ENTERTAINMENT

Disney's 'High School Musical' Reboot Hints At A Budding Gay Romance

Carlos and Seb share a sweet moment on the new episode of the Disney+ series. Creator Tim Federle sees it as a "reflection of where the world is moving."

It may be too early to sound a new couple alert, but a youthful same-sex romance appears to be shaping up on “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.”

HuffPost got a sneak peek at Friday’s episode, titled “Homecoming,” via the clip above. In it, the characters of Carlos (played by Frankie A. Rodriguez) and Seb (Joe Serafini) share an adorable backstage moment. Before long, Carlos suggests Seb brush up on footwork ― by being his date for East High School’s homecoming dance. Only time will tell if the teens find the romantic bliss fans may be hoping for, but it’s safe to say their journey won’t be linear.

Created by Tim Federle, the 10-episode “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” puts a mockumentary twist on 2006’s “High School Musical,” which starred Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens and spawned two well-received sequels.

The new episode of the Disney+ series “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” hints at a budding roma
The new episode of the Disney+ series “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” hints at a budding romance between Seb (played by Joe Serafini, left) and Carlos (Frankie A. Rodriguez).

The reboot, which premiered last month on the streaming platform Disney+, follows a group of drama students at the Salt Lake City high school where the original “High School Musical” was filmed. Together, they’re staging a production of ― you guessed it ― “High School Musical.”

Federle, a former Broadway performer himself, told HuffPost he relished the opportunity to give “High School Musical” a modern makeover. One of the many ways he’s distinguished the new series from its Disney Channel and big screen incarnations is by introducing Carlos, a student choreographer, as the franchise’s first openly gay principal character. Seb, meanwhile, will be bumped from recurring character to a series regular in the show’s second season.

While the original trilogy featured Ryan Evans (Lucas Grabeel), who many viewers assumed to be gay because of his interests and fashion choices, that character never formally addressed his sexuality.

Still, Federle made a conscious effort to avoid anti-LGBTQ bullying or coming-out narratives, which have been cornerstones of other shows aimed at young viewers like “Glee” and “Andi Mack.

“I think the most remarkable thing about Carlos and Seb dancing together in public in ‘Homecoming’ is that
“I think the most remarkable thing about Carlos and Seb dancing together in public in ‘Homecoming’ is that it’s not particularly remarkable,” series creator Tim Federle said.

“I think anyone who has spent any time around the theater — whether on Broadway or in your hometown community theater — knows that the LGBTQ community has historically found both refuge and release in the performing arts,” he said. “It felt important to me, in writing a show for today, to include characters whose identity and singularity aren’t used as a big plot twist, but are ingrained in their everyday lives.”

In addition to writing “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series,” Federle is an award-winning novelist for middle-grade and young adult readers. Many of his books, including 2013’s “Better Nate Than Ever” and 2016’s “The Great American Whatever,” have featured LGBTQ characters and depicted various stages of the queer coming-of-age experience.

It felt important to me, in writing a show for today, to include characters whose identity and singularity aren’t used as a big plot twist, but are ingrained in their everyday lives. Tim Federle, creator of "High School Musical: The Musical: The Series."

Of course, the national dialogue around LGBTQ youth issues has shifted considerably in recent years ― which is why Federle felt compelled to “present a story about two guys who know who they are, are proud of it, and celebrate it in one another.”

Rodriguez, who is gay, served as the screenwriter’s muse. The actor sang Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” at his audition ― a performance which directly inspired the “Homecoming” episode.

“I think the most remarkable thing about Carlos and Seb dancing together in public in ‘Homecoming’ is that it’s not particularly remarkable,” Federle said. “It’s just an honest reflection of where the world is moving, and I am grateful that Disney allowed me to tell this story.”

New episodes of “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” debut Fridays on Disney +. 

The "Homecoming" episode of "High School Musical: The Musical: The Series" airs Friday, Dec. 6. 
The "Homecoming" episode of "High School Musical: The Musical: The Series" airs Friday, Dec. 6. 
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