If you're a fan of shows like Glee or Friday Night Lights, you may just fall in love with NBC's new musical series Rise. The drama, which is based on a true story, centers on a high school teacher (played by How I Met Your Mother's Josh Radnor) who revamps the school's theater program — and while some people in town are thrilled about it, others want to shut it down.
The cast is made up of a diverse group of young stars, and for many of them — including breakout star Ellie Desautels — the show is one of their first big roles. Ellie plays transgender student Michael Hallowell, who, despite initial worries, quickly feels at home in the theater. "In the beginning of the season, Michael came out as Michael to the cast in the theater. He's grown into himself and I think that's what helped him, is being around people who accepted him right off the bat," Ellie explained. "He's just become so comfortable. That's the coolest thing about his journey."
Though not much else is known about the character, the star isn't shy when it comes to their own personal story, as Ellie is open about being a non-binary gender individual, meaning they are not exclusively male or female. Ellie also prefers to use the pronouns "they" or "them."
"Transgender/non-binary representation has been a passion of mine for about a year now and I’m living it. I can’t stress enough how important it is that trans/non-binary actors be cast in trans/non-binary roles. Thank you Rise for pushing toward positive and accurate trans representation in TV," the star wrote in an Instagram post. "I cannot wait for everyone to see the show. It’s amazing in so many ways. I’m so happy to have had an incredible job this year, and so lucky for all the lovely friends I’ve made."
Despite portraying a high school student, Ellie has graduated from college — though the star explained that filming the show does bring back old memories from school, sharing, "The show relates to my high school experience in regards to being with a bunch of people that I had fun with. People that I can joke with all day long.
"I think what's at the very heart of Rise is love, specifically off screen. We, as a troop, have such a great rapport with each other, we're like siblings. It's super cool," Ellie said. "Being with the cast is so much fun. I look forward to coming to work every single day. ”