In NBC’s upcoming drama Rise, inspired by the true story of high-school teacher Lou Volpe, whose story was told in the book Drama High about a high-school production of Spring Awakening, NBC has made a major change by straight-washing Volpe’s lead character from a closeted gay man to a happily married straight family man.
Producer Jason Katims spoke about the decision at the Television Critics Association press tour, saying they decided to change the character so that the series would 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. “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.”
Of course this had nothing to so with having a gay male lead on television during prime-time.
Katims added that despite the straight- washing of the lead character the show does include a trans character and a young closeted character in the main cast. “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.”
Spring Awakening, for those of you who do knot know is a musical about the sexual awakening of a group of students that includes a romance between two male characters. NBC which originally gained praise for taking on such an ambitious project now with the major change in Volpe’s character from a closeted gay man who is experiencing his own sexual awakening and who pushed so hard to get Spring Awakening put on in the high school where he taught to a straight family man not only makes the project fall flat but is a cowardly change just for the fear of having a gay male as a lead character.