Just days after Kenny Ortega confirmed that Lucas Grabeel‘s High School Musical character, Ryan Evans’ was gay, the actor has shared his thoughts on the matter, and revealed why he wouldn’t reprise the role for another movie.
“There’s so many amazingly talented gay actors that could do it as well, so if High School Musical was made today — I don’t know if I would play Ryan,” he explained during a new interview with TMZ. “I would love to, but the last thing I want to do is take an opportunity away from other people. As a straight white man, I know that even without trying, I have taken opportunities away from other people.”
The former Disney star recalled approaching the director and asking him about Ryan’s sexuality while they were making the film.
“I came up to Kenny one day and was like, ‘Hey, so can we talk about the character for a second? Ryan’s gay, right?’” he recalled. “He was like, ‘Well, I mean, it’s a touchy subject sometimes with children’s programming — I’m not sure if Disney is ready now for that kind of thing. I absolutely agree that he is and I think we have an opportunity here to showcase a real person.’”
“[Coming out] is something that a lot of kids go through and don’t often see portrayed on television. At that time it was either [the gay characters were] extremely flamboyant or very closeted and kind of shut off,” the 35-year-old added. “We need to start educating everyone at the youngest age possible and that’s why it will fall into the hands of Disney who create so much great programming for the developing minds of our future country. We in the film industry have a duty to educate as well as entertain.”
For those who missed it, Kenny, who also was behind movies like Hocus Pocus and Descendants, confirmed that the character was gay when he told Variety last week, “We decided he’s probably going to come out in college. It was less about coming out and just more about letting his true colors come forward.”
And when the outlet asked the 70-year-old if he ever considered making Ryan openly gay in the flick, he explained, “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,” he continued. “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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