Spoiler alert: This article contains mild spoilers from the Rise episode “Victory Party.”
NBC’s Rise is about to enter teen romance turf, and it’s no surprise that Stanton High’s cutest couple could soon be football quarterback Robbie Thorne (Damon J. Gillespie) and his drama club co-star, Lilette Suarez (Auli’i Cravalho).
While it is clear there has been an attraction between these star-crossed teens since day one of the NBC musical drama, it hasn’t been easy. Early on, Robbie ditched Lilette to practice football with a fellow Stanton Tiger, ultimately no-showing for a planned date to run lines with her for Spring Awakening, the school show they are headlining. It didn’t help that Lilette also spotted Robbie kissing blonde cheerleader Stephanie (Taylor Dawn Brauer). By the time Robbie apologized for missing their reading meeting, Lilette was calling the shots, telling him she had a little time to work with him during her break at the diner. Be there or be square.
The most recent Rise episode, “Victory Party,” had Robbie ending things with his cheerleader as he decided to listen to his heart and explore his feelings for Lilette. Now, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Damon J. Gillespie says viewers are seeing a new side of his character.
“You get to see that he really is a good person,” Damon said of Robbie. “We see that right before the game starts when he tells Lilette he broke things off with Stephanie. Because he really likes Lilette.”
Gillespie also weighed in on Robbie’s first kiss with Lilette, which came just four episodes into the NBC musical drama.
“That’s really exciting because people have been like: Where do they stand? What is happening with Robbie and Lilette? Are they together? Are they not? What is going on? It’s like, all right, we’ll let you know exactly where we are.”
The Rise star told Variety the teen characters are drawn to each other in a unique way.
“First off, it’s the physical attraction part,” Gillespie said.
“There’s a spark as soon as they see each other that happened before we even get into episode one…And I think as they got to know each other, they related so much. They’ve never done theater before. They’re both attracted to this. It’s one of those things where, on Robbie’s end, once he gets to know how strong of a woman Lilette is, even though she’s still a kid, there’s something about that. Robbie is so drawn to such a strong woman. And I think that’s where he comes from. At least that’s what I gave to him.”
Damon also teased that in future Rise episodes, Robbie and Lilette will be support systems for each other and that at some point viewers may even see that Robbie needs Lilette more than she needs him. Gillespie explained that he thinks Robbie is drawn to Lilette because she challenges him.
“I think this is the first time he’s had to really work for it!” the Rise star told Us Weekly.
As for the future of these theater teens, Damon J. Gillespie thinks they could have what it takes to make it in the long haul.
“They definitely have potential,” the Rise star teased. “They’re always together! If they really become a thing, they’re gonna see each other every day. It won’t be easy by any means, but yeah, they can make it work. I have full confidence in that.”
Take a look at the Rise scene below to see Robbie telling Lilette he broke things off with his cheerleader girlfriend.
Rise airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.