Heartbreak High Was Groundbreaking Viewing In The ’90s — Now The 2021 Reboot Goes Deeper

Image courtesy of Netflix
From Saved By The Bell to Gossip Girl, we've seen the rise of the TV reboot over the past year, bringing back the best parts of our favourite shows adapted to the here and now for our viewing pleasure.
On Monday, Netflix shared a first look at the cast of its revamped version of the iconic Aussie young adult series Heartbreak High. Slated for a 2022 global release, the eight-episode series will take viewers back to Hartley High, but with a new generation of teens navigating love, sex and heartbreak.
The show will revolve around Amerie (Ayesha Madon) who "causes a mysterious and very public rift with her ride-or-die Harper (Asher Yasbincek)" according to the official synopsis, while her new friends, outsiders Quinni (Chloe Hayden) and Darren (James Majoos) must repair her reputation.
Advertisement
Before I delve into the new incredibly diverse cast, I want to first highlight the cultural moment when Heartbreak High's first season dropped back in 1994. It was celebrated as being groundbreaking for its time, as one of the first shows to feature a culturally diverse cast and help many young people feel seen and heard on screen. Kids of Greek, Italian and Lebanese origins were front and centre, along with some characters of Southeast Asian descent.
Exploring multiculturalism and the migrant experience was central to the show, with characters such as Greek Australian heartthrob Nick Poulos (Alex Dimitriades), Lebanese Australian schoolgirl Rose Malouf (Katherine Halladay) and her Vietnamese Australian boyfriend Jack Tran (Tai Nguyen), as well as Yola Fatoush (Doris Younane), a Lebanese Aussie school counsellor and Christina Milano (Sarah Lambert), an Italian Australian teacher.
It's also the show that made some of the above actors a household name, along with Salvatore Coco who is of Italian descent, as well as Greek Australian Ada Nicodemou, who's now one of the longest-serving cast members of the popular soap Home and Away.
Image courtesy of Netflix
"Heartbreak High allowed a generation of Aussie teens, us included, to see themselves represented on TV for the first time. It was brash, fun, uniquely Australian and an international hit," Fremantle Executive Producers Chis Oliver-Taylor and Carly Heaton, who are responsible for the reboot, said in a statement provided to Refinery29 Australia on Monday.
Agreed – but unsurprisingly, '90s shows have still often lacked the depth of diverse socio-political conversations that the youth of today are openly having ,and that producers and directors are slowly getting more comfortable tackling.
Advertisement
So the names of the cast and the crew behind the reboot announced on Monday are very welcome in my eyes. They're reflective of the show's original intention of striving to better reflect the country's diversity, but also attempting to fill in stories that were missing from the original.
The reboot will have more actors and writers from culturally diverse backgrounds, as well as more representation from LGBTQIA+ and First Nations communities. This will not only help more young Aussies feel seen on screen, but hopefully allow for more nuanced storylines around topics like racism, transphobia and same-sex relationships that Australian television is still rather inexperienced in portraying authentically.
Amerie's pal Darren is played by South African Australian actor James Majoos (They/Them), the character Malakai is a Bundjalung boy at Hartley High portrayed by All My Friends Are Racist star Thomas Weatherall, and Sasha is described as the "coolest, sexiest and chicest lesbian at the school", played by Gemma Chua-Tran (She/Her/They/Them).
The other characters are Quinni (autism advocate Chloe Hayden), Harper (Asher Yasbincek), Dusty (Josh Heuston), Ca$h (Will McDonald), Woodsy (Rachel House), Jojo (Chika Ikogwe), Missy (Sherry-Lee Watson), Spider (Bryn Chapman-Parish) and Ant (Brodie Townsend).
The team behind the camera boasts more gender and ethnic diversity too, with Gracie Otto as set up director, along with Neil Sharma, Jessie Oldfield & Adam Murfett. Megan Palinkas is the script producer and Hannah Carroll Chapman, Matthew Whittet, Marieke Hardy, Meyne Wyatt, Thomas Wilson White and Natesha Somasundaram will serve as writers. 
On Monday Que Minh Luu, Netflix's Director of Content in Australia and New Zealand, said in a statement that "making Heartbreak High for today’s generation of Australians has been a long-standing dream," and that "teenage (and adult) me would be equally thrilled to be friends with or socially rejected by this outrageously talented cast."
The teenage and adult me is just as excited for this reboot. Announcing a groundbreaking cast like this inevitably sparks a lot of expectations and responsibility to deliver, but with a diverse team behind the camera too, I hope that this new generation at Hartley High will bring it.

More from TV

R29 Original Series

Advertisement