NBC’s March 27 broadcast of Rise dug into some deeper issues as the episode focused on fan favorite Simon Saunders. Played by actor Ted Sutherland, Simon begins to grapple with his own sexuality and his profound sense of Christian faith.
If you haven’t been watching: Mr. Mazzuchelli, played by Josh Radnor, has taken over the theatre department at Stanton High, a public high school in a Pennsylvania steel down still down on its luck. He has a vision for the drama program and decides to put on the controversial Spring Awakening, casting Simon as one of the gay characters, Hanschen. But, as we learned last night, Simon’s parents object to high schoolers putting on a musical that includes suicide, teen pregnancy, abortion, homosexuality, and, well, any allusion to sexuality. SPOILER ALERT: They decide to send Simon to a new school, and when Mr. Mazzu tells Simon he’ll censor the show to make it work, Simon basically tells him don't you dare.
“I remember it was a moment where I wanted Simon’s passion for the theatre to shine through,” says Sutherland of filming that pivotal scene. “It was also important for me in that scene to keep Simon honest. The theatre is his home, his place where he feels free to express thoughts and feelings that he may not be comfortable voicing elsewhere. Though his parents rip him away from the theatre, he won’t let them destroy that sanctuary for others’ self-expression.” (Oh, and Stephanie J. Block plays his mom in a moment that put viewers in tears.)
Sutherland took over Playbill’s Instagram story for some post-episode insights, but he provides some answers for fans below as well:
In the real Spring Awakening, Melchior sings “Left Behind,” but we have the privilege of hearing you sing it here. What was it like to get to sing that song?
If you could play another character on Rise that’s not Simon, who would you want to play and why? If you could play another character in Spring Awakening that’s not Hanschen, who would you want to play and why?
What is the best part about having Stephanie J. Block play your mom?
What is something people might not know about you?