Back in the 1990s, Australia’s equivalent of Riverdale, Degrassi or Euphoria was a little show called Heartbreak High. It was authentic, uniquely Australian and shot a lot of homegrown actors to stardom. Now Heartbreak High is planning to do it all again for a new generation with Netflix’s modern reboot of the classic series.
The series is packed with local quirks, creating a refreshingly relatable depiction of Australian high school life on-screen that is filled with diverse characters.
While some teen TV shows are tempted to fall into unrealistic tropes and exaggerated drama, the Heartbreak High cast told Lifehacker Australia that this series felt true to their own time at high school.
“I look at Heartbreak High and it’s definitely still a very genuine representation of my time at high school,” said Thomas Weatherall who stars as Malakai, a Bungjalung boy and newcomer to the school.
“I did feel reading the script that it was a really spot-on representation.”
“We’ve shot a lot of party stuff, and I think that is just what you care about a lot in high school, so I’d say it aligned pretty well with my high school experience,” added Asher Yasbincek, who stars as Harper.
The plot of the new Heartbreak High kicks off with a massive blow-out between Amerie (Ayesha Madon) and her best friend Harper (Yasbincek), which results in the discovery of a secret map that charts all the sexual exploits of their classmates. Hated by the nation, Amerie has to repair her reputation with the help of some new friends while navigating the highs and lows of school.
“I think this friendship break up is really going to resonate a lot of with a lot of people,” Yasbincek said. “In high school, your best friend is kind of like a romantic relationship, because there’s a lot of love there and it’s really emotionally intense.”
Filling out the rest of the cast, Aussie actor and model Josh Heuston plays Dusty, the teen heartthrob who is more than just a stereotype.
“He’s seen as [a heartthrob], and a lot of the characters in the show see him as that but I think he doesn’t see himself like that,” Heuston said. “He’s a lot more insecure, and I guess, at times, vulnerable than the average character in other shows that have that pedigree.”
Also, flipping expectations is Will McDonald’s Ca$h, a drug-dealing eshay struggling with complex identity issues.
“I think like there’s a lot of things that get said about ‘eshays’ and that subculture in general but I think sometimes they get a bad rap,” McDonald said. “Ca$h isn’t your typical eshay and we see him go through a lot in the show but I think that sense of brotherhood is very important to him, they’re his family.”
“I think that a lot of people can just water it down to where it’s just like a caricature because they have this inbuilt disdain for it and I think that’s really the wrong way to look at it. Most of them are just kids and I tried to remember that and treat it with some respect.”
Retaining the core of the series while updating it for a new generation of Aussies was something the cast of Heartbreak High was hoping to achieve.
“We have a lot of heart like the old show does,” Yasbincek said. “The original was this amazing look into high school life for its time and I sort of feel like… this has that unique Australian quality to it.”
“It’s definitely very much now of this time and that is a big difference between the original show and this one. But I think the throughline between the two and the thing that connects them is the original is so groundbreaking and so innovative and this show is that as well, particularly for an Australian audience,” McDonald said.
“Kids have different difficulties to deal with and different identity crises and I hope that this new generation can really identify with that. I think we’ve really honed in on those kinds of things that are a bit more present,” Weatherall added.
Keenly aware that Netflix gives them a global platform to stand on, the Heartbreak High stars said they were eager to convey some important messages to their teenage audience.
“I think [the show] just does a really good job of showing that no one really knows what’s going on in high school, and that’s ok,” Heuston said.
For Weatherall, seeing an Indigenous character represented in this way on screen was vital.
“For me, there was something big in having an Indigenous character doing these kinds of things on screen and having that role model, for lack of a better word,” Weatherall explained.
“I just wanted to try and create a character that hopefully people can relate to and see a bit of themselves through and feel a little bit less alone or more seen through what Malakai goes through.”
“Young people have really intense experiences,” Yasbincek said. “But they’re really real and really important.”
Heartbreak High releases on Netflix on September 14.
The Cheapest NBN 50 Plans
Here are the cheapest plans available for Australia’s most popular NBN speed tier.