NBC’s “Rise” is based on a true-life story of drama teacher Lou Volpe, a gay man, but when the drama premieres in March, the lead character played by Josh Radnor will be a straight man.
Executive producer Jason Katims explained that the decision was a creative one, reimagining the story as he adapted the non-fiction book about Volpe, “Drama High.”
“[Lou Volpe] was such an inspiration to me and everybody doing the show,” Katims said. “I really hope that there is — and believe that we carry a lot of his spirit to the show.”
As documented in the Michael Sokolove book, Volpe is a gay man who came out later in life. Katims’s show not only ages its lead down, but it gives the character an entirely different story arc. However, as Katims noted, “Rise” is not a direct adaptation of Volpe’s story — Radnor’s character is named Lou Mazzuchelli.
“We took [the book] as an inspiration, and then I really felt like I needed to make it my own story,” Katims said. “With Lou’s family life and Lou’s family itself, there’s a lot of re-imagination. Not just in terms of gay or straight, but in terms of the family structure.”
Katims explained that the show would tackle storylines about sexuality and gender with some of its other characters, saying he “definitely didn’t want to shy away from the issues of sexuality or gender.”
“I was inspired to tell the story of Michael [played by 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. “Those stories felt like they resonated with me as a storyteller, I wanted to lean into that.”
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