By Jessica Derschowitz
April 10, 2018 at 10:01 PM EDT
Eric Liebowitz/NBC


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Gordy Mazzuchelli may have just gotten a lifeline on this week’s episode of Rise — but it has an ultimatum attached to it.

After the heated exchange with his father outside Robbie Thorne’s party in last week’s episode, the struggling teen briefly went missing (thankfully, not for long), and his parents make another attempt to get through to him about his issues with alcohol. This time, however, the Mazzus draw a line in the sand, and it all leads to a powerful moment between him and his father.

EW caught up with actor Casey Johnson on the phone to discuss Gordy’s current crossroads, the heart-to-heart between him and his dad, and what that moment was on the bench with Gwen.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I was glad we found out Gordy was safe and sound right at the beginning of the episode. That was a relief!
CASEY JOHNSON: Yeah. It’s scary thing when he kind of goes AWOL.

So now his parents are giving him another chance, but it comes with a line in the sand where he can’t mess up again.
His parents are trying to help push him in a direction that he doesn’t think is right but they know is right, and so they have to draw a line and say, “This is what you have to do — if you don’t do this, we’re gonna force you to do it.” And it’s tough, it’s really tough for Gordy to do.

At the end of the episode, Gordy and Lou have that emotional heart-to-heart. What was it like filming that scene with Josh Radnor?
Shooting the scene, you definitely want to get it right because it’s the moment when Gordy realizes it’s not just him affecting himself, it’s him affecting everybody — it’s affecting his family, it’s affecting the people that care most about him. So you really want to get it right. It’s a thing a lot of people deal with, so making sure that really hit home, and that I could be as truthful as possible in that scene.

When Lou tells him his own father — Gordy’s grandfather — had a problem with alcohol, does that give Gordy a different perspective on his own drinking?
I believe it does, because Gordy is worried about himself at the moment. He’s a little bit selfish, like, “This is my problem, I’m dealing with anxiety, it calms me down, and it’s what helps me, and I’m not abusing it.” And then when [his dad] tells him, it kind of shines the light of, “This isn’t about you. This is about the family. This is something I’ve had to deal with in the past.” It’s scary, it’s not just something that affects [only] you — everyone sees that this is not just about you.

Is this a crossroads for Gordy, then? Where’s his head at right now?
He’s starting to realize that everything is not as easy as he’s tried to make it out to be. He’s trying to figure out life as a teenager, trying to grow into an adult, finding out what makes him happy, how to fit in inside his family. So it’s definitely a crossroads. He’s trying to be a part of the family but he doesn’t really know how, and he’s definitely struggling with drinking and trying to get that under wraps at well.

Tell me about that moment Gordy and Gwen (Amy Forsyth) share on the bench together at the end of the episode. What’s going on with the two of them?
They’re both struggling with a lot — they’re both struggling with very different things, and they’re very different people, but somehow all of the things that are wrong with their lives have kind of come together and they feel okay around each other, and safe around each other. So hopefully it works out. She’s definitely out of Gordy’s league, so he’ll try to do his best.

I know you’re not part of the drama rehearsals, but the Spring Awakening song they were working on this week, “My Junk,” was very fitting — everyone’s dealing with their own stuff, right?
Absolutely. Everyone has their own junk, and it shines light on everybody’s issues and problems — what they’re dealing with and how they’re gonna deal with them. It’s the perfect song for the end of the episode. They tied it in so well — I think it was amazing.

Looking ahead, can you tease anything about what we’ll get to see coming up on the show?
I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s a constant struggle for Gordy. He’s struggling to find what’s right, struggling with alcohol, struggling with girls, and trying to be a better person — not just for himself but for everyone around him, his family and friends. He’s really trying to find what makes him happy, and what’s right.

Rise airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.

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