January 10, 2018 at 10:49 am EST | by Mariah Cooper
Why ‘Rise’ rewrote real life gay drama teacher as straight

(Josh Radnor as Lou Mazzuchelli in ‘Rise.’ Screenshot via YouTube.)

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

“Rise” follows Lou Mazzuchelli (Josh Radnor), a high school teacher and straight family man, who chooses the sexual coming-of-age musical “Spring Awakening” for his first production at the school.

The series is inspired by 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 to create an entirely new work.

“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.”

While the series is heavily inspired by “Drama High,” Katims says it’s a separate creative project.

His fellow executive producers Jeffrey Sellers, producer of the groundbreaking musical “Hamilton,” and Flody Suarez, producer of the upcoming musical “The Cher Show,” still plan on including LGBT issues on the show.

Katims was adamant at the Television Critics Association press tour that the show won’t “shy away from issues of sexuality.” A transgender student and a closeted gay teen are characters viewers can expect to see.

“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.”

Showrunners have been in contact with GLAAD to ensure accurate representation of the LGBT characters.

“Rise” premieres on March 13 on NBC.

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