Reneé Rapp. Arturo Holmes/Getty Images
Reneé Rapp is focused on having a positive work environment following her exit from The Sex Lives of College Girls.
“The people in my life that I work with now care about me as a person,” Rapp, 23, told Vanity Fair in an interview published on Tuesday, January 9. “And I think that is a difference from things I’ve experienced in the past.”
Rapp portrays Leighton Murray on the Max series, which premiered in November 2021. The teen comedy — which also stars Pauline Chalamet, Amrit Kaur and Alyah Chanelle Scott — follows four roommates as they navigate their new freedom on the prestigious campus of Essex College. Rapp announced her exit from the show in July 2023, six months after the season 2 finale. (According to Deadline, she is set to appear in a “handful” of season 3 episodes.)
“College Girls moved me out to LA and introduced me to some of my favorite people. 2 and a half years later — it’s given me y’all and this community. Thank you, Mindy, Justin and everyone at Max for believing in me. A lot of queer works gets belittled — but playing Leighton has changed my life,” Rapp wrote via her Instagram Story while announcing her departure. “I love who I am 10x more than I did before knowing her. I hope she gave y’all a little bit of that too. She’s such a t iny part of the representation but even the tiny parts count. I wouldn’t be half the person I am without her and y’all. I’m so excited for this season and I can’t wait for you to see what we have coming for her and the girls.”
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Warning: This story contains spoilers for season 2 of The Sex Lives of College Girls. Back in session! HBO Max’s The Sex Lives of College Girls was renewed for a third season in December 2022. The teen-comedy drama — cocreated by Mindy Kaling and Justin Noble — follows college roommates Kimberly (Pauline Chalamet), Bela (Amrit […]
Series creator and executive producer of the show, Mindy Kaling, also confirmed the news via Instagram at the time, writing, “We love @reneerapp so much and of course will be so sad to say goodbye to Leighton Murray! But we can’t wait to see our friend on tour!!”
Katrina Marcinowski/HBO Max
Following news of her exit, Rapp has expressed her appreciation for the role of Leighton but has also opened up about her difficult on-set experience while filming season 1. In addition to questioning her own sexuality while portraying a lesbian character, Rapp, who identifies as bisexual, said she “hated” going to work because she didn’t feel “good enough” for the part.
“I was like, ‘Maybe I’m just trying too hard,’” she explained during a March 2023 episode of the “Call Her Daddy” podcast. “And then I would come home and I would psych myself out, literally.”
Rapp added that she was initially “so excited” about portraying Leighton because she had “never been submitted to audition for a queer character,” but the job became a “mind f—k,” partially because of the people around her on set.
“Also, I’m on a show [where] there are a lot of men around … There are a lot of gay men around,” she said. “There are a lot of straight men around. There are a lot of older men around me on set. So I’m going through set, doing these scenes, and I’m also having gay men come up to me and be like, ‘So are you, like, really gay?’ I was like, ‘Ugh!’… It really f—king pissed me off and it made me second guess everything about myself.”
Although Rapp said her experience on SLOCG eventually “improved,” she shared that she’s still “constantly” fearful people will compare her to her character. She now combats that by releasing music and picking choice roles for herself, including reprising her role as Regina George in the Mean Girls musical film which hits theaters later this month.
Rapp first played the part of Queen Bee at age 19 in the Broadway musical before being cast in the film four years later. While speaking exclusively to Us Weekly in April 2023, she explained why it’s a role she knows she’s meant to play.
“It’s just in my body. I know how it feels. I know how to do it in the way that I like to do it,” she told Us. “I mean, it’s obviously different now cause I’m, I’m 23 as opposed to being 19 and 20, and I think I’m better at my job now than I was when I was a kid. I also have, like, a much a stronger sense of self at the moment than I did when I was 19.”
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Rapp called creator Tina Fey a “creative genius” for how she was able to update the original 2004 character, originally played by Rachel McAdams, for 2023 and praised her being open a collaborative workplace presence.
“I really appreciate that they really try to work with young people and people that are of the current culture and what’s happening as opposed to being, like, ‘We are going to do exactly what we think we’re gonna do,’” she said. “They’re very collaborative and really amazing. So some things are different, some things are the same.”