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Inspiring real-life gay teacher changed to straight for NBC series

Josh Radnor plays a straight character inspired by a gay on in NBC series "Rise."
Photo credit:
vagueonthehow - Flickr

NBC’s new television series “Rise” was inspired by an out gay man, but the network has re-written him to be straight.

Writer Jason Katims is best known for creating “Friday Night Lights,” and wrote “Rise” based in part on Michael Sokolove’s book, “Drama High: The Incredible True Story of a Brilliant Teacher, a Struggling Town, and the Magic of Theater.”

That novel is about Lou Volpe a high school teacher in Levittown, Pa., who decided to put on a production of “Spring Awakening” despite protests from locals. Truman High school was deemed the "real-life Glee." 

Volpe is openly gay now, having come out a little later in life.

Josh Radnor (above) plays straight Lou Mazzuchelli; Rise’s main character who was inspired by Volpe.

Katims explained the change of sexual orientation in Lou at a Television Critics Association press tour on Tuesday. He said he did it to be able to connect with the story but contends he won’t, “shy away from issues of sexuality.”

He says “Rise” will still address LGBT issues including having a transgender and gay character.

There are other aspects Katims changed as well, including giving Lou an alcoholic son, “It becomes a major storyline and becomes a very powerful part of storytelling,” he said.

Given his roots writing about the sporting world, Katim is also incorporating that aspect of high school into the series.

 “As much as it’s about high school theater, it’s also about the football team,” he said. “That storyline also becomes a big part of the show. And I love the idea of striking a balance between the two of them.”

When the series was announced last March Volpe said he felt really good about, "bringing the spotlight to Bucks County and Bristol Township and to Truman High School." 

“Rise” also features Rosie Perez and “Moana” star Auli’i Cravalho. It premieres on March 13 on NBC.