All About Luca Guadagnino's HBO Series We Are Who We Are

Luca Guadagnino, the Oscar-nominated director of Call Me By Your Name, is returning to Italy for his first foray into television. His eight-episode drama We Are Who We Are, premieres this September on HBO and will stream on HBO Max. Early reviews of the series have drawn Euphoria comparisons and spawned the label “high-art Riverdale.”

Here’s what we know about the coming-of-age story and why the filmmaker resists comparisons between the show and his award-winning movie.

We Are Who We Are airs this fall.

The series, which tells the tale of two adolescent Americans living on a U.S. military base in Italy, premieres on September 14, Deadline reports. An official description of the show, per a press release, reads:

A story about two American kids who live on a U.S. military base in Italy, the series explores friendship, first love, identity, and immerses the audience in all the messy exhilaration and anguish of being a teenager—a story which could happen anywhere in the world, but in this case, happens in this little slice of America in Italy.

The first trailer has been released.

In the first teaser of We Are Who We Are, 14-year-old Fraser (Jack Dylan Grazer) watches a group of kids running along the beach. “They think we’re weird,” he tells Caitlin (Jordan Kristine Seamón). “Does that bother you?” she cooly replies. The official trailer builds on the theme of feeling misunderstood and finding kinship with a fellow outsider. Their friendship and relationship with their Italian community is explored further in the first full-length trailer.

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During an interview with Variety, Guadagnino said a previous meeting with Amy Adams helped inspire the show’s premise. He recalled her experiences growing up in Vicenza, a military base in Italy. “From synapses connecting to each other, I had this image in my mind,” he told the outlet.

In the same interview, he spoke about wanting to explore the psyche of being a teenager. “If I remember when I was 14, I was deeply, deeply unsatisfied by my incapacity to understand how to put in action the big plan I had for myself in my mind. I knew what I wanted, but I didn’t know how to get it,” Guadagnino explained. “Eventually I even realized that I didn’t completely know what I wanted. I love this age, because you have grand ambitions and at the same time you have no means to fulfill those ambitions. You have only curiosity, only craving, only the capacity for experimentation. Every day seems to be a fight between life and death. That’s something beautiful about that age.”

The show boasts an ensemble cast.

In July, Entertainment Weekly shared first-look photos at the series and its other cast members. According to a press release, Fraser is a “shy and introverted teen” who travels from New York to the Veneto military base with his U.S. Army member mothers—Chloë Sevigny as Sarah and Alice Braga as Maggie. Tom Mercier co-stars as Sarah’s assistant Jonathan.

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The same press release contains the following descriptions for other characters: Seamón plays the “bold and confident” Caitlin, who speaks Italian and has resided on the base for years before Fraser’s arrival. Spence Moore II plays her older brother Danny, Kid Cudi plays her father Richard, and Faith Alabi plays her mother Jenny. Caitlin is described as the “lynchpin” of her friend group, which includes Francesca Scorsese as opinionated pal Britney, Corey Knight as the positive soldier Craig, Ben Taylor as Caitlin’s territorial boyfriend/Craig’s younger brother Sam, Sebastiano Pigazzi as the playful Enrico, and Beatrice Barichella as Valentina.

It takes place in Italy and explores sexuality, but isn’t CMBYN.

Although both Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name and We Are Who We Are focus on themes of sexuality and take place in Italy, he resists the idea that they’re connected. “I will never complain about people’s laziness, but that sounds very lazy,” Guadagnino told Variety when asked about comparisons between the projects. “Call Me By Your Name is about the past seen through the prism of a cinematic narrative and this is about the here and now. This is about the bodies and souls of now. I think they are so different,” he explained.

The outlet also asked Guadagnino about the full-frontal male nudity in the show, a rarity for the entertainment industry. “I always felt embarrassed when I saw in films the camera strategically not showing something. I also think that to show nudity—male, female—if it’s in the context of something that makes sense, is a way to liberate the eye,” Guadagnino responded. He later added, “We are naked part of the day and part of the day we are dressed up. I always think I should pay respect to that condition of being human. Sometimes we’re naked, so why not?”

The show is purposely set in 2016 following Trump’s election.

As for the setting of We Are Who We Are, Guadagnino told Variety that he intentionally set the show during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. “The effects of the 2016 election are still being felt right here, right now,” he explained. “The seismic shift throughout America and the world of what it meant that Obama’s presidency was followed by Trump’s presidency and how people did not see it coming, are still being grappled with. It has to be said, that just as [Silvio] Berlusconi was the autobiography of Italy, Trump can also be seen as a sad chapter in the autobiography of the United States.”

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A recent New York Times profile of Guadagnino reveals that Richard, Kid Cudi’s character, sports a “Make America Great Again” hat on the show. “It was something that I really had to dig deep for,” Cudi told the outlet. “Because this character is totally different than who I am and the things that I stand for.”

Season 2 isn’t out of the question.

As viewers watch the premiere of the show’s first season, Guadagnino already has tentative plans for a second. “This is a series and it depends on how it clicks with an audience if we will see these people again,” he told Variety. “I have sort of a penchant for bringing back to life characters that I love. I truly love all the characters in this show. The greatness of doing TV is that if there’s a good outcome, this can come back, which would be beautiful to me.” During the same interview, he said that another season could occur in a brand new base, such as “Japan or Africa or anywhere.”

Until then, Guadagnino is keeping himself more than occupied. He’s working on a sequel to Call Me By Your Name, based on the 2019 follow-up book Find Me, and is directing a remake of Scarface.

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