Director Kenny Ortega revealed that the character Ryan from the 2006 TV movie phenomenon ‘High School Musical’ is gay, sharing in a new interview that it was important for the character’s ‘true colors to come forward.’
High School Musical is a major touchstone for the millennial generation, and now legions of fans have learned from the director himself, Kenny Ortega, that the character Ryan Evans is gay. Just in time for the conclusion of Pride Month, Kenny broke down the queer aesthetic of his films in a new profile with our sister publication Variety. During his interview, the director opened up about some of the most iconic characters from his films, notably Ryan who appeared in the High School Musical trilogy.
“The character of Ryan [played by Lucas Grabeel] in High School Musical, Sharpay’s twin brother, we decided he’d probably going to come out in college. It was less about coming out and just more about letting his true colors come forward,” Kenny explained. But when it came to whether Kenny thought it would have been possible to have Ryan be an out gay character in the films, he confessed that it likely wouldn’t have been possible at the time.
“I didn’t think at the time — and Disney is the most progressive group of people I’ve ever worked with,” Kenny shared. “I was concerned because it was family and kids, that Disney might not be ready to cross that line and move into that territory yet. So, I just took it upon myself to make choices that I felt that those who were watching would grab. They would see it, they would feel it, they would know it and they would identify with it. And that is what happened,” he shared.
Ryan was one of the most exciting, fashionable leading characters of the HSM film series. Played by Lucas Grabeel throughout the two TV movies and the feature length film, Ryan was known for his on-point duets with sister Sharpay [Ashley Tisdale] as well as his effervescent and confident style. Among the hit tunes from the original film that the brother and sister duo performed were “Bop To The Top” and “What I’ve Been Looking For,” among other ensemble songs.
Kenny is also responsible for helming such films as Hocus Pocus, the Descendants film series, and Newsies. On the queer aesthetic running through his oeuvre, Kenny was confident in saying “that’s who I am. I put a lot of who I am into my work. I mean, really all the way back from the earliest work that I’ve done, even as a choreographer in film and television. And I think, yeah, that it’s just there, and whether it’s screaming at you, or whether it’s just sort of quietly there, it’s there.”
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