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Sara Bareilles leads 'Little Voice' to small screen

NEW YORK (AP) — Though it shares a title with her major label debut album, Sara Bareilles isn't exactly telling her own story in the new streaming series “Little Voice.” The Grammy Award-winner says the Apple TV+ show incorporates experiences of many striving artists while reflecting the diversity of its New York City setting.

“There are moments that are more inspired by my life rather than it being any sort of recreation of my journey." Bareilles said. "This is an amalgamation of so many of the struggles that I’ve seen.” The show from Bareilles, producer J.J. Abrams and writer-director Jessie Nelson follows a young singer named Bess King (Brittany O’Grady) as she navigates life and love while attempting to pursue her musical dreams.

It’s the first foray into television for both Bareilles and Nelson, who worked together on the Broadway musical “Waitress.” Bareilles said both want to keep making “hopeful art.” “I love that Jessie and I both are very committed to making hopeful art — art that has a lot of heart and a lot of kindness and a lot of hope sort of woven into what we create,” said Bareilles. “It’s nice to be able to get an opportunity to tell stories about characters who are messy and make mistakes and are flawed and certainly are not perfect people, but that, in essence, are good people and they try to be good.”

Bareilles relished the novel experience of working in TV. “I got to learn so much from this,” she said. “I felt very much like a newbie stepping in. They had to tell me, ‘Don’t stand in front of the lights on the set.’ I was like, ’Oh, my bad, my bad!”

Bareilles wrote original music for “Little Voice” and helped direct musical performances from O’Grady, who previously appeared on the musical series “Star.” The first three of 10 episodes premiere Friday.

Nelson, who directed five episodes, said that while the series comes at a time when Hollywood is working to amplify underrepresented voices, diversity came naturally to this production. “We really wanted to write a love letter to the music of New York, and if you’re going to do that authentically, you’re just organically going to have a diverse cast,” she said.

O’Grady praised the “true diversity” she encountered on set. “You have the scenes in the retirement home: we had actors in their 90s on the set. We have actors who are on the spectrum. We have actors who are Black, white, Hispanic,” she said. “I think that it’s just an honest portrayal of what the real world is. So that makes me happy.”

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