For Alyah Chanelle Scott, season two of “The Sex Lives of College Girls” is all about the glory of the struggle.
In this HBO Max Original, The Sex Lives of College Girls discusses much of what a college student goes through. Whether it be tackling student loan debt, launching a female-led comedy magazine, or navigating the complexities of a new relationship, the 10-episode season brings these challenges to our favorite Essex College quartet. Scott’s character Whitney Chase is no exception.
In case you forgot last season, Whitney’s early semester antics could be whittled down to a few major successes and mishaps. The most prominent being her ill-fated and fan-hated relationship with Essex Girls’ Soccer Coach, Dalton. (He was married and we all hated him.)
But for Scott, returning to this role for season two meant breaking down the façade of Whitney Chase and exploring the complicated happenings of the Black girl college experience.
“I had a hard time season one because her entire world was the coach and was soccer and obviously, her roommates and stuff, but we didn’t really see her outside of that,” Scott said. As an actor trying to figure out who the character was, Scott said she struggled to fill in the gaps. “Ultimately, I was like, I have no idea, and also Whitney has no idea.”
With one season under her belt, Scott’s return in season two is accompanied by a new sense of creative ownership and control in shaping the character that launched her television career.
Blavity caught up with the 25-year-old actress before the show’s Nov. 17 premiere to chat all about Whitney and what’s to come for the U.S. senator-bred stargirl in season 2.
The highs, the lows, and the water polos.
On the surface, Whitney Chase has a dream life. She’s a standout player on her university women’s soccer team, has a supportive group of friends and unashamedly describes herself as “politician rich.” Whitney returns to campus in season two prepared to play it cool by taking advantage of her soccer off-season to take easy classes. She also ends up partying with her friends and coasts through the rest of the semester.
From the moment she arrives, she’s stung with the bitter reality that she might not have it as figured out as she always thought she did.
Her peers are overloading their schedules with extracurriculars, prepping grad school applications, and running for student council. They are shocked to hear she has no plans to do the same. This, for most college students, is when the identity crisis kicks in.
“I was excited to like, be shaken as Whitney,” Scott said, while reflecting on her first round of reading scripts from the second season. “Being a young Black girl and going to a predominantly white institution, dealing with relationships, friendships, school and all of it, how she interacts with the world is so different than her peers. To explore that, I was so excited and glad we did it” – she continued.
She adds, “For so long, the character had grown accustomed to being defined as the senator’s daughter, the soccer star, or the girlfriend of a guy she thought she loved. In episode one, she tells her friends “I feel like I’m the only person in college who doesn’t have their whole life already figured out.” This encapsulates a lot of what “The Sex Lives of College Girls” is about to a tee.
This questioning motivates a reevaluation of her college experience, and a handful of successful and not-so-successful attempts at finding out who she is. In portraying these moments on screen, Scott remembers her days as a student at The University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, where she studied Musical Theatre She graduated in 2019 alongside classmates like Broadway’s Phantom of The Opera’s Emilie Kouatchou.
As one of four Black girls in her class, Scott recalls clinging to her peers.
The bond they shared is one of the things that got her through the moments of disappointment, microaggressions, and the reality of being one of a small group of people of color entering the musical theatre industry. These experiences have influenced Scott’s portrayal of Whitney and inspired a major plotline she brought to showrunners Mindy Kailing and Justin Noble for season two. In collaboration with SLOGC writer Sheridan Watson, Scott helped to craft a storyline that explores microaggressions and the subtle implications of racism on college campuses.
“We collaborated on it. Then they came at me with one version of it where I was like okay, I like this, it’s great. However, I don’t want the situation to feel like a violent, extreme hate crime that like makes her feel victimized in any way. I want it to feel like, here I go dealing with the same thing I always deal with,” she explained.
In this stage of her career, recognizing the responsibility and privilege of telling stories that thoughtfully convey the Black experience is a priority for Scott.
Before her role on SLOCG, she took on the role of Nabulungi in The Book of Mormon National tour. Though the prospect of taking on a principal role in a major theatre company brought initial excitement, the experience is one she has previously described as “insulting and the butt of jokes set up by white men.”
“It was one of those situations where I took a step back after an ending and I thought, I don’t ever want to get myself into a place again, as an actor, where I don’t feel like I have agency or control over my narrative racially,” Scott said.
In a season rich with poignant moments of reflection on identity, Scott hopes that the topics explored this season will resonate with fans and illustrate the importance of representation, sisterhood and found family.
When asked what fans can expect from upcoming episodes, she simply stated, “sh*t goes crazy.”
The next season of The Sex Lives of College Girls kicks off on November 17th, 2022. Stream it this weekend on HBO Max.
Tamia Fowlkes is a graduate student at Columbia Journalism School pursuing her M.S. in Journalism. She currently serves as the National Association of Black Journalists Student Representative and her work has been featured in POLITICO, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Isthmus, Gen-Zine and The Wisconsin State Journal. Follow more of her thoughts here.