Ryan Evans would be proud.
A decade ago, the teen and tween world was rocked by the tv movie High School Musical. Back during the height of Disney Channel’s popularity, the tv station regularly premiered new movies such as The Cheetah Girls, Luck of the Irish, Johnny Tsunami, and more. But the most popular Disney Channel Original Movie was, and will forever be, High School Musical.
But in terms of LGBTQ representation, there really wasn’t any. It would take until 2017 and the Andi Mack show before Disney Channel would have its first gay series regular character. Though in hindsight, many HSM fans question whether the show tune loving Ryan Evans was coded as gay. And now that Disney is releasing a HSM series, it appears Evans’ legacy is in good hands.
In an effort to bulk up the content found on its new streaming service Disney+, Disney has transitioned its big-name property from the Disney channel to the digital space. But don’t worry, this new version called High School Musical: The Musical: The Series is not a reboot. It’s a continuation and spoof it its own unique way.
The series acts like a mockumentary, in the vein of The Office and Parks and Rec, while following a fictionalized East High School. At the school, students are putting on a high school production of High School Musical. Clearly, it’s a little meta, a little quirky, and a lot of teen show awkwardness.
But one great factor of the show is the inclusion of an openly gay character. One that could make Ryan Evans weep tears of joy. Actor Frankie A. Rodriguez plays Carlos in the Disney+ show. Carlos is described as the quintessential “Broadway nerd.” He’s constantly seen singing and dancing the hallways of his high school and works as the choreographer of the school’s musical production.
“I’ve never once had a student dance while taking a test before,” said faculty character Mr. Mazurra about the student in a promo. “Then I met Carlos.”
“I think for Disney to take a chance like this, it’s very exciting,” said Rodriguez, who has already received a score of messages from young people on Instagram who have had positive responses to viewing the trailer. “I can’t wait for [these kids] to actually see the show.”
Rodriguez then noted how the representation of a gay latin teen helped him to get through life. Rodriguez shared how his mind was blown by how ABC’s Ugly Betty handled the coming out of gay teen character Justin Suarez (played by Mark Indelicato).
“I was like, ‘Whoa, there’s like a replica of me out there,’” he remembered.
Rodrguez hopes to present the same type of representation for kids watching High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.
“‘Oh, yeah, it’s not about [the haters]. It’s about these kids that get to watch this and see themselves,’” Rodriguez noted.