“Rise” premieres this week, and while I would encourage everyone to watch it because it’s such a great show that I’m so proud of, that’s not what this post is about. Instead, I want to talk about what working on this show for the past year has meant to me.
My journey with “Rise” started way before I had any inkling that it’d be made into a show, back when it was a book called “Drama High.”. As a Spring Awakening super fan, I had a google alert about anything Spring Awakening related, so when the book “Drama High” came out detailing a Pennsylvania high school’s theater department, I had to read the book. Fast forward a year or so later and I saw the book on my boss’s assistant’s desk. Turned out my boss was adapting it as a pilot with a producer from a little-known-show called Hamilton (she says facetiously). I was so excited— this was literally a dream project for me that I was in the same orbit as. What luck!
Of course this coincided with one of the worst times of my life— I had just found out my first pregnancy was going to end and I was devastated and broken in every way a person could be. After a few weeks off during the holiday break, my boss asked if I could help proof his pilot script. It was the first thing I was excited about since my loss. He said I should get a copy of the musical Spring Awakening and familiarize myself with it. I then admitted that I was VERY familiar with Spring Awakening (stopping short of admitting the first and only fan site I had ever joined was “The Guilty Ones’ and my crush on John Gallagher Jr., who played Moritz on Broadway, remains to this day). That night I came home from work and couldn’t believe how lucky I was that my job was going to be sharing my knowledge of my favorite broadway show with one of my favorite writers. It was a definite “pinch me” moment.
The pilot script ended up getting picked up. I went on “hiatus” (or as some refer to as unemployment) and kept my fingers crossed for a series pick-up, so I’d be lucky enough to watch the show one day. And then something happened that has never happened to me in my ten-plus years working as an assistant in Hollywood: while they were shooting the pilot, my boss’s assistant called me and asked if the show got picked up to series if I could be available to work on it. A job guarantee on my dream show? Was this a joke? Of course I said yes and then I kept my fingers and toes crossed that the show would be picked up.
When the show eventually did get picked up to series, not only did I have a job, I was also asked to be in the writers’ room (which, sidenote: my job duties as Script Coordinator don’t always entail this perk of being in a room, and in fact I hadn’t been in a room since I was the writers’ assistant on Emerald City a few years prior). This dream job just kept getting better and better. And then I found out who the writing staff was. It was an “All Star” staff composed of writers whose reputations and credits were amazing, and many of which had been on my “wish list” of people to work for and with.
There are times that expectations are so high that they do not match up with reality. This was not one of those times. From start to finish, working on “Rise” exceeded every expectation for me— and I already had high hopes. Spring Awakening is one of my all-time favorite musicals for reasons that I’d rather not get into in this post (but let’s just say I had “The Dark I Know Well” on repeat for a good portion of my early 20’s), and I got to listen to the music constantly for “work.” It is so creatively satisfying to be able to call upon knowledge that you collected while being a fan (and I can also now completely justify spending all that money to fly to New York to see the original Broadway cast back in the day). Also, being in a room with that amazing group of talent was like a master class in television writing. I learned so much from every single member of our staff, and that fact that everyone was also so sweet and generous was just a cherry on top of an already delicious sundae. Not to mention that a week after I started work, I found out I was pregnant. I got to experience my whole pregnancy in this dream-job, which is something I will forever be grateful for (and here’s a pro-tip: if you’re going to be pregnant while working in television, be pregnant while you’re working for the man who created “Parenthood”— I highly recommend it!)
I hope our show is a hit and we can make many, many seasons of it. But even if it isn’t, getting to be a part of this fantastic series has been one of the best experiences of my life.
Rise premieres Tuesday, March 13 at 10pm on NBC.