High School Musical Director Explains Why Ryan Wasn't Openly Gay In The Franchise

high school musical 3 ryan evans lucas grabeel

High School Musical premiered as a Disney Channel movie back in 2006, and would go on to produce two sequels, a spinoff, one competition TV show, and now a Disney+ series. Now, after High School Musical: The Musical: The Series on the Disney streamer proved that the HSM appeal is still going strong, original trilogy director Kenny Ortega explained why theater kid extraordinaire Ryan Evans was never openly gay in any of the installments.

Ryan (played by Lucas Grabeel) was all about the performing arts, as singer, dancer, actor, and even choreographer, and the third movie (which was the only to be released theatrically) surprised some fans by pairing Ryan and Kelsi together, seemingly out of nowhere. Speaking with Variety, Kenny Ortega explained why Ryan wasn't openly gay in any of the High School Musical projects:

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.

According to Kenny Ortega, he felt Disney might not have been ready to "cross that line" and feature an openly gay character in High School Musical, aimed at young viewers. As any HSM fan can attest, that didn't stop Ortega from including hints to Ryan's sexuality, which the director has now made official. He even shared that they decided that Ryan was "probably going to come out in college," and High School Musical was more about "letting his true colors come forward" than coming out of the closet.

Lucas Grabeel played Ryan Evans for High School Musical, High School Musical, High School Musical 3: Senior Year, and Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure. He appeared in Season 1 of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, although as a version of himself rather than as Ryan. He also participated in the High School Musical remote reunion performance of "We're All In This Together," unfortunately without Zac Efron.

Lucas Grabeel's Ryan was of course half of the Evans twin duo with Ashley Tisdale's Sharpay, and the two served as the pseudo-villains of the first movie before softening up considerably in the second, which is when I would argue that Ryan really did let his "true colors" come out. Who can forget the epic dance choreography to the song called "I Don't Dance"? Ryan pulled that off on a dusty baseball diamond wearing all white! Take a look:

Following Kenny Ortega's comments about Ryan coming out in college and in light of the reunion performance that had most of the Wildcats back in their East High glory, is it too much to hope for some kind of in-person reunion down the line? Catching up with the characters would definitely be a treat for those who loved the movies as kids, and Disney+ would be an ideal platform.

You can find all three High School Musical movies as well as High School Musical: The Musical: The Series streaming on Disney+ now. For more viewing options now and in the not-too-distant future, check out our 2020 summer premiere schedule!

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).