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NBC's Musical Drama 'Rise' Showrunner Explains Why Gay Teacher was Written Straight, Promises LGBT Themes

Thursday Jan 11, 2018
From left to right: Josh Radnor as Lou Mazzuchelli, Auli'i Cravalho as Lilette Suarez, Damon J. Gillespie as Robbie Thorne, Rosie Perez as Tracey Wolfe in "Rise."
From left to right: Josh Radnor as Lou Mazzuchelli, Auli'i Cravalho as Lilette Suarez, Damon J. Gillespie as Robbie Thorne, Rosie Perez as Tracey Wolfe in "Rise."  (Source:Virginia Sherwood/NBC)

The showrunner of NBC's upcoming musical drama "Rise," based on a true story, explains why he wrote a character based on a gay teacher as a straight family man.

IndieWire reports a main character, inspired by a real-life teacher who was closeted but later came out as gay, is being written for "Rise" as straight.

Based on the book "Drama High: The Incredible True Story of a Brilliant Teacher, a Struggling Town, and the Magic of Theater" by Michael Sokolove, "Rise" features a character based on teacher Lou Volpe, who put on a production of "Spring Awakening" at his high school in a small blue-collar town. Volpe was in the closet at the time but came out later in life.

Jason Katims, who created "Friday Night Lights," wrote "Rise" and explained his decision to change the character's sexuality at the Television Critics Association Tuesday. In "Rise," Volpe's character, named Lou Mazzucchelli and played by "How I Met Your Mother" star Josh Radnor, is a straight family man. Katmis said he changed the character's sexuality "to be able to connect with the story," IndieWire writes.

"We took [the book] as an inspiration, and then I really felt like I needed to make it my own story," Katims said, according to Vulture. "With Lou's family life and Lou's family itself, there's a lot of reimagination. Not just in terms of gay or straight, but in terms of the family structure."

IndieWrite notes Katims also changed other parts of Lou's family life, including the addition of his teen son having a drinking problem.

"It becomes a major storyline and becomes a very powerful part of storytelling," he said.

Katims added "Rise" won't "shy away from issues of sexuality" and that the show features a transgender character and a young closeted character in the main cast.

"I was inspired to tell the story of Michael [Ellie Desautels], this transgender character, and Simon [Ted Sutherland] who's dealing with his sexuality and growing up in a very conservative religious family," Katims said, according to Vulture. "Those stories felt like they resonated with me as a storyteller, I wanted to lean into that."

"Rise" is set to debut March 13 on NBC. Check out the trailer below.


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