Animation maker

High school designer Clea DuVall on her pop culture inspirations

For Clea Du Vall, it’s all about connection. The Veep and But I’m a cheerleader 2020 holiday romantic comedy actress and director The happiest seasonsays she bonded deeply with memoir of indie pop duo Tegan and Sara Quin High schoolso much so that she took on the role of co-creator and co-showrunner for the new adaptation of the Amazon Freevee drama series of the same name.

“Never before had I read something that represented my teenage experience, let alone seen it on screen,” DuVall says. “As soon as I finished reading the book, I knew I wanted to adapt it.”

High school

Michelle Faye/Amazon Freevee Railey and Seazynn Gilliland in “High School”

The series, streaming now, stars TikTok twins Railey and Seazynn Gilliland as teenage versions of Tegan and Sara. Set to a 90s grunge soundtrack, the sisters struggle to come to terms with their individuality as identical twins, sexuality among first loves, devastating heartbreaks, and deep connection to music and songwriting.

“A big reason I wanted to do this show is because I had never seen anything like it,” she says. And maybe one day it will inspire a storyteller like Freedmen, PJ Harvey and DuVall most inspired. Here, the actress-director tells EW which elements of pop culture she’s most connected to throughout her life.

Six feet Under ground

DuVall says she found the story and world-building in Alan Ball’s HBO drama series fascinating. “Six feet Under groundthe world that they created, and this family that was just filled with these complicated, flawed characters,” DuVall says, “watching them all navigate their own lives and their lives with each other — I was just fascinated.



“Leftovers was so devastating. It was so human, painful and beautiful. Those performances were exceptional,” says DuVall of the HBO drama starring Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman, Carrie Coon and Christopher Eccleston, among others.

She says the craftsmanship of the drama series, created by Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta, was at the highest possible level.

“It was such a well-executed show where I really had no idea what was going to happen next,” she says. “Which for me as an audience member is the most exciting place, in a constant state of – rather than trying to get ahead of the story – just letting the story wash over you. I think that’s the best place to be.”

The Final of the Leftovers


DuVall created a connection with Jodie Fosterthe character of Clarice Starling in the 1991 thriller. She says her performance in the film – which won Foster an Oscar – made her want to keep acting.

“My favorite movie in the world is Thesilenceofthelambs“, she admits of the Oscar for best picture in 1992. “I’ve never done anything like this, but I hope to do something like this one day. When I was a kid, it was the first real adult movie that I watched and really connected to.”



Speaking of favorites, DuVall also praises Martin Scorsese and his mastery of storytelling. His favorite Scorsese movie? Freedmen.

“It’s just this movie that I can watch over and over again and never get tired of it. I’m also on the edge of my seat every time. It really showed me the art of storytelling and cinema in a way that opened my eyes to what you could accomplish. Ray Liotta is just a powerhouse.”

Goodfellas Ray Liotta

Books by Christopher Pike

The prolific author’s young adult thrillers inspired DuVall at age 11 to begin writing his own stories.

“A writer was the first thing I ever wanted to be because of those books,” she recalls. “There was something about those books and the formula that made writing very accessible to me. I would just sit in my room and write my own Christopher Pike-type stories and escape into those worlds.”

Among Pike’s works, there is one that currently fascinates DuVall: Mike Flanagan’s adaptation of The Midnight Clubstreaming now on Netflix.

The Midnight Club by Christopher Pike

PJ Harvey

DuVall says English singer-songwriter PJ Harvey, as well as other female artists of the 90s, inspired her with their strength.

“Hole and Björk, these strong women that I was really looking for. They had something to say and their music was so inspiring. That’s why doing a show like High school was so much fun because I really got to bring in all the music that I loved and listened to when I was in high school back in the 90s.”

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – NOVEMBER 02: PJ Harvey performs live at the SECC on November 2, 2016 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Roberto Ricciuti/Redferns)

High school is streaming now on Amazon Freevee.

Register for Free daily newsletter from Entertainment Weekly to get the latest TV news, exclusive first looks, recaps, reviews, interviews with your favorite stars, and more.

Related content: