HBO Max

Meet The Freshman Class Of Mindy Kaling's The Sex Lives Of College Girls

Pauline Chalamet, Amrit Kaur, Alyah Chanelle Scott, and Reneé Rapp bring an endearing awkwardness to the campus comedy

By Alex Gonzalez

Class is in session at Vermont’s prestigious Essex College. In HBO Max’s coming-of-age series The Sex Lives of College Girls, premiering today (November 18), four “freshthems” arrive at the fictional campus to find challenging classes, filterless friendships, and scandalous sexcapades ahead of them.

Assigned as roommates in the dorms, the new friends make for a unique grouping. There’s Kimberly Finkle (Pauline Chalamet), a book-smart church girl from Arizona, and Whitney Chase (Alyah Chanelle Schott), a soccer star. Leighton Murray (Reneé Rapp) is an aspiring sorority girl with a big secret, while Bela Malhotra (Amrit Kaur) is as fanatic about boys as she is about Saturday Night Live. But through dining hall chats, rigorous study sessions, and post-hookup tea spilling, the girls form a sisterhood stronger than that of any Greek organization.

Created by The Office’s Mindy Kaling, the comedy presents these young ladies with cringeworthy relatability: Feelings of secondhand awkwardness are palpable as we watch Bela and Kimberly attend their first naked party. But The Sex Lives of College Girls marks bold and confident lead television debuts for all four actresses, whose friendship is even stronger off-camera. They tell MTV News about their journeys to the screen and their essentials for modern university life: hangover snacks, dating apps, and dealing with messy roommates.

  • Pauline Chalamet
    HBO Max

    MTV News: Tell us about your character, Kimberly.

    Chalamet: Kimberly is a small-town girl. She's well-intentioned and trying to fit into a very new environment. [She’s] struggling with what it means to enter a completely new world, and she's a little naive about how to go about it.

    MTV News: How did you begin acting?

    Chalamet: I would read little plays with my friends when I was 7 or 8, and I took it very seriously, much more seriously than my friends did. Then I went to LaGuardia High School in New York and I studied theater. I studied political science in college and started writing and directing, and I wasn't really sure what I wanted to be doing. As I started developing more of my own projects and wearing multiple hats, I said to myself, just choose one. So I thought, which one do I really want to pursue the most? And it was acting.

    MTV News: For you, what are the biggest red flags on dating apps?

    Chalamet: I’m a little too shy for dating apps. I don't really consider myself a shy person, but something about it makes me cringe a little inside. But I have so much respect for people who can do it, because it means you are clear on what it is you want.

    MTV News: What is your go-to hangover snack?

    Chalamet: I love chips more than anything in the world, so I think a smoked barbecue chip is definitely up there. But sometimes it's a little too flavorful, so a salt-and-vinegar chip. Honey-mustard chips too. Love a good honey-mustard.

    MTV News: What are the qualities of a good roommate?

    Chalamet: It has to do with compatibility in terms of timing. If you're someone who likes to be alone, your roommate should probably have a schedule that's different from yours, so you'll have enough time in your room. Also, communication. My freshman year of college, my roommate would have sex in the room while I was there. I didn't say anything, but one day, I passive-aggressively moved all of our furniture in the middle of the room to separate our two beds. She still didn't get it.

  • Amrit Kaur
    HBO Max

    MTV News: Tell us about your character, Bela.

    Kaur: Bela is a young lady from a conservative family who's coming to college excited to explore sex, which is a taboo topic in her culture. She's excited, also, to explore comedy. She has a big dream of being on SNL, and the girl is going to get there.

    MTV News: How did you begin acting?

    Kaur: I was a senior captain of the improv team in high school. I was not allowed to take drama [because] I was considered too obnoxious. So I did it as an extracurricular and somehow convinced my parents that I would do theater school. I said I would definitely go to med school after, but I was lying to them.

    MTV News: For you, what are the biggest red flags on dating apps?

    Kaur: I've been on dating apps a lot, and trying to make the conversation just about aesthetic, as opposed to falling in love with someone because of their spirit. That can be dangerous.

