“The Sex Lives of College Girls” co-creator Justin Noble wants to center “four girls fall[ing] in love together as friends” — ensuring their love lives don’t dominate the plot, and instead focusing on the friendships, passions and identity crises that make up the college experience for many.
“Despite the title, the show is about four strangers who live together and become the loves of each other’s lives over time,” Noble told TheWrap about Season 2. “I think that’s what a lot of college experience is for many people, especially those who get lucky and love their roommates.”
While the friends return to Essex after Thanksgiving break with their community more cemented than when they first arrived on campus just a couple months before, the sophomore season has raised the stakes as each character, from Kimberly’s struggle to come up with full tuition after losing her scholarship to Whitney’s determination to find a path that fills the hole left by the end of soccer season.
Though Noble and fellow co-creator Mindy Kaling always wanted to make a show about college, Noble says creators are often told there’s no stakes in the world of college — a statement that didn’t ring true to Noble.
“No one feel stakes reverberate in a larger way on them than like someone who’s 18, 19 [or] 20 years old,” Noble said, adding that the stakes are relative to the character experiencing them. “They think that something can derail the entire rest of their lives if it doesn’t go the way that they think they need it to.”
In preparation for writing the show, Noble and Kaling visited college campuses across the country — even visiting their alma maters of Yale and Dartmouth, respectively — to explore the common themes issues that are top of mind for many students.
As Noble, himself, swapped his biochemical engineer major early into his freshman year, the pair felt that the “identity crises that arise in these first couple years [was] a real thing that needs to be explored.”
“So many people think they know exactly what they want to do with their life, and a lot of them are throwing a curveball when they later find out that’s not the case,” Noble said.
As is the case with Pauline Chalamet’s Whitney when the soccer off-season creates a “deafening” void after devoting hundreds of hours per week to the sport.
“What is she going to do with all [that] time, especially when everyone else is pursuing goals with [that] time?” Noble said. “We also wanted to throw some new challenges Whitney’s way that are kind of the opposite of what soccer was for her.”
The co-creators’ research also lifted the veil on the “toxic situations that arise with financial, gigantic financial differences between suitemates,” a topic the series dives deep into as Kimberly desperately searches for solutions to come up with tuition money while Leighton’s family gifts her brother with an Audi to cheer him up after getting expelled from school.
“College is this weird, borderline sociological experiment, where people are randomly thrown together,” Noble said, adding that he couldn’t think of another time in life where people who don’t necessarily have much in common are forced into such close quarters.
“When we think about the relationships between our girls, we wanted to make sure they were coming from different worlds, where they could all be learning lessons from each other,” he said.
Picking up the second season just a couple months into the year, the show’s timeline reflects the whirlwind experience of undergrad, as Noble admits even his own college journey had countless twists and turns as he figured out the right major and path that suited his interests.
“We let our characters go a week at a time in our world, because I feel like that’s true to their experience in college,” Noble said. “If you ask Bela what she’s doing next Sunday, she has no clue.”
While Bela has been the friend group’s “happy clown,” Noble also wanted to explore her shifting motivations in the second season, as Noble notes that she often sees something out of the corner of her eye and runs towards it before finding the next thing she’ll pursue.
“There’s something admirable and exciting about that — we all have that friend, and we all find energy from that friend, because we never know what the hell to expect from them,” Noble said. “There is a little bit of a problem that comes for that person in terms of what do they stick with.”
The show also employs a heavily female writers’ room that sparks conversation amongst the writers about the reality of issues women face in college — some of which Noble admits he’s been sheltered from by his female friends.
“We want to make sure that in addition to having fun, and it being a comedy and having a lot of jokes per page, that we’re still telling stories that can hopefully bring about a little change or make people feel like they’re not alone,” Noble said.
New episodes of “The Sex Lives of College Girls” Season 2 debut weekly on Thursdays on HBO Max.