The young people profiled, known as “heroes,” are Gavin Arneson, Vanessa Aryee, Alex Crotty, Clare Della Valle, Sage Dolan-Sandrino Emily Flores, Isabel Lam, Amiri Nash, Athena Nair, Sofia Ongele and David Puma. They range from 18 to 22 years old. Each hero gets their own episode.
Larson discussed where the idea came from at a Disney Plus TCA Press Tour session. “It all started with a thought while I was driving, where I realized that I was living with shame about who I was and I was noticing how I was presenting myself in the world, either shielding certain parts of myself and living in fear,” she said. “And I was like, if I'm feeling this way, other people must feel this way. After that it sent me on this path for years of asking people who I was close to, ‘What do you feel shameful about?’ And when they would open up, I realized that 100% of the time, the thing that they felt the most ashamed of was not anything that was shameful at all.”
Larson added that discussions with producer Culture House helped focus the series. “We realized that if we could get to the root of it, at the point when we’re so vulnerable, we're growing in this puberty stage, we could highlight the things that we feel shame about but also the things that we feel like are our biggest accomplishments,” she said. “So with that, it’s about sharing and at the same time it’s about celebrating and recognizing that we have way more that's similar than different.”
Larson’s movie work includes Trainwreck, Room and Avengers: End Game.
Growing Up directors are Rudy Valdez, Bernardo Ruiz, Nicole Galovski, Kishori Rajan, Elegance Bratton, Smriti Mundhra and Ekwa Msangi.
Galovski is the showrunner. She spoke about finding the right subjects for the series. “We highlighted the topics that we knew we wanted to address, like, what was really affecting young people,” she said. “And we started to research and do a lot of Instagram reaching out and looking at local newspapers for young people that had stories within the kind of range of topics that you see represented in the series. And we just went hard into that.” ■
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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.