Gay lead character straight-washed in NBC drama ‘Rise’

By : MARIAH COOPER OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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ABOVE: Josh Radnor as Lou Mazzuchelli in ‘Rise.’ Screenshot via YouTube.

NBC drama “Rise” is based on the true story of closeted high school teacher Lou Volpe but in the upcoming TV series, Lou will be straight.

“Rise” follows Lou Mazzuchelli (Josh Radnor), a straight high school teacher who chooses “Spring Awakening” for his first production at the school. It’s based on the non-fiction book “Drama High: The Incredible True Story of a Brilliant Teacher, a Struggling Town and the Magic of Theater” by Michael Sokolove which explores the real-life Lou’s teaching experiences while struggling with his sexuality.

According to Vulture, executive producer Jason Katims explained during the Television Critics Association press tour that he changed Lou’s sexuality so he could relate more to the character.

“We took [the book] as an inspiration, and then I really felt like I needed to make it my own story,” Katims says. “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.”

Katims promises that even with Lou being straight the show won’t “shy away from issues of sexuality.” There will be a transgender student and a closeted gay teen featured in the show.

“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 says. “Those stories felt like they resonated with me as a storyteller, I wanted to lean into that.”

“Rise” premieres on March 13 on NBC.

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