High School Musical director Kenny Ortega has confirmed that a fan favourite character from the Disney Channel trilogy is gay.
Ryan (Lucas Grabeel) appeared in all three movies, attending East High School with his sister Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale) and often starring alongside her in productions by the Drama Club.
His sexuality is never overtly addressed in the films but many fans have speculated that he was the first major gay character to appear in High School Musical - and they were absolutely right to do so.
In an interview with Variety, Ortega said: "The character of Ryan in High School Musical, Sharpay’s twin brother, we decided he’d probably come out in college. It was less about coming out and just more about letting his true colours come forward."
Over the course of the series, Ryan evolved from a glorified sidekick to his domineering sister to a more fully developed character in his own right.
His sexuality was downplayed to some extent in the High School Musical movies amid concerns it would spark controversy to bring them closer to the surface.
"I have to be honest with you," Ortega continues, "I didn’t think at the time [it would be possible] - 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."
Ortega added: "They would see it, they would feel it, they would know it and they would identify with it. And that is what happened."
Previously, Grabeel himself revealed more about his performance as Ryan to TV Line, agreeing the character is indeed gay, but offering a different reason for why this was not explored more in the films.
"I’ve seen a lot of performances from the tours or high schools or community theatres, and they always take Ryan to that place of being way over the top," Grabeel says. "That’s fine, but that’s not exactly the way I played it."
He added: "I had a lot of talks with [director Ortega] 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."
The actor recently appeared in a cameo role on elaborately titled Disney Plus original High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.
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