Fans of “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series
” who want to see the show’s on-screen romances come true will be delighted to learn that Frankie A. Rodriguez and Joe Serafini
are a couple.
Serafini, meanwhile, plays aspiring thespian Seb, who spent the first season as a recurring character before being promoted to a series regular for Season 2. Rodriguez stars on the Disney
+ series as student choreographer Carlos at Utah
's East High School who is gay, in what was billed as a franchise first at the time of the show's 2019 debut.
Rodriguez and Serafini confirmed their off-screen relationship while promoting the show's second season, which premiered on May 14. It's natural that the pair feels a special responsibility to portray a same-sex relationship in a fun, entertaining way that's appropriate for the show's tweens and teens
“To be the representation I didn’t get to see as a kid is life-changing,” Rodriguez told Stardia. “It was never on my actor bucket list of things to do, but it’s definitely something I think about. The writers make it easy for us to tell this story in the most authentic way possible, rather than conveying stereotypes.”
“High school was such a difficult time for me because I really wasn’t sure what I wanted or who I wanted to be,” Serafini continued, “and Seb is going through those same feelings and figuring out how to be his best, most authentic self. We’re trying to encourage others to live their truth and be their biggest, boldest selves.”
“High School Musical: The Musical: The Series,” which debuted on Disney+ in November 2019, is a spinoff of 2006’s “High School Musical,” starring Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens. The success of that film and its two sequels laid the groundwork for other musical hits like “Glee” and, more recently, “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist,” so viewers may be surprised that “HSM” never included a musical number.
Though Ryan Evans (Lucas Grabeel), the twin brother of Ashley Tisdale's Sharpay who was widely assumed to be gay, was featured in the original "High School Musical," the character never formally addressed his sexuality. In an interview
with Variety last year, director Kenny Ortega said he felt Disney would "not be ready to cross that line and move into that territory" at the time of the film's release.
The decision to make “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” more inclusive paid off: the show received a GLAAD award for outstanding kid and family programming last year.
Carlos and Seb shared a number of adorable backstage moments before they started dating in Season 1, and by the start of Season 2, the playful tension between the characters has been amplified. In the three episodes screened for press, the pair navigate a cashmere allergy and a perilous Valentine's Day gift exchange while landing plum roles in East High's production of "Beauty and the Beast."
the gap between seasons 1 and 2, a holiday special was rolled out, with the cast shooting
renditions of Christmas
carols and other favorites under strict COVID-19
“When the pandemic
first began, of course you think, ‘I should be using this time to do something creative, like write a novel or something,’ but I just didn’t put that pressure on myself, which kind of bums me out,” Rodriguez explained. “I thought I’d have all these creative juices inside of me, but it turns out I need personal contact and people
around me to kind of force that.
Serafini is excited for viewers to see how Carlos and Seb focus on "being good boyfriends to each other" as the episodes progress, even though he can't speak to the specifics of Season 2.
“It’s their first real relationship with another boy, and that takes some navigating,” said the actor, who graduated from the University of Michigan
with a degree in musical theater last year. “There are highs and lows, but it’s all part of the journey, and it really is worth it. Everyone is so valid and beautiful in their own way.”
“High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” new episodes premiere on Disney+ every Friday.