High School Musical’s Lucas Grabeel Reveals Who Ryan Really Had A Crush On, And It’s Not Chad

Chad and Ryan switching outfits in High School Musical 2
(Image credit: (Disney))
(Image credit: (Disney))

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Sure, High School Musical was all about Zac Efron’s Troy and Vanessa Hudgens’ Gabriella, the star-crossed lovers who bonded over their love of music and singing, but there had to be some more romance between the characters in the movies …right? I mean it is high school. One popular theory among fans was about sparks secretly flying between Lucas Grabeel’s Ryan and Corbin Bleu’s Chad, especially when some major chemistry swung during the summer-set sequel.

During one big number, “I Don’t Dance,” Ryan and Chad sing about dance vs. baseball before switching outfits in the scene directly after it. According to Lucas Grabeel, Ryan did have a crush on someone, but he had eyes for someone other than Chad in the High School Musical movies. In his words:

Ryan had a very confusing crush on Zeke. He was figuring it out and he didn't know who he was, which is where most kids are in high school. And that's why we didn't want it to be this like, over-the-top flamboyant, 'I'm gay and this is just what it is,' you know? It needed to have subtlety.

Wait, what? If you remember the Disney Channel movies, you’d know that it was actually Ryan’s sister Sharpay (played by Ashley Tisdale) and Zeke who had something going on throughout the movies. Sharpay and Zeke even ended up going to prom together during senior year. So this is super awkward for the twins. During Grabeel’s interview with Insider for the franchise’s 15 year anniversary, he said he and director Kenny Ortega did try and drop in a few hints here and there between them, but many of them were cut. In terms of the famed and theorized “I Don’t Dance” moment in High School Musical 2, Lucas Grabeel said this about the outfit swap many have taken as a wink to a pairing:

Kenny just at the last minute was like, 'Why don't you guys wear each other's hats?' And we were like, 'Oh, OK, cool.' And then he's like, 'Actually, why don't you wear each other's shirts, too?’... It wasn't meant to be this homoerotic thing. But I think that Kenny knew a little bit more about how that was going to come out.

Hmm… now this is interesting. Kenny Ortega did open up last year about feeling like Disney was not “ready to cross that line” and feature an openly gay character in the High School Musical movies, but he did decide to make choices that could “grab” those watching and allow them to identify with the character. “I Don’t Dance” is definitely that moment for a lot of fans, especially with some taking its lyrics about Ryan challenging Chad’s interests as a metaphor for exploring one’s sexuality. Grabeel explained further:

I think that went over a lot of people's heads and I think people read into it incorrectly. I don't think that it had anything to do with us liking each other. I think it had everything to do with our teams and our ultimate goals as to work together and to break down barriers between each other.

Well, there you have it. No matter how you may have read the scene, “I Don’t Dance” is a seriously fun sequence:

You can rewatch the entire High School Musical trilogy on Disney+ using this subscription link, alongside the first season of the revival series starring “drivers license” starlet Olivia Rodrigo. What do you think about Ryan and Chad? Vote in the poll below!

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Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.