9 Things You Didn’t Know About Sweet Valley High
“Sweet Valley High” was a novel series created by Francine Pascal that followed the lives of Wakefield twins, Jessica and Elizabeth, who lived in Sweet Valley, California. It was the stereotypical teen drama following the lives of two high school siblings and covering all the drama that ensued around them from boyfriends to friendships to teachers. It first emerged in the early 1980s and continued on until 2003 with over 600 books in the series. SVH became so popular it led to several spin-off series and a television show that ran for four seasons from 1994 to 1997. Since there have been whispers of a reboot in the works, here’s a look at 9 things you probably didn’t know about “Sweet Valley High!”
9. How It Came to Be
When Francine Pascal wrote the proposal for the “Sweet Valley High” series, she was already an accomplished writer with three successful adult books under her belt. Originally she had shopped around the idea as a soap opera until a friend suggested books would be a better vehicle. She created twins as the main characters because she “always felt they were two sides of one person, the good and the bad.” The concept was sold almost immediately after she sent it to her publisher. “She sold it practically by return mail. I wrote six more outlines, and six more and six more, until I finished with 144 Sweet Valley High books. And with the help of others who worked from my stories that’s how it came to be,” said Pascal in an interview with The Guardian.
8. Pascal Used Ghost Writers
Even though Pascal technically came up with the idea of “Sweet Valley High,” she had no interest in actually writing the books, so her agent, Amy Berkower, sold the idea to Bantam. While she didn’t write the books herself, she supervised the whole production. She’d write detailed outlines and references for ghostwriters to follow and called it a “paint by numbers” for books. Ghostwriters would get a book outline with plot points to follow and then fill in the blanks. It was all approved by Pascal before print because her name appeared on every entry in the series under a “Created By” credit.
7. Early Mornings on Set
When books were turned into a show, the actors and actresses had to come to the set really early in the morning. “A normal day would probably be about 5:30 we have to be in for hair and make up — in the morning!” said Brittany, who loved having her hair and make-up done. Cynthia on the other hand did not like sitting in the hair and make-up chair in the mornings. According to on-set hair stylist Michael P. Reitz, she would fidget the whole time.
6. Finding The Daniel Twins
Not surprisingly, when it was decided that the popular book series would be turned into a television series, there was a lot of pressure when it came to casting the lead roles of the Wakefield twins. They had to do the characters justice, so they interviewed a lot of twins, but it once they found the Daniel twins, it was an easy decision to make. “We interviewed countless twins, but when we met the Daniel twins we knew right away that we had to have them,” said Abbie Charette, co-producer of Sweet Valley High television series. Executive producer Lance H. Robbins also gushed about their lead actresses: “It was very easy when Brittany and Cynthia walked into the office to make that decision. They are very interesting, and exciting and fun,” he said.
5. Potential Reboot
Teenagers who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s will definitely be happy about this — “Sweet Valley High” is being made into a movie! According to Deadline, Paramount Pictures hired co-writers Kristen “Kiwi” Smith and Harper Dill to bring the series to the big screen. Smith is best known for writing huge hits like 10 Things I Hate About You and Legally Blonde, whereas Dill is a writer on the Fox series The Mick. They’ve got tons of storylines to choose from, but so far there’s been no word on when the movie will come out or what time period it will be set in — will the Wakefield twins be in high school, or will it pick up with them as adults? We’ll just have to wait and see!
4. Readers Thought Pascal was a Teenager
Pascal has this amazing ability to know all the ins and outs of being a teenager. Her stories resonated with readers so well that many people assumed she was a teenager, not a woman in her 40s. The issues young people have in high school never really change all that much and almost always include peer pressure, boyfriends, sibling rivalry, teacher troubles and looks. In an interview with Chicago Tribue, Pascal admits she steals her ideas from her teenage daughters, but also from her own experiences. One time at an autograph party, a 13-year-old girl looking for an autograph said to Pascal in shock, “I thought you were going to be 16!” Pascal said she took it as a compliment.
3. Only Three Curse Words Allowed
The “Sweet Valley High” book series had a lot of scandalous plot lines like drugs, abduction and teen pregnancy, but according to former ghostwriter Ryan Nerz, they had to follow a strict protocol when it came to using curse words. Nerz said for the book “Sweet Valley Senior Year,” the writers were granted the ability to use words like “damn,” “hell,” and “b-tch.” “Those were the three main words that we were allowed to say, but sparingly. And I wrote ‘damn,’ ‘hell,’ and ‘b-tch’ all over the place. And I just let them edit out whatever they wanted. There was a decent amount of making out. You could sort of insinuate that heavy petting was about to happen, but you could never graphically go there,” he said.
2. Great Chemistry Between Cast Members
Sometimes with teen drama television series there can be just as much drama behind the scenes as there are on-screen! This wasn’t the case with Sweet Valley High. They all got along so well which could be because Cynthia and Brittany got along so well. “You can just see the chemistry between the cast as they’ve gotten to know each other,” said co-producer Abbie Charette.
1. Brittany Loved Her Wardrobe on the Show
Brittany Daniel played the role of Jessica Wakefield, who was the more free-spirited twin. Similar to the book, the producers differentiated between the two characters through their wardrobe because the character of Elizabeth tended to be much more conservative than her twin sister. According to costume designer Julie Rae Engelsman, Brittany loved being able to dress up for her character because it was so different from who she was in real life. “Brittany always tells me, you know, ‘I love getting to do this’ because in real life she’s not really that way. Everything is organized per day, per character, and then Amy will set the room so there’s never any confusion” said Engelsman.