Sex Lives of College Girls’ Reneé Rapp has opened up about feeling ‘very judged’ for playing a gay character

Reneé Rap plays Leighton in The Sex Lives of College Girls. (Getty)

The Sex Lives of College Girls star Reneé Rapp has opened up about her journey playing a gay character in HBO’s hit series after facing homophobic comments.

Mindy Kaling’s popular teen comedy-drama follows four 18-year-old freshman roommates at Essex College in Vermont as they explore their sexualities while navigating the ups and downs of college life.

Rapp plays Leighton, a posh student of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority who begins to openly date women for the first time in the second season after coming out as a lesbian, first to her roommate Kimberly (Pauline Chalamet), and later to her other roommates Bela (Amrit Kaur) and Whitney (Alyah Chanelle Scott).

Although her character has been on a journey of self-acceptance, Rapp admitted that playing Leighton has not always been easy.

“When the first season came out, I had different people in my life,” she told People, “I was really afraid for the show to come out because I felt very judged, and I didn’t feel comfortable”.

Rapp went on to explain that she has since changed her company and created a supportive bubble, allowing her to fully celebrate her character’s development without fear of backlash.

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“I actually was very excited for the second season to come out, because I felt much more comfortable to not be terrified to hear something either homophobic or slut-shaming, or things like that,” she continued.

Renee Rap as Leighton in The Sex Lives of College Girls. (Katrina Marcinowski/HBO Max)
Reneé Rapp as Leighton in The Sex Lives of College Girls. (Katrina Marcinowski/HBO Max)

The second instalment of the show sees heartfelt moments of bonding between Leighton and her roommates, as well as a dramatic turn in Leighton’s love life when she decides to dump her snobby high society girlfriend Tatum and get back together with her down-to-earth ex, Alicia.

“I want her to find someone who is really, really, really good for her,” Rapp explained.

Rapp, who identifies as bisexual, also reflected on the way she came to terms with sexuality in her own life in comparison to her confident character.

“I don’t think I ever really dealt with those emotions as outwardly as Leighton did,” she added.

Rapp is not the only Sex Lives of College Girls star who has shared a personal connection to her character.

Speaking to PinkNews, Kaur explained why Bela, a sex-positive South Asian comedy writer, meant so much to her.

“I think specifically, the role of Bela – she’s one of the few roles where we see a South Asian American in Hollywood be sexual.

“It’s empowering for those who see themselves in that light to be seen on the screen. And beyond that, on a universal level, she’s a woman who’s ambitious, forward-thinking, not obsessed with labels, she’s not obsessed with gender norms,” she concluded.

The first two seasons of The Sex Lives of College Girls are available to stream on HBO Max.