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Railey and Seazynn Gilliland should have known something monumental was going to happen when they received that powerful Zoom call in late October 2021.

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By then, the identical twins had auditioned several times for lead roles in High School, a series based on the best-selling memories of Calgary-born pop stars Tegan and Sara. They suddenly came face to face with Tegan and Sarah Quin, producers Clea Duvall and Laura Kittrell, and casting directors Courtney Bright and Nicole Daniels. Everyone has gathered through Zoom to excitedly convey the good news to the sisters: they have been given roles! Then they waited for an answer. And waited.

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“They recorded it because I’m sure people are usually very excited about it,” says Seazynn in a joint interview with Zoom with his sister on Postmedia. “I just didn’t have much to say.”

‘Empty face,’ explains Railey.

“Even at this point, I was still thinking,” Of course I’m going to quit this job, “says Seazynn.

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OK, so this part of the story is a bit anti-climatic. But it fits well with a stranger-than-fictional fish-out-of-the-water tale of how two pizza workers from Fresno, California won their dream role on a high-profile television series despite having no prior acting experience. Before the auditions, they also had no idea who Tegan and Sarah were. At the time of this interview, they still hadn’t finished reading the diary on which their TV show is based. It’s the kind of story that is sure to get hold of dedicated young subjects screaming into pillows of jealousy. But the truth is, neither of the sisters ever considered acting. When the opportunity arose, Railey had to firmly convince Seazynn that the interrogation would be a worthwhile adventure.

Esther McGregor, Seazynn Gilliland, Brianne Tju, and Railey Gilliland perform at High School.  Courtesy of Michelle Faye / Amazon Freevee
Esther McGregor, Seazynn Gilliland, Brianne Tju, and Railey Gilliland perform at High School. Courtesy of Michelle Faye / Amazon Freevee Photo: Michelle Faye /Michelle Faye / Amazonka Freevee

“Railey is quite a spontaneous person,” says her sister. “He’s the type of person to wake up on a random Tuesday and say he’s going to Oregon. So she’s very geared up for those little trips. It was similar to this. She was very intrigued by this and what she really wanted to do, and of course they needed both of us. So in the end I figured I wouldn’t want Railey to miss this and we should do it.

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Sorry, this video could not be loaded.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_mTKXSLDxA

Railey Gilliland performs in high school.  Courtesy of Michelle Faye / Amazon Freevee
Railey Gilliland performs in high school. Courtesy of Michelle Faye / Amazon Freevee Photo: Michelle Faye /Michelle Faye / Amazonka Freevee

Until then, the only real performances the sisters had made were with Railey’s TikTok account. She has had several videos where she portrayed a random glimpse into her day, often from the front seat of her car. She also invited her sister to perform short series of discreet dancing and lip syncing. But through some algorithmic miracle, the movies caught the attention of Tegan Quin, who was stressed of finding identical twins with acting and musical chops to play 15-year-old versions of her and her sister. She loved movies. There was something real and sincere about the sisters and their interactions with each other. She immediately began sending links to Sarah.

Meanwhile, producers cast a wide network, seeing many talented identical twins. All this time, the Quins insisted that they wanted Railey and Seazynn to try their roles.

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Seazynn Gilliland performs in high school.  Courtesy of Michelle Faye / Amazon Freevee
Seazynn Gilliland performs in high school. Courtesy of Michelle Faye / Amazon Freevee Photo: Michelle Faye /Michelle Faye / Amazonka Freevee

“Sarah and I were obsessed with them,” says Tegan in a separate interview.

Sure, the Gilliland had flaws. On the one hand, they were not actors, on the other hand, they were not musicians. But the most pressing challenge was that Tegan and Sarah had no idea how to contact them.

“So Sara and I created TikTok,” says Tegan. “We used to say,” Help us find these girls, we need them to answer us. ” Within an hour, Railey wrote and said, “What’s up?” “

They were cast in late October and immediately began taking acting and music lessons. In March, Railey and Seazynn were in Calgary, playing Tegan and Sarah respectively (the producers let them decide who played whom) for a three-month shoot.

Railey and Seazynn Gilliland perform in high school.  Courtesy of Michelle Faye / Amazon Freevee
Railey and Seazynn Gilliland perform in high school. Courtesy of Michelle Faye / Amazon Freevee Photo: Michelle Faye /Michelle Faye / Amazonka Freevee

High School, which starts broadcasting on Prime Video on October 28, follows the pre-1990s lives of Tegan and Sarah Quin, offering a fun and poignant maturation story of queer teens experiencing their first loves, peer pressure, drugs, and family conflicts as they discover their fledgling talents as songwriters and musicians.

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The Gillilands, who turned 21 while in Calgary earlier this year, give extraordinary performances despite their inexperience, showing the sense of humor, loneliness, hurt and disobedience of their heroes as they negotiate puberty.

“It was all brand new,” says Railey. “It was overwhelming at times and it was really hard to do what I wanted the audience to see and let go of their own fears. It’s so crazy because going into it, I would never have thought of everything behind the scenes. I was blown away by the crew and “hitting the target” and all those deadlines. I thought, “What does that mean?” “

From left: Sara Quin, Railey Gilliland, Seazynn Gilliland, and Tegan Quin attend the '90s Amazon Freevee dance party for the new High School series on October 13, 2022 in Los Angeles.
From left: Sara Quin, Railey Gilliland, Seazynn Gilliland, and Tegan Quin attend the ’90s Amazon Freevee dance party for the new High School series on October 13, 2022 in Los Angeles. Photo: Phillip Faraone /Getty Images

Given that Quins were also on set every day as hands-on producers, re-enacting the most sensitive moments of a character’s growing up could prove daunting when the real version is a few feet away. But while Quins were helpful and advised on things like playing guitar, they seemed cold about the details of the performances.

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“Of course there were a lot of questions, (but) there really weren’t any questions about” How am I supposed to play this? ” Says Railey. “Since we didn’t really try to play it exactly like them, we just played it like ourselves. Also, the scripts were so well written that we didn’t feel the need to.

Seazynn says she is not sure what her future in the industry might be, while Railey says she “fell in love with acting” and hopes to continue beyond the show. However, in the near future, the two hope for more seasons to learn about Tegan and Sarah’s early life.

“Before, I didn’t know who they were,” says Seazynn. “On a few Railey TikToxes, people would say we remind them of Tegan and Sarah, but we never looked for them or found out who they were or what they were doing. We weren’t fans before, but we definitely are now.

Streams from high school on Prime Video on October 28.

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