Nico was an incredibly important figure in Kimberly’s growth, I think. Kimberly was this shell-shocked girl from rural Arizona, who went away to college and fell for a guy who was so clearly not dealing with the same socioeconomic stress that she was dealing with. She saw a beautiful man in an expensive coat and he was the shiny object who she fell under a spell for. Then he was kind of secretly brutal. He was dating someone else the whole time and cheated on her, and we’re certainly not about to put out the story of ‘how to forgive a straight white male who cheats.’ So she’s stepping away from Nico and she’s going to find some new love interest.

the sex lives of college girls
Courtesy of HBO Max

17: Which character would you say has grown the most from season 1 to the end of season 2?

JN: I think they all have major growth by the end of season 2. The first one that jumps out to me is Whitney, because I feel like Whitney, more so than some of our other girls, came to college knowing who she thought she was. She knew her interests more than anyone. She was at soccer all the time, she was damn good at it, she spent all of her time doing it. And the interesting curve ball that’s thrown her way is soccer season is over, and I watched this happen to friends of mine who were athletes in college. You have a real moment of, ‘What’s next? What do I do now? The thing that has largely become a huge part of my identity is now offline.’ So what becomes online? It’s interesting to see her feeling lost, which I think is a relatable feeling for a lot of college students who don’t know what they want to do, either in the immediate or in the future. She has a growth through season 2 that neither the audience nor Whitney would really expect.

the sex lives of college girls
Courtesy of HBO Max

17: What can you tease about the future of some of the girls’ relationships in the show?

JN: I would say that Bela and Eric [played by Mekki Leeper] had a working relationship throughout season 1, where he became more interesting and nuanced. We can tell he’s a good guy from afar, and there’s glimpses of, ‘Is there something between these two?’ and it’s a very intentional question that we’re trying to land. Then as Bela goes through season 2, she’s still Bela. Bela is the most experimental of any of our girls, she’s going to have really interesting sex stories. But her and Eric have a closeness that is made interesting by some of the situations that are thrown her way in season 2. But Bela is incredibly impulsive. As soon as she has an impulse, [she] runs in that direction and she doesn’t necessarily think of the ramifications, either for herself or for other people. I think that’s a lesson that she’ll learn in time.

the sex lives of college girls
Courtesy of HBO Max

Then Whitney and Canaan [played by Christopher Meyer] are just magnetic together. They’re really good together. But we’ll see what comes their way as these characters are thrown in different stimuli that make them have to either grow together or grow apart.

17: What has been your favorite theme party thrown at Essex College?

JN: I love the theme parties on the show. They’re so fun to write. A glimpse behind the scenes of the creative process is, we’ll break an episode of what we want the stories to be for our girls, and usually there’s a party where this story will overlap with this story. And the last thing we do is, ‘What’s the theme of that party?’ Then we’re like ‘Oh god, now we have to come up with a whole party.’ So we become party planners at the last stage. Sometimes we’re pulling from real parties that we’ve experienced. We have this fantastic group of young female writers, some of whom are closer in age to college than I am, as someone who’s in my mid-30s. So they keep us young with ideas, and sometimes we just make stuff up. The “Anything But Clothes” party, which I know is a real thing, was super fun. It was amazing to see what our costume department could deliver. They were thrown a challenge with so little time and the looks that they turned out for that episode were iconic. We loved it so much.

the sex lives of college girls

Want to know more about The Sex Lives of College Girls, including exclusive cast interviews and behind-the-scenes intel from showrunners? Stay tuned to Seventeen Watch Club for the latest on the series.

You Might Also Like