    MTV News: What is your go-to hangover snack?

    Kaur: I like chocolate. I had two bars of [Cadbury] Crunchie last night that I am regretting today.

    MTV News: What are the qualities of a good roommate?

    Kaur: Having compassion [for the fact] that you're not living at home anymore. It's a new first and it’s scary for everyone. If everyone could just talk to everyone about those experiences, it’d be helpful.

  • Alyah Chanelle Scott
    HBO Max

    MTV News: Tell us about your character, Whitney.

    Scott: Whitney is a girl who comes from a background where she's had this really overbearing mom [Senator Evette Chase, played by Sherri Shepherd] and lived in her shadow her whole life. Now that she's on her own, she's finding her own footing. And with that freedom, she does some pretty silly things, but all in the name of finding herself and figuring out her path. It's a little messy, it's a little wrong, but it's her journey.

    MTV News: How did you begin acting?

    Scott: I always liked to entertain like my family members. I'm a middle child, so I was always like, “Pay attention to me! I’m going to do a dance! I’m going to sing a song!” I would just imitate Beyoncé. My family members would all gift me DVDs of her concerts. I would learn all the choreography, and then at every family event, just be like, “Everyone, sit down. I will be doing ‘Crazy in Love’ by myself.” When I got to high school, I saw my first musical. And I was like, they're just doing what I'm doing but in a way that makes a little bit more sense. I studied musical theater in college, and then — stroke of luck — got this job.

    MTV News: For you, what are the biggest red flags on dating apps?

    Scott: Dating apps themselves are red flags, just the whole concept of seeing someone's image and then swiping left or swiping right. I went to dinner with a friend of mine yesterday, and she told me about this new term. You know the idea of FOMO: fear of missing out? In the dating world, there's this thing called FOBO: fear of better options. Basically, you'll meet someone, and they're interested for a second, and then it's like, what if this? What if that? No one wants to invest. For some people who do want to use dating apps to go have sex and live their lives, that is great. More power to you.

    MTV News: What is your go-to hangover snack?

    Scott: After I drink, I'm always like, Lord, please. I'll never do that again. Let me go get a green juice and salad. I feel like I'm always trying to do damage control, like, put the greens in! Fix it!

    MTV News: What are the qualities of a good roommate?

    Scott: Someone who's communicative. Someone who tells you what it is. I don't want to walk in on you doing it with your man. Put a sock on the door or something. You tell me how you like to live, I'll tell you how I like to live. We're gonna respect each other's space.

  • Reneé Rapp
    HBO Max

    MTV News: Tell us about your character, Leighton.

    Rapp: Leighton is from the Upper East Side of New York. She comes from a very well-off, wealthy family — a pretty conservative family. She is trying so hard to be a version of herself that’s not who she really is, and she's gonna have to reckon with that on her own time. She's super insecure and very judgmental, but she's got a lot of layers.

    MTV News: How did you begin acting?

    Rapp: I would always get in trouble in school for singing. My teachers would always write home and be like, “Reneé doesn't do too bad in class, but she sings in the middle of lessons.” My mom was like, “We need to put you in theater because they sing, dance, and act.” I did a production of Annie when I was 10 — I was a very, very, very, very, very tall orphan. I started doing musicals here and there, but I wasn't married to it. I did [theater] in high school for the last two years, then I did it in New York, and now I'm doing this!

    MTV News: For you, what are the biggest red flags on dating apps?

    Rapp: I’ve never [used dating apps]. I have friends who met on dating apps and are still together and also friends who have been on dating apps who are not together anymore but had fun. I think it's the same thing with sex. It's going to be A to Z.

    MTV News: What is your go-to hangover snack?

    Rapp: A couple weeks ago, I woke up and knew exactly what I wanted. I wanted a bagel so damn bad, and I didn't go get it because I had a headache. But bagels.

    MTV News: What are the qualities of a good roommate?

    Rapp: Somebody who's thoughtful. It’s just generally important to be thoughtful.