Heartbreak High’s success opens doors for young Aussie actors as series returns

'Heartbreak High' season two trailer

Source: Netflix

In 2022, when the reboot of 1990s classic Heartbreak High came in thick and fast on streaming giant Netflix, its cast of young Australian stars attracted a global fanbase and won the show an international Emmy award.

Featuring complicated teens at a fictitious school Hartley High, the show was compared to Euphoria and Sex Education, exploring everything from first love, sex, trauma and break ups to inclusivity, gender, neurodiversity, and the loved-up besties (or frenemies) who get them through it all.

With a second series set to premiere on Thursday, returning star of season one, Chika Ikogwe – who plays teacher Jojo Obah – has already had a taste of Hollywood in between, stepping into the action genre for the first time with Oscar-winner Russell Crowe in Land of Bad.

“It was a whirlwind experience,” the young Nigerian-born Australian actor and writer tells The New Daily, “working with someone of that calibre.”

It triggered a desire to work more on the big screen, and to invest in the Australian entertainment industry with “more black people in lead roles, that’s the dream”.

Newcomer Sam Rechner, who plays a student who gets involved in a love triangle, had a breakout role in Steven Spielberg’s biographical feature film The Fabelmans, and starred opposite Jane Seymour and Jacqueline McKenzie in Ruby’s Choice. 

Established actor Angus Sampson (Furiosa, The Lincoln Lawyer, Fargo) joins the teaching staff as the head of physical education.

Chika Ikogwe as Jojo and Angus Sampson as Voss in Heartbreak High S2. Photo: Netflix

And then there’s Tasmanian rising star Kartanya Maynard, who gets her first big break in this award-winning series after roles in Deadloch, The Messenger and Gold Diggers.

She tells TND she was a fan of the first series.

After settling on set and delivering a “true depiction of the modern teenage experience, with crazy good humour”, she’s also ready for her next big break in the US.

‘Inspiring to be with my bud, Russ!’

Ikogwe is a National Institute of Dramatic Arts graduate and 2020 recipient of the Australian Theatre for Young People Rose Byrne scholarship.

“We’re blazing the trail, doing the damn thing,” she says of coming back to work with the Heartbreak High cast.

“It’s great that Australia is touching on messy humans … what it is to be a human being. We are all so flawed and so imperfect and messy and we make mistakes and that is the human experience.

“We see so much of that [in series] oversees … nice to finally be in something here, in our home, that is exploring difficult subjects.”

Filming on the Gold Coast for her first feature film, and being “in a room full of Americans”, was “crazy”, especially when the veteran Crowe made her relax by asking what her favourite song was.

“He was very open, both as a human and as a fellow actor …  sometimes you have the expectation that they’ll cruise, or chill, but he’s diligent about the work, very rigorous and passionate, and super in it.

“Walking away I was really inspired there were still artists in the game that even though they’ve been working for years, still care about the art,” she says of Crowe, who won a best actor Oscar in 2000 for Gladiator, and Golden Globes for A Beautiful Mind in 2002 and The Loudest Voice in 2020.

“It was inspiring to be with my bud, Russ!”

Russell Crowe and Chika Ikogwe in Land of Bad (Prime Video). Photo: Twitter

The plot thickens

While Ikogwe and Manyard won’t reveal plot lines for season two, both said viewers are in for a wild ride.

Leaving behind threesomes, chlamydia and burning cars as a distant first-season memory, apparently the students have done a bit of growing up over the holidays.

The official logline reads: “All our heroes are back at the lowest-ranking school in the district”.

“But fresh hotties, a new sports teacher and a mystery assailant throw any hopes for a peaceful term into disarray, while the race for school captain is seeing dirty tactics run rife through Hartley High.

“Yep … It’s term two, bitches, and it’s more chaotic than ever.”

Heartbreak High Season 2 premieres April 11 on Netflix

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