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Remote Controlled: Josh Radnor, Jason Katims on the ‘Simple, Beautiful’ Story of NBC’s ‘Rise’

Welcome to “Remote Controlled,” a podcast from Variety featuring the best and brightest in television, both in front of and behind the camera.

In this week’s episode, Variety‘s executive editor of TV, Debra Birnbaum, talks with “Rise” star Josh Radnor (“How I Met Your Mother”) and showrunner Jason Katims (“Friday Night Lights”).

Radnor says Katims was the reason he signed for the drama about a high school teacher who takes over the school’s musical, to stage “Spring Awakening.” “I just said yes from the email,” says Radnor. “I just love the vibe of his shows. I love the honesty, the grit, and the dimensionality of the characters. I would watch his shows and say, I want to be there.”

Rise” is based on a book about real-life teacher Lou Volpe, whom the actor got to meet. “I was curious about why he thought he had the chutzpah to do this,” says Radnor, who asked the teacher about his relationship with his students. “I think he would probably say they gave me far more than I gave them.”

It’s the first network show he said yes to after years spent on “How I Met Your Mother” playing a single guy looking for love, and he admits the role scared him. “You forget that you have other notes to play,” he says. “I never thought of myself as a comedic actor…. I just wanted to be sure I was taking enough risk.”

Katims says what drew him to the show was the story of doing musical theater in a public school in a town that needed some help, he says. “I was really just inspired by the notion of telling this story,” he says. “I thought it was a simple, beautiful story and I was honored to dig in and tell it.”

Many of Katims’ shows have been set in high school, dating back to “My So-Called Life.” “I haven’t been able to get out of high school,” he jokes. And Radnor credits Katims as a “whiz” for casting high school kids. “This looks like we just found a high school,” he says. “Anywhere you point the camera there’s an interesting face.”

Ultimately, Katim says, it’s not just about the musical: “It’s a show about community, about family, about relationships.” But it also includes storylines about class issues. a transgender student coming out, and teenage alcoholism. “It’s aspirational storytelling, but told in a very honest way,” he says, comparing it to “Friday Night Lights.” “[Viewers] are just dropped down into this world, and they get to live with these characters.”

And while Radnor won’t comment on the much-debated finale of “How I Met Your Mother” (“It is what it is,” he says), he did say he’s been in touch with the show’s creators, though he’s torn about any idea of a reboot. “There’s something to be said for revisiting something that is beloved, and there’s also something to be said for something being of a certain time and place and letting it be,” he says. “I would be fine if the story was finished.”

You can listen to this week’s podcast here:

New episodes of “Remote Controlled” are available every Friday, and you can find past episodes here.

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