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Cast of HBO’s ‘Sex Lives of College Girls’ talks reexamining the relationship young women have with sex

HBO Max’s new show, created by Mindy Kaling and Justin Noble, premieres Thursday.
Image: The Sex Lives of College Girls on HBO Max
From left, Reneé Rapp, Alyah Chanelle Scott, Pauline Chalamet and Amrit Kaur in "The Sex Lives of College Girls."Jessica Brooks / HBO Max

Growing up in the South, actor Alyah Chanelle Scott said she had "no idea how people navigated their sex lives."

Like many teens, she thought sex was supposed to be "hot and heavy," just as it was portrayed in most pop culture, and "that’s so not the case," she told NBC News.

"It's awkward, it's messy, it's not perfect, and there's no right way to do it," Scott said.

That's why Scott is not only happy HBO Max’s new show, "The Sex Lives of College Girls," exists, she's thrilled she's a part of it.

The show, created by Emmy-nominated writer-producer Mindy Kaling and Justin Noble, premieres Thursday. It follows a quartet of college roommates who are navigating the ups and downs of their freshman year — hard classes, trying to fit in, and yes, messy hook-ups — at a prestigious New England university.

Scott plays Whitney, a soccer star and senator’s daughter, who lives with Kimberly (Pauline Chalamet), a quirky, awkward bookworm from the suburbs of Arizona; Bela (Amrit Kaur), an Indian American, "extremely sex-positive," aspiring comedian; and Leighton (Reneé Rapp), a wealthy New York City-native who is a legacy student with her guard up.

Reneé Rapp, Pauline Chalamet, Alyah Chanelle Scott, Amrit Kaur in "The Sex Lives of College Girls."HBO Max

"I wish I had a show like this to watch [growing up]," Scott said. "What I love about the cast and these characters is that they have that agency and they get to choose how they want [sex] and when they want it."

The rest of the on-screen roommates agreed: Their show is different, in a good way.

"It's important to show that sex is so much more than just the act of having sex," Chalamet said. "A show that maybe helps showcase that is important, especially for women who are constantly told that things happen to them."

Rapp said the beauty of the show is also how it "lends itself to openness."

"You shouldn't have to feel like any kind of sexual experience is forced on you. ... It is your own choice. Your sex life is just inherently a part of your life, if you want it to be," she said.

On screen, "these are four very different sexual experiences, and there are ten thousand bazillion more that I hope we explore," Rapp said.

Kaur agreed, noting that the characters are “all really exploring our sexuality in our own unique dominant ways. And breaking the lies — irregardless of the cultures where we come from — of being submissive women.”

But sex, while in the title of the show, isn't its only draw.

"You had one idea of what it was going to be and then you read the script and you were like 'oh my gosh this is not really what I thought it was going to be, it's so much better,'" Chalamet said. "Because it's not just four girls who are having sex all the time who have it all figured it out."