There have been countless shows about a character chasing their dreams and falling in love in New York City. I’m not complaining. Who doesn’t enjoy watching a couple wander the city that never sleeps all night? Apple TV+’s newest series Little Voice from executive producer JJ Abrams (creator of Felicity, another popular New York love story) takes this idea and adds music to it, making the show practically irresistible.
In the series, Bess King, played by Brittany O’Grady (Star), is a struggling singer-songwriter hoping her musical aspirations come true in the Big Apple. As soon as O’Grady opens her mouth, it is easy to see why she was cast as the lead. She performs heartfelt lyrics penned by Grammy nominated musician Sara Bareilles (who is also an executive producer) which helps her come across as a convincing up-and-coming artist. Plus, O’Grady already has previous experience that makes her the perfect person to play a part that is kind of based on the start of Bareilles’ career.
Little Voice (which is also the title of Bareilles’ critically acclaimed second album) was created by Jessie Nelson, who has teamed up with Bareilles again after previously working with her to adapt the indie film Waitress into the Tony-nominated Broadway musical. In an interview with TV Insider, Nelson says they auditioned “literally thousands” of women before realizing O’Grady was the one. “You can imagine as a young artist to be singing Sara’s songs in front of Sara is no easy task. Sara has such a huge range vocally, [and] the melodies are complicated and beautiful,” Nelson said. “And Brittany was just so up for the challenge.”
It probably also helped that O’Grady’s previous work confirmed her vocal abilities and her talents as an actress. She is mainly known for her starring role on Fox’s musical drama Star which ran for three seasons. On the show, O’Grady portrayed a member of a girl group and performed multiple, elaborate musical numbers. The songs sounded more pop compared to the tracks she sings in the trailer for Little Voice, but they were also original songs.
O’Grady doesn’t just play a musician on television. She sometimes posts videos on her Instagram page of her playing music on the piano and singing songs. She also plays guitar on the show. In May, she shared a video of her singing the Etta James’s classic “At Last.”
While O’Grady auditioned with Bareilles music and sings tracks written by her in Little Voice, the character of Bess isn’t an exact depiction of Bareilles’ early days as a musician.
“There are moments that are more inspired by my life rather than it being any sort of recreation of my journey,” Bareilles told the AP. “This is an amalgamation of so many of the struggles that I’ve seen.”
But Bareilles' song "Little Voice" — the title track for the series — should actually tell you more about the origins of the new series.
"Literally the title song, ‘Little Voice,' is a song that I wrote for my first record and was told that it wasn't a strong enough song to appear on the record," she told E! News. "It's interesting, the story of that song being very much thematically tied to that is one of the struggles that a young artist has to go through, sort of like fighting for your little voice and your authentic truth."