“I always consider myself a theatre actor who journeyed into other mediums,” says Josh Radnor, who is arguably most famous for leading nine seasons of How I Met Your Mother, but is bulking up his theatre résumé with the Pulitzer Prize-winning Disgraced on Broadway in 2014 and most recently Lincoln Center Theater’s Off-Broadway The Babylon Line. “I feel like I’m learning how to be a much better actor on camera, that’s still a process for me.”
Later this season, Radnor experiences “the perfect marriage of all the things I love,” when he plays Lou Mazzuchelli on NBC’s new highly anticipated series Rise. From Broadway producer Jeffrey Seller (Hamilton, In The Heights, Avenue Q, Rent) and writer and executive producer Jason Katims (Friday Night Lights, Parenthood), the series follows drama teacher Mr. Mazzuchelli, determined to reinvigorate the school’s theatre department and create a sense of identity in some of his students. He chooses Spring Awakening for the high school production, and controversy ensues due to the script’s sexual themes. Now Mazzuchelli must fight for his students and his belief in the power of theatre.
The series also stars Rosie Perez as the school’s assistant drama director and Marley Shelton as Mazzuchelli’s wife, along with newcomers Auli’i Cravalho (Moana) and Damon J. Gillespie (Newsies, Aladdin); Stephanie J. Block told Playbill earlier this month that she has a recurring guest role on the series.
“I had seven to ten amazing inspiring drama teachers,” says Radnor of creating his character, “so I really feel like I’m carrying half a life of people who were just brilliant and inspiring and let me know I could do this and helped change the conception of myself.
“I actually just went to a memorial last weekend in Ohio for my favorite theatre professor at Kenyon [College],” he continues. “I was mourning this woman, and I’m also about to play this character that’s kind of a tribute to her and what she did.”