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NBC's New Drama Rewrote Main Character's Sexuality

Rise, the upcoming NBC musical drama about a high school drama club, is inspired by the true-life story of high-school teacher Lou Volpe, whose life as a closeted gay man was chronicled in the book Drama High, which was about him and his students.

However, the new series will not include Volpe’s queerness, according to a report in Vulture. The fictionalized character of Volpe, Lou Mazzuchelli, is a straight man with a family. Jason Katims, creator of the show and producer of Friday Night Lights, said in a panel at the Television Critics Association press tour, that he decided to change the character to better reflect his own experience.

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

Though Mazzuchelli is not queer, Rise will feature LGBTQ representation. The show will include a closeted young character as well as a transgender character.

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

As Vulture pointed out, the change in the teacher’s sexuality actually hurts the show’s plot. The show revolves around a teacher’s obsession with putting on Spring Awakening, a show all about students’ sexual awakenings, including a romance between two male characters.

INTO has reached out to NBC for comment.

Photo Credit: Peter Kramer/ NBC


Mathew Rodriguez

Mathew is a staff writer at INTO. His work has appeared in Mic, Slate and Complex. He loves "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," Flannery O'Connor and female rappers and is working on a memoir.

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