On Tuesday's episode, despite a plea from Simon's drama mentor Lou (Josh Radnor), the teen's conservative Christian parents followed through with their plan to pull Simon out of Stanton High and enroll him in a private school, stemming from objections about the content of Stanton's upcoming production, Spring Awakening.
But it seems as though Mrs. Saunders (Stephanie J. Block) is starting to have her doubts about whether their decision is really in their son's best interest. In the episode's final moments, she drives to Lou's house by herself to question him about what he believes in. "The truth," he tells her, among other things... whatever that means.
Does that mean Simon's mother is going to reverse course? We turned to Sutherland for answers about what comes next for Simon, whether we'll ever see him back at Stanton, and what his journey of self-discovery will mean for his relationship with Annabelle (Shannon Purser).
TV Guide: What's going through Simon's mind in the moment when he reveals he's leaving the school as well as Spring Awakening?
Sutherland: It's all happened so very suddenly for Simon, and he has to break the news to his castmates. So he does it on stage. So much of his life is on stage and in the theater, and that's where he chooses to say goodbye, which is heartbreaking. Saying goodbye to his community, to his family, his sanctuary... this school and his friends. The theater is really where he's most comfortable, where he can express himself.
Why doesn't Simon stand up to his father?
Sutherland: It's a lot easier said than done, standing up to a parental figure. I absolutely get it. I don't know if I'd have the moxie to stand up to my parents and say, "No, I'm not gonna move to this other school." I'd be like, "Oh, OK, well, nothing I can do." It's a very difficult thing. He does stand up to his parents in the pilot episode. They ask him to quit the show and he says no, that he can't, that he's part of this troupe. But I guess there's not much you can say when your parents just take you out of the school.
We've seen stories about overbearing parents before, but usually they're in direct conflict with their kids, who choose to rebel. Simon, on the other hand, deeply loves and respects his parents. Why do you think his is an important story to be told in this way?
Sutherland: I think it's important because it's a real story. There are plenty of rebellious teens, but if your parents drop the hammer on you and tell you, "No, this is what's happening," not every teen is going to go, "No, absolutely not, I can't do that." Sometimes you're just a kid and you have to follow your parents and make do with what you've got.
What would you say to people who feel the way Simon's parents do about the themes in Spring Awakening?
Sutherland: I'd hope that parents like Simon's wouldn't take [their child] out of the school, because I think it's so important to express yourself through the arts. However outrageous or crazy that may be, I think it's important to express it. So I'd hope that people can have an open mind, especially when it comes to the arts.
Let's talk about Simon's sexuality. Would you say he's actively questioning it at this point? He so adamantly denies being gay that it seems like he really believes what he's saying, but at the same time the material in the show has obviously affected him in some way.
Sutherland: I think it's a very similar struggle to any teenager. He just doesn't really know who he is. Nothing's tied up for him. Nothing's set in stone. He's questioning every aspect of who he is. So it's a very real struggle for a lot of teenagers. I experience the same struggle of not knowing exactly who I am. So yeah, I think every aspect of him, he's questioning.
Does that include his faith and upbringing?
Sutherland: I don't know about that. I remember being that age, and you tend to question everything. So yeah, maybe.
What about Simon's relationship with Annabelle? Do you think he wants to have feelings for her or is he merely putting on a front so people won't suspect he's not straight?
Sutherland: I would say that he does have certain feelings for her. He really likes Annabelle, and he's not trying to hurt her or anything, or be manipulative. He just isn't sure about himself and his own attractions and who he is. He's 16 years old, so he isn't sure of anything. [Laughs] But he does like Annabelle, and they've been friends.
What's ahead for Simon and his family? Will we be seeing him again, possibly back at Stanton?
Sutherland: I can say that in the upcoming episodes... there's a bit of a power struggle in regards to Simon's future between his mom and his father — his father being a bit more adamant about keeping him in St. Francis and stuff like that, and his mother being a bit more accepting of Simon and wanting him to go back to [Stanton].
Rise airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on NBC.