Glee, Hamilton, The Greatest Showman- all have proved in recent years that the musical genre is here to stay. Now, NBC is trying its hand at a musical drama series, with its newest show “Rise” premiering this week. Similar to Glee, the show follows a group of high-schoolers and educators putting on a musical production. But they get more than just perfect pitch from the production- they all achieve a bond that no one imagined.
YEM spoke with star of the show Amy Forsyth about “Rise,” musicals, and working with a cast of musical veterans.
Amy Forsyth: I was the BIGGEST fan of musicals growing up. My poor family was subjected to me singing at all hours of the night. Though I think our show is very different from Glee and High School Musical, I love that people are comparing them because they are both extremely successful and meaningful franchises that mean so much to so many.
AF: Absolutely! I remember watching Auli’i’s Oscar performance and geeking out. I thought she was brilliant. She had announced on the red carpet that she had just booked a pilot and my best friend texted me gushing that she thought it might be Rise. I spent the rest of the night googling Auli’i and convincing myself that Auli’i and I were about to become best friends. Now she’s like my little sister.
AF: Yes! It breaks my heart to have to fight with her on screen. Often, after we cut, we would immediately apologize and hug it out. How can anyone hate that face?! We will see more of Gwen and Lillette coming head to head but I’m holding out hope that there’s a world where they work out their differences and become best friends.
AF: Gwen’s relationship with her father is one of the most beautiful, and honest relationships I’ve ever had the pleasure of portraying. Jason Katims is a genius and knows how to write truthful and realistic familial relationships unlike any other. Buckle up, because the Gwen/Coach storyline is beautiful and heart wrenching.
(Photo: Gregory Metcalf)
YEM: Was your high school experience similar to Gwen’s high school experience? How was it the same or different?
AF: My high school experience was very similar to that of the troupe at Stanton Drama. As much as I would like to distance myself from Gwen and talk about our differences, we are more alike than I’d like to admit. I went to an arts high school and majored in Drama. I took dance and vocal as extra credits. I was in choir. I did my school musical every year that I had an elective. I did two shows outside of school, simultaneously. I was as much of an overachiever then as I am now and I’m proud of it. Being a theatre kid taught me so much and I’ll always be grateful that I had the support of my family and my community to do so many things at once.
YEM: How challenging is it to work on a show that isn’t just a drama, but also a musical?
AF: I think all of that multitasking I did in high school groomed me quite well for this process. Filming a TV show involves so many hard working people who are willing to dedicate their lives to the world we’re creating. Filming a musical TV show is double the work. In this first season the troupe is doing Spring Awakening. That means we need to time to actually mount Spring Awakening. That means vocal rehearsals, that means blocking and scene work, that means dance rehearsals; and because it’s a TV show that means pre-recording all of the vocals in a recording studio. We had the industry’s best people to lead us through that process and we owe them everything! That process also means we were spending double the amount of time together and it brought us together that much faster. I feel so lucky to be a part of this diverse group of weirdos and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
YEM: Did you have to sing for your audition? If so, what song did you sing?
AF: I did! For the role of Gwen they wanted us to sing Mama Who Bore Me from Spring Awakening. Fun fact: I didn’t realize they had given us a song to sing until I got into the parking lot right before my audition. Thankfully I grew up dreaming of doing Spring Awakening so I already knew the song by heart.
YEM: If you could sing any song in Rise, what song would it be?
AF: I don’t know if I can pick! We are so fortunate to be doing Spring Awakening. It’s one of my favorite shows and the music is unbelievable; I’m not sure that there is other music that can top it this season.
YEM: What’s your go-to karaoke song?
AF: Believe it or not I have never done karaoke. I think if I did I would either pick something from a Disney movie or a Backstreet Boys classic.
YEM: If you could sing with any musician (dead or alive) who would it be and why?
AF: I have always loved Fleetwood Mac so singing with Stevie would be a dream. Joni Mitchell. Laura Marling. Ben Platt. You know, the usual.