The Heartbreakers of Heartbreak High
Class is back in session at Sydney’s Hartley High. The new Australian series Heartbreak High uses the same setting as the original 90s teen drama, but ushers in a new roster of students and plots fit for Gen Z. “We’d been thinking a lot internally at Fremantle about how there hadn’t been a show for Aussie teens since Heartbreak High,” executive producer Carly Heaton says of the original series. “It played such a big role in a lot of our lives. It was the first time I saw people like me onscreen. I grew up in a working-class family, and they were working-class kids on TV. Their houses looked like our houses. They felt like us and their stories were really relatable. Yet it had this certain kind of aspiration to it. They didn’t have uniforms, they were cool as fuck. You just wanted to be them.”
With the reboot, representation was at the forefront of the stories and the casting. With storylines covering gender fluidity, neurodiversity, and sexual identity, Heartbreak High is written with today’s teenagers in mind. “The stories are really for now. They’ve really evolved since the 90s, but they’re still tackling some big issues. There’s a lot of talk about race and gender. It’s just part of the actual DNA of the show.”
With an incredible young cast, Heartbreak High delivers drama, comedy, and plenty of heartbreak over the course of eight episodes that follow high schooler Amerie and her overlapping social circles. As a primer to understanding the characters, the actors have given some insight into their characters on Heartbreak High and why they are so hard not to fall in love with.
Ayesha Madon on Amerie
Amerie is a 16-year-old, brash, middle class young woman. The way I like to think about Amerie is that she’s very people reliant and she draws a lot of her energy from relationships and friendships. Amerie goes on a journey of self discovery and finds strength within herself. I would say Amerie’s quite aggressive and on the front foot and unapologetic. And me, personally, I’m not timid at all, but I shrink myself a bit more than she does. For me, I have a lot of trouble being embarrassed and being cringe, and Amerie is so the opposite. She has this lack of self-awareness that makes her so loud and unapologetic and so cringe in a way that I wouldn’t ever dare to be. But I love that Amerie just is a young woman of color who does as she pleases and shows up completely as herself in order to get what she wants. When I meet people like that I just fall in love.
James Majoos on Darren:
Darren at their core is a punk who is just searching for love and acceptance. I think Darren feels like they’re a reject and they don’t really have many people in their world, but they have a lot of chaotic sporadic energy, and also a lot of love and a lot of sensitivity and vulnerability. I think Darren really does speak from the heart and is very passionate a lot of the time, which is why there’s so much conflict and anger bursting out. I love Darren’s passion.
Chloe Hayden on Quinni:
Quinni is bubbly and outrageous and logistical and raw, and so open and kindhearted. She wears her heart on her sleeve. Quinni’s autistic and this is one of the first times we have ever seen an autistic person playing an autistic person, which is so cool. But the fact that it is cool is awful, because this should’ve been done so long ago. I shouldn’t be the first person doing this. This should be a very normal thing that’s happening. And she’s not just autistic. It’s like, this is this autistic girl who is bright and bubbly and empathetic and brilliant and beautiful and intelligent and has amazing relationships. And there’s so many things that we don’t see when it comes to autism representation. I think that’s the coolest thing about Quinni. We finally get to see representation. We get to see young people finally represented in a way that they’ve never been before.
Asher Yasbincek on Harper:
Harper is a really deep, emotionally troubled young woman who battles some pretty serious issues in her life. She keeps them all locked away. She’s not very forthcoming with who she is, but she is someone who feels incredibly deeply. She is very loving of the people she cares about. This is the biggest role that I’ve played and the most emotionally intense role I’ve played. It’s been quite challenging, but I think her story is really important. I think a lot of women will resonate specifically with a lot of the things she goes through. I think it’s really great that we’re actually looking into that kind of world for her.
Thomas Weatherall as Malakai:
Malakai’s the new kid at school, sort of finding his way and finding where he fits in. And he’s a little bit cheeky. There is kind of a really sweet side to him and this really genuine side, which is nice to see. I feel like a real old person when I say it, but seeing a young man have those kind of qualities on screen where he’s trying hard, almost to a fault at times, to be a good person — who has a real drive to make those around him be proud of who he is — I just think it’s a nice quality to be able to play with.
Gemma Chua-Tran as Sasha:
Sasha doesn’t know everything, but she’s definitely the type of person who thinks she knows everything, which is quite funny. She’s a little social justice warrior, activist. She’s always trying to be politically correct, and obviously that’s hard. You don’t know everything at such a young age, but I think she’s trying her best. I like that she’s confident, and she’s really loyal to her beliefs and her morals. And she’s really badass. I think it was kind of a little bit hard to play her because I hadn’t played someone so strong. I feel like if I was 16, I would’ve looked up to her a lot.
Will McDonald as Ca$h:
Ca$h is super interesting. I think he’s one of the most complex characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing. He’s someone who I think is trapped between two different worlds: the world that he’s come from and that he’s always been a part of, and another world which is the person that he’s aspiring to be, that he’s trying to become. He’s constantly navigating the push and pull of those two different lives that he leads. I think what I like most about Ca$h is he’s always trying to do the good thing. He might not necessarily always do the good thing, but he’s always trying to, in spite of himself and in spite of the circumstances.
Josh Heuston as Dusty:
Dusty is, I guess, for lack of better words, the school’s fuck boy. He’s in a band, he’s the school’s party boy in a way. What I like the most about Dusty is that you don’t know what you’re going to get. I think he’s been so much fun to play in the respect of there’s not really any rules around him. He can just do what he wants and kind of gets away with it. I think I’ve just loved the fact that he can kind of just get away with everything and makes bad decisions. It’s interesting to watch.
Sherry-Lee Watson as Missy:
Missy is really sporty and feisty. She knows what she wants and she’s not afraid to say it. So, if you’re in her bad books, she’s going to let you know. And she doesn’t care who you are. So, I’ve been really lucky enough to work with Sarah Khan, who’s an Aboriginal writer and one of the writers on the show. And we have been working really closely about exploring why Missy is the way that she is. We figured out she’s really introspective and she often has a lot more going in her head than she lets off. And she’s got a bit of a defense mechanism. She doesn’t want to let people know how intelligent she is and how smart she is because she doesn’t believe that about herself, but she is. She’s really emotionally intelligent and she can tell where everyone is in the room.
Bryn Chapman Parish as Spider:
Spider’s your typical high school dickhead. You could almost call him a jock. I don’t even know if we have jocks in Australia, but he’s on the basketball team, he loves sport. And he is kind of the class clown in a way. Pretty much everything that comes out of his mouth is some sort of sex joke, or insult, or dig, or kind of vile thing. I like that beneath all the bravado, he is a nice guy. He just puts on a front to kind of protect himself. I think he’ll lash out and sting you before you can say anything back to him. But deep down, I think he’s got a good heart.
Brodie Townsend as Ant:
Ant’s the funny guy, bit of a stoner. He loves everyone and he’s just here to have a good time, drama free. There’s a lot of drama in the show, but he’s trying to avoid it. I love him. I love Ant. What I like most about him is that I think he’s really socially smart. Okay, I think he’s a bit dopey, but I think he has a really good perspective on life and he’s just cruising through it. I think if the other characters did the same, they wouldn’t have the problems they have.