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BWW Interview: Jessie Nelson Talks Creating LITTLE VOICE with Sara Bareilles

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BWW Interview: Jessie Nelson Talks Creating LITTLE VOICE with Sara Bareilles

This Friday, Apple TV is set to debut its highly-anticipated new drama series, Little Voice, from J.J. Abrams and the award-winning team behind the global hit musical "Waitress," Sara Bareilles and Jessie Nelson.

"Little Voice" is a half-hour coming-of-age drama series that features new, original music from Grammy-winner and Emmy and Tony Award-nominee Sara Bareilles and marks her first foray into television.

A love letter to the diverse musicality of New York, "Little Voice" is a story about finding your authentic voice-and the courage to use it. The series follows Bess King (played by Brittany O'Grady), a uniquely talented performer struggling to fulfill her dreams while navigating rejection, love, and complicated family issues.

We spoke with co-creator Jessie Nelson, who told us all about the series! Read the interview below!


How did you and Sara Bareilles come up with Little Voice?

Sarah and I were looking for something to do together after Waitress, because we had had such a lovely time working together on that. And then Sarah met JJ [Abrams] at a gathering and he said to her, "Have you ever thought of doing a show loosely based on your life coming up as a singer song writer?" And she said, "JJ, you know, that's an interesting idea." And concurrently, I was writing a piece about songwriting and inspiration and where inspiration comes from, which was kind of inspired by my time with Sarah, because I was so fascinated how she birthed these songs. And so we decided to join forces and out of that came Little Voice.

What makes your partnership with Sara so special?

I think we really respect each other more than anything and trust each other and trust that if we're being critical or giving the other one input, it's, it's truly to make it better and it will become better through that process. I'm so inspired by how Sarah. When you really look at all the songs Sarah's written, they all come from some kernel of what was going on in her life at the time. She has a really deep soulful process. I feel lucky to be able to collaborate with someone who runs so deep.

What was the casting process for the show like, and how did you decide on Brittany O'Grady for Bess?

We literally saw thousands of women for Bess and when we met Brittany, we could just feel that alchemy between role and person. She's just a very openhearted, curious, beautiful young artist. We were really lucky to have found her and we found her so late in the process that she didn't have a lot of time to prepare. And suddenly, there's Brittany on the set singing Sara Bareilles' songs for Sara Bareilles. You can imagine how daunting that is but, we really found a trust, the three of us and how we work together and how we sculpted that character, it's beautiful


After working on Waitress on Broadway, what was it like transitioning to doing music on television?

Honestly, Sarah and I were scared shitless. We were like, "What are we doing? We're doing a TV series. We don't know how to do a TV series." Neither of us have ever done any TV, but it was a lot like Waitress. Neither of us had ever written anything for the theater and suddenly we were doing a Broadway musical. So it was just make one honest choice after another, after another, after another and hopefully it will lead to something that touches people.

What do you hope that audiences take from the show when they watch it?

There is this saying, "Let fear be your tailwind and not your headwind," and that notion that it is scary and it is hard and you will go through a lot of rejection and it's not an easy path, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't valiantly be the warrior that climbs that path. I think being able to tell young women or all the people watching it, to be able to authentically show the journey of an artist, which is a lot about this constant gut checking, "Am I being true to myself? Am I saying what I want? Am I coming from fear? Am I really overcoming my fear?" I also think there isn't some magical point where you're not scared anymore. Fear is a big part of the process of creativity and doing it, even though you're afraid to do it is a big part of being brave creatively. So that was a message we wanted to put out there that it's not that they're these magical people that don't have fear. They're just people who are not willing to let the fear stop them.

If the show gets a second season, what would you like to see from it?

I'd love to see Louie find a place in the work world. I think that's a really important story to put out into the world. I'd love to see Percy reclaim himself as an artist. I'd love to watch Bess begin to really navigate the professional world and conquer her fears and really start that journey. I'd love to see her find her way with these two men that she's drawn to and choose a lane. There's just so many stories to tell what the show, Prisha really embracing her sexuality and her path and sharing that with her family, that would be a big story to tell.

Obviously, New York City in the first season isn't the same as the New York City we know right now during the pandemic, so if the show does get a second season, will you address that shift?

I think we really have to think about that question and really talk about it. Our world is shifting so much, and of course, as artists, you want to really look at that and integrate that into your story. We'll have some really sober discussions about that should we get a second season.


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