High School Musical creator confirms fan favourite Ryan is gay and explains why he didn’t come out in the movies
High School Musical creator Kenny Ortega has said that fan-favourite character Ryan stayed in the closet because Disney weren’t “ready” for an openly gay character.
Played by Lucas Grabeel, the ambitious Ryan Evans appeared in all three High School Musical films alongside his twin sister Sharpay Evans.
Despite long-standing fan speculation that Ryan was meant to be gay, the character remained firmly in the closet on-screen.
High School Musical creator Kenny Ortega says character would have come out later in life.
In an interview with Variety, Kenny Ortega said that he believed the character was “probably going to come out in college”. He continued: “It was less about coming out and just more about letting his true colours come forward.”
Ortega added: “I have to be honest with you. I didn’t think at the time – and Disney is the most progressive group of people I’ve ever worked with… 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.”
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The gay filmmaker continued: “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.
“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.”
Lucas Grabeel says he played Ryan as someone ‘not ready to come out’.
Grabeel previously said that he and Ortega worked on ways to subtly nod to the character’s journey of slowly accepting himself.
He told TV Line last year: “I had a lot of talks with Kenny about his own experience in high school. He was not out, and he wasn’t running around being that way, but he had that energy inside of him. It’s such an important time in your life, and you’re figuring so many things out. Now, thankfully, people are much more accepting and welcoming of other people’s differences.”
He added: “Ryan was a guy who was really excited about theatre and art and dance choreography and bright colours and hats… he didn’t need a label, because he wasn’t ready for that. He was still learning about himself and about people and where he fit into the world.”
Grabeel added “I wanted to add nuance and little things that you might catch the second or third time you see the movies. I wanted people to think, ‘That character’s more complex than I thought,’ instead of saying, ‘Oh, he comes out in pink and you know he’s gay.’ That’s not what we had in mind. We had a lot of fun with putting in all those little nuances along the way.”
Recent Disney Plus reboot High School Musical: The Musical: The Series introduced an out gay character into the franchise.