It’s finally ‘Rise’ premiere day! Series stars Auli’i Cravalho and Damon J. Gillespie talked to HollywoodLife EXCLUSIVELY about the highly-anticipated new show and the drama ahead!
Rise is the show the world is going to be talking about after its March 13 premiere. The inspiring new series will tug at your heartstrings and keep you believing in the power of dreaming big. Rise follows dedicated teacher Lou Mazzuchelli (Josh Radnor) as he takes over his school’s theater department in the small town of Scranton, Pennsylvania. He casts a group of kids in the beloved roles from Spring Awakening, including Auli’i Cravalho and Damon J. Gillespie’s Lillette Suarez and Robbie Thorne. HollywoodLife chatted EXCLUSIVELY with the two leads at NBC’s NY midseason press day about their characters and what to expect in season 1.
The pressures of what’s going on in Lillette and Robbie’s lives off stage will weigh on them both throughout the first season. “As any human has in their lives, they can’t just dedicate themselves to one specific thing and leave their family life at home,” Auli’i told HollywoodLife EXCLUSIVELY. “Although we try to do that at the door of our productions or theaters, there’s always something that adds a heightened emotion into our work. You’ll see that with my character. She does have a very interesting relationship with her mother, figuring out who the adult is in the relationship. Both of them work hard to support each other. Both of them love each other endlessly. But really, when will it become too much?”
For Robbie, jugging football and a musical production will “take a toll” on him. “You see the pressure from his home life with things that are going on with his mom, and the fact that his dad is so in his ear about making sure he’s playing football right, eating right, and being a personal trainer sometimes as opposed to a father,” Damon said. “He’s constantly getting that, and that can sometimes bleed into the work that he’s trying to do in football or in the theater, and it really take a toll on him.”
Lillette and Robbie will be working closely together over the course of the season when they’re cast as the leads in the musical, and we’ve all seen those electrifying trailers. Could these two young and fearless teens become more than friends? “From what you’ve seen in just the trailers, if there wasn’t something there, that would be really interesting,” Auli’i teased. “You’ll have to watch and see.”
Auli’i and Damon also discussed what appealed to them about their roles. “For me, I read the script all in one sitting,” Auli’i revealed. “I was really drawn to the realness of all the characters. I find that there are projects where you read a specific part and feel that’s exactly who you’re meant to play. This is my role. I didn’t actually feel that way with Lillette. I knew how important it was for this story to be told. I knew that it was so relevant, and each and every one of the characters had something that the nation could really connect with. After reading the script, I was like, if I get this role, thank goodness, because it’s everything I would love to play. But if not, this story just needs to be told. When I went in for my audition, I gave my heart and soul into it. I really did.”
Damon added: “I was actually looking for a job [laughs]. I read the script and I was immediately infatuated with it. It was everything I had grown up with, and everything that had defined me. I grew up in high school with football, and I played sports growing up and then I got into musical theater. So I really understood the constant pull back and forth between keeping your coach happy and keeping your director happy and making sure that you can do everything. And you can’t. You simply can’t. So when I read that, I immediately said I have to play this role, and I can’t let anyone else take this from me. I did everything that I could to dig deep to where I was in high school and how it felt to have that facade of everything is OK, especially in the South. That’s what really drew me to the role, because I could relate to it so well.”
Rise also stars Rosie Perez, Marley Shelton, Rarmian Newton, Ted Sutherland, Amy Forsyth, Casey W. Johnson, Taylor Richardson, Joe Tippett, and Shirley Rumierk. The show was created by Jason Katims, who serves as showrunner and executive producer. Jeffrey Seller, Flody Suarez, and Michelle Lee also executive produce. Mike Cahill directs and executive produces the pilot. Rise will premiere March 13 at 10 p.m. on NBC. After that, the show will air Tuesdays at 9 p.m.