Maashous’ life has been filled with change on Rise. As a child of the foster system, he’s moved from home to home, even sleeping at Stanton High School some nights, which is where we found him at the beginning of the series. It wasn’t until Lou invited him home that Maashous allowed himself to start to feel settled, and of course that was followed by this week’s revelation that his mother is out of prison and ready to meet up with him. Once again, Maashous’ future is in the air.
EW hopped on the phone to talk with Maashous himself, Rarmian Newton, about the character’s journey and the latest development with his mom.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Taking it back to the beginning, what drew you to Rise?
RARMIAN NEWTON: What drew me in was the prospect of doing a show with Spring Awakening in it. Spring Awakening has been my favorite theater show for a long time. Since I was a teenager, I’ve been obsessed with everything, the music especially. Then I saw the Deaf West production on Broadway, so I was freshly inspired by the show when I read this script for pilot season. I felt like my life was changed by Spring Awakening just a couple of months before that, so I was like, this is just perfect.
What is it about Maashous that you connect with?
We differ a lot in terms of upbringing, because I come from a stable home and I’m obviously not a foster kid. However, what connects me to Maashous is the fact that I moved to a foreign country when I was 21. I was on my own, left my parents and my friends, so I was thrown out of my stable family environment. Luckily I wasn’t dealing with this as a kid, but I did get to taste what it was like to have to make new friends. I could relate with Maashous because it becomes easier in a way to just keep to yourself. It’s your friends and your family and your community and your environment that make you who you are, and so when you leave all of that, it’s like you don’t know who you are anymore in a way, and it’s just easier to keep to yourself than try and make a bunch of new friends.
How do you view Maashous’ journey so far this season?
The whole story about Maashous is him shedding his safety net, shedding his shell in order to let some people in. Lou is inspired so much by the show that he wants to do more and be more impactful in these kids’ lives, rather than feeling like somebody who just reads a textbook. He wants to be a part of their lives, and that’s where he decides to take it to the next level and bring Maashous into his home. So I think that’s also one of my favorite parts about my character’s journey and everything, is the slow shedding of that shell and letting them in.
However, it’s hard for Maashous for do because that puts him in an extremely vulnerable position. He’s so accustomed to staying in the shadows and not being social and not making friends, that’s where his safety is, so he’s extremely vulnerable. He’s made so many connections and then they’ve fallen through that it’s hard for him to go through that kind of pain again. And that’s where it feels like this is going where his mom is coming back in. He knows this relationship that he’s made with the Mazzuchelli family is now on thin ice, and he doesn’t know if that’s going to fall through as well. He’s about to possibly go through that pain all over again.
What’s going through his mind in the moment, when he finds out that he might be moving back home?
His mom went to prison when he was 8 and he visited her a few times, but recently he hasn’t really been seeing her, so it’s kind of like his mom is a bit of a stranger to him. So as much as it’s his own blood and all that, all he remembers is a couple of visits, and also the trauma of having his mom taken away from him. That’s what he’s going through. And it’s taken all these attempts at making connections with foster parents to finally find someone that actually cares about him and isn’t just a house with a revolving door. Lou is really going out of his way to get through to Maashous. It’s almost as though he’s being thrown into that again. His mom lives in a town that’s a couple of hours away, so he might end up going to a different school in a different town, so it’s all happening all over again. And this time it’s so much more painful because Lou means a lot more to him than any of the other foster parents.
Rise airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.