Last Updated on August 28, 2022 by Lil Ginge
Reneé Rapp stars as Leighton Murray on the new hit HBO Max comedy The Sex Lives of College Girls. While all four lead characters on the show are engaging and richly developed, Rapp’s Leighton has some of the rawest emotional moments during the show’s ten-episode first season.
Rapp’s professional career started with scoring the main role of Regina George on Broadway’s version of Mean Girls. But when COVID ultimately shut that production down permanently, Rapp began auditioning for film and television roles.
College Girls has officially been renewed for a second season, and I for one can’t wait to see what happens to Leighton and her roommates during the follow-up season. And I also can’t wait to see what else Rapp’s career has in store for her as an actor and musician.
Reneé Rapp’s Biography
Reneé Rapp, now 21 years old, was born in North Carolina and grew up in Huntersville, outside of the city of Charlotte. She acted in college in addition to playing on the varsity women’s golf team. Rapp finished high school by transferring to Northwest School of the Arts.
During her high school career, Rapp won awards and scholarships for her performances, such as the Blumey Award – Charlotte’s musical theater awards – for Best Actress for her role as Sandra in Big Fish. She also won the 2018 Jimmy Award for “Best Performance by an actress” – beating 40 other actors for the award and earning a $10,000 scholarship. While in North Carolina, Rapp also played the role of Wendla in Theatre Charlotte’s 2018 production of Spring Awakening.
And after high school, Rapp moved to New York City to pursue her music career. But it was still acting that moved her career forward professionally. She won the role of Regina George in the Broadway production of Mean Girls. Her casting was first on a temporary basis but then permanently.
Unfortunately, when COVID-19 struck in March of 2020, Mean Girls was shut down along with the rest of Broadway. Ultimately, Mean Girls would not reopen which could have placed Rapp’s career in limbo. But Rapp began auditioning for television and film projects, ultimately landing the role of Leighton Murray in The Sex Lives of College Girls.
Leighton is Rapp’s first television role. A major part of the appeal was working with comedy icon Mindy Kaling as well as exploring some of the complexities of Leighton’s sexuality in a comedic way.
Reneé Rapp on the Set of College Girls
The entire audition process for The Sex Lives of College Girls occurred over Zoom due to COVID-19. And when Rapp and her costars started on set, some social distancing was necessary. This included the first-day game of socially distanced Uno involving Rapp and her costars.
The show was filmed over a period of six months. This took place on set in both Burbank, California at the Warner Bros. studios as well as on location at gorgeous Vassar College in New York.
Like many college students worldwide, the four stars of the show started their own little acapella group on set. And they used this to annoy crew members when possible. A college-style prank if I ever heard one.
Though the world of television was new and may have been intimidating to Rapp at first, Mindy Kaling herself would sometimes reach out by email during the day with a helpful note. This helped Rapp develop her comedic tone for the show and grew her confidence in playing Leighton Murray.
If Rapp struggled with confidence or anxiety while filming, you would never know it from watching her amazing performance on College Girls. Watching her character’s outer veneer of “mean girl” wealthy white nobility covering up a mess of sexuality-infused anxiety about who she is one of the most engaging parts of the series’ first season.
The Sex Lives of College Girls
The Sex Lives of College Girls follows four girls as they embark upon their freshman year of college at a fictional New England school called Essex College. In addition to Rapp’s Leighton, there is Whitney Chase (Alyah Chanelle Scott), Bela Malhotra (Amrit Kaur) and Kimberly Finkle (Pauline Chalamet – older sister of Timothée Chalamet).
The show was created and produced by contemporary comedy legend Mindy Kaling and includes showrunner Justin Noble. It premiered on November 18, 2021 and was all signs point to it being a fast hit.
Leighton Murray, Rapp’s character, is the “quintessential mean girl” – full of privilege and seeming disdain for those she considers beneath her, which seems like pretty much everyone. But not everything is as it seems as Leighton harbors a big secret that goes to the very core of her identity.
The show is about girls, college and sex, which is why it is appropriately named, but it is a lot more than that too. The Sex Lives of College Girls is about four college-aged women coming of age and learning about who they are – are are not – in all aspects of their lives and personality. Exploring their sexuality is one of the vehicles through which this occurs.
I’m excited to watch the lives of these four college girls play out in future seasons of The Sex Lives of College Girls. And I’m also excited to see where Reneé Rapp’s career takes her in the future in acting and music.