Shannon Purser is back on TV, in what could be her biggest role yet. The Emmy-nominated actress, best known for her role as Barb on Stranger Things, is part of the cast of NBC’s new musical drama, Rise. Purser plays Annabelle, a member of the Stanton High School drama club, in the new series. And her casting in the new Jason Katims series proves there really is justice for Barb.
In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Rise casting directors Bernard Telsey and Tiffany Little Canfield revealed that Shannon Purser’s role was created especially for her.
Rise follows a group of students at a high school in a Pennsylvania town as they prepare to perform in a controversial show-within-the-show, Spring Awakening, under the guidance of an ambitious new theater director Lou Mazzuchelli (Josh Radnor). Shannon Purser’s Rise role came about after the 20-year-old actress caught the eye of showrunner Jason Katims.
“Shannon is a funny story because obviously she was Barb on Stranger Things and was fantastic in that role,” Canfield told THR.
“When we were talking to Shannon, she told us about how she loved musicals and she did musicals. She’s from Atlanta and auditioned for [Stranger Things] as a local hire for a day player role and it turned into Barb. When we found out she did musicals, of course we clocked that in our memory because we love to work on musicals. So when this show came up we brought her in, and what was really exciting there is that Jason was so enamored with her that he created a role. Her role was not initially in the search. It was actually created for Shannon because he felt so much that she fit our ensemble.”
Telsey added that Katims has allowed the Rise story to develop based on the people who were cast in the series.
“I think even within the episodes that were shot, storylines became bigger and shifted based on the people that he was working with. That was always one of his goals: ‘I want incredible kids that I can develop stories around,’ and Shannon was one of them.”
Shannon Purser was first announced as a Rise cast member last spring, but viewers only recently saw her spring into action on the show when Rise premiered earlier this week. Purser previously told TV Line that despite the musical numbers, the show is not a Glee knockoff.
“I like to think of it as kind of like a Friday Night Lights with music,” Shannon told TV Line last fall.
“It’s not like Glee in the sense that people burst into song. [When they do], it’s all within the confines of the musical that they’re putting on in high school.”
Stranger Things fans were upset when Shannon Purser’s character, Barb Holland, was killed off in the first season of the Netflix hit. Shannon’s Stranger Things role marked her first professional acting job and her character was so popular that there was a shrine dedicated to Barb at last year’s Comic-Con International.
“I don’t really know how that whole thing happened, because those are actually all my baby pictures in it,” Purser told W magazine at the time. “It’s a little sketchy, but it’s fine.”
Shannon Purser was also blown away last summer when she found out she was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama alongside a list of A-listers that included Alexis Bledel, Laverne Cox, Ann Dowd, Cicely Tyson and Alison Wright.
“It’s crazy, and I definitely did not expect it,” Shannon said. “After seeing the crazy success Stranger Things had, I was pretty positive the show was going to get quite a few nominations, but I definitely didn’t think that I would. And looking at all the other actresses I’m nominated alongside, it’s kind of daunting, though obviously an honor, for sure.”
Since her role on Stranger Things wrapped two years ago, Shannon Purser has also appeared as Ethel Muggs in the CW’s teen drama Riverdale. According to her IMDB page, Shannon Purser will appear in all 10 episodes of the first season of Rise.
As of this writing, Shannon Purser only has six acting credits listed on IMDB. But with an Emmy nomination already under her belt and a role on a hot new series locked in, it’s clear this star is rising.
For more on Shannon Purser check out the video below.