|Alui'i Cravalho's character in 'Rise' auditions for a part in a high school production.|
ADD ONE MORE name to the short list of AAPI actors to keep an eye on as American television continues its slow march to make the small screen look like the real America.
Auli'i Cravalho, 17, who did Moana's voice in the movie, gets to be in front of the cameraa in TV series Rise, which debuts tomorrow, Tuesday, March 13. In this NBC drama, she is a student actor, who gets to sing live and in person in a high school production of the rock musical Spring Awakening.
The series is a show within a show and follows the production of Spring Awakening from auditions, rehearsals and perhaps the actual debut of the musical.
The trailer highlights Cravalho as Lillette Suarez, a working class student who joins the drama club. Seven other teenagers will be introduced in the group as well and each one struggles with personal problems like school pressure, unconcerned or sick parents, extra-curricular demands and underage drinking.
"It's about a normal town and normal high schoolers who rise above their particular circumstances," the Hawaii/American Cravalho told The Knockturnal. "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."
“There were certainly many similarities and differences between Lilette and I. She’s not one who goes looking for the spotlight certainly, and she’s one that is perhaps more of an introvert, quite unlike myself,” Cravalho told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “I think I’ve found my spot in the spotlight. But in many ways we are similar. She grows up in a single-parent household, as I have. She has big dreams but grows up in a small town.
“For me, it was on a small island. For her, it’s in a small, tiny place that also kind of resembles a small mind-set, which is something that she doesn’t want for herself but something that she’s used to other people putting on her. She works very hard and works to rise above her circumstances, so to speak.”
Rise is actually inspired from a true story of an English teacher Lou Volpe in Pennsylvania who helped change the lives of the kids in his high school theater group.Journalist Michael Sokolove wrote the best seller book "Drama High" from his observations of Volpe, whose students become successful in the entertainment industry.
Comparisons to Glee are unavoidable since Glee is based on the book "Drama High."
"Rise" also stars "How I Met Your Mother" actor Josh Radnor as the teacher Lou Mazzuchelli. Rosie Perez (Tracy), Damon J. Gillespie (Robbie Thorne), Ted Sutherland (Simon), Shannon Purser (Annabelle) and Joe Tippett (Coach Doug Strickland) are also in the series.
Last week, the network Monday announced the 50 recipients, chosen from 1,000 school applicants around the country, that will receive NBC’s $10,000 R.I.S.E. (Recognizing and Inspiring Student Expression) America Grants, designed to assist theater programs with production expenses, technical equipment, master classes and other needs. NBC is partnering with the non-profit Educational Theatre Foundation (ETF) on the program.
To qualify for a grant, high schools were required to have a theater program or champion of theater arts on the teaching staff, and a program endangered due to budget constraints. Each school submitted a video about its program and a 500-word essay on why it deserved the money.
“Rise” debuts at 10 p.m. Tuesday, March 13, on NBC and then will move into its regular time slot of 8 p.m. Tuesdays starting March 20.