Josh Radnor makes sure inspiration can be found anywhere.
High school teachers are often unsung heroes. They toil away year after year, earning meager wages and seldom gaining the recognition they so obviously deserve. It’s a difficult existence, one that screams unfulfilled dreams and lost opportunities. And yet, their perseverance to continue to teach and inspire is what makes them such noble individuals. And even though they might have to teach a group of kids against their will, there is occasionally a student who sees the care, attention, and undying curiosity that leads them on their own path of accomplishment. All thanks to that selfless teacher.
It’s these kind of wonderful teachers that allowed people like Tom Hanks to shed any layers of self-doubt and pursue their dreams of acting. So inspirational was his high school drama teacher that the actor emotionally thanked him in his Best Actor acceptance speech for his role in Philadelphia. It’s the same kind of teacher that is the focus of NBC’s new TV show Rise.
Inspired by a true story, Rise tells the story of loving family man and inspiring teacher Lou Mazzuchelli (Josh Radnor, How I Met Your Mother) who takes over the mediocre high school drama department. Soon, his steadfast approach and dedicated manner invigorates everyone in the school and small town. The Knockturnal had the opportunity to chat with Josh Radnor, Auli’i Cravalho (Moana) and Damon J. Gillespie (Inside Amy Schumer) about the upcoming show. Check out what they had to say below.
Could you tell us a little bit about the show.
Auli’i Cravalho: Rise is an incredible show about real people in real circumstances. It’s based or inspired on the true story by Michael Sokolove called Drama High, and we’re really excited to be a part of it. It’s about a normal town and normal high schoolers who rise above their particular circumstances.
Tell me a little bit about your character.
Damon J. Gillespie: I play Robbie Thorne, who’s a football player, and discovers that he has a love for theater, which is kind of where the direction of the show is going, into the theater/musical theater realm. He has to deal with either doing theater or doing football, but also so many other elements in his personal life that he has to deal with as well.
Because you obviously are a singer and have a powerhouse voice. Was it exciting for you to do something with a musical angle to it?
Auli’i Cravalho: Thank you very much! Yeah, I absolutely love singing. I’ve been singing since, well, before I can remember, so I absolutely love the fact that there’s musical elements in this. I also get to have an incredible cast with me as well. So, not only do I get to sing, but also get to hear their great voices, too.
Speak about bonding with everyone and forming the class, the school.
Auli’i: That was so much fun! This is my first live-action thing. Damon, this is your first live action, too, right?
Damon: Yeah, it is.
Auli’i Cravalho: Yeah, it is, both of us. It’s a really fun set. Everyone is fantastic. We’ve really bonded like a family, which is really great. Because as far as I know, you know, shooting takes some time, so I’m glad we all love each other.
Anything else you want to add about being part of the project?
Damon: It’s Jason Katims. That should say it all, right there. It’s just amazing … the connections and the bonds that we all formed here, is incredible. A lot of us still hang out, even though we’re not filming. We always talk, we all have a group chat, and we are connected on it. It’s just an amazing experience. For it to be our first live-action ensemble type thing, it’s really a blessing.
Tell me a little bit about why you wanted to be involved.
Josh Radnor: Because Jason Katims is fantastic and talented and amazing and he wanted me to be on his show and I would have been foolish to say no.
It was an instant yes.
Josh: Well, I liked the script very much and I loved the book, Drama High, that it’s based on and I loved the concept and I loved all the people involved and it just felt like something that would be really great to do.
Tell us a little bit about the role you play.
Josh: I play a high school English teacher named Lou Mazzucchelli, who is feeling a little uninspired and ends up taking over the drama department of a high school in a working-class town in Pennsylvania and drama ensues.
We spoke with two other young actors today and they seem fantastic. Can you speak about working with these young talents?
Josh: They just assembled such an interesting, crazy-talented, beautiful group of high school students, who seem like real high school students. It’s not like a slick television version. I think they’re going be very relatable and they’re also attractive. Everyone is so great on the show and it was nice to be on a show that’s about teachers and students and how, at those pivotal moments in your life, a teacher can really say the right thing that sends you on a different course.
Absolutely. Can you speak about an important high school teacher you had or one you want to shout out?
Josh: Yeah, A college professor that I loved very dearly, Harlene Marley, just passed away and I went to her memorial last weekend. She was just a beautiful human and there was a guy who’s still running a children’s theater in Columbus named Bill Goldsmith that was an early inspiration to me. I’ve been very blessed in my life with a lot of wonderful teachers and mentors.
Are you passionate about musical theater and musicals?
Josh: I am. I actually started doing musicals. That’s how I started acting. So, this is kinda coming full circle.
Rise is slated to premiere midseason on NBC.