Kenny Ortega opens up about gay representation in Julie and the Phantoms | PopBuzz Meets
17 September 2020, 16:21
Kenny Ortega also revealed how he found Madison Reyes and teased plans for Julie and the Phantoms season 2 and a tour.
Kenny Ortega might be best known for his work with Disney (High School Musical, Descendants), but the beloved director is now gaining a whole new legion of avid fans with his first-ever Netflix series: Julie and the Phantoms.
Speaking to Popbuzz, Kenny opened up about the teen musical drama, season 2 and why it was so important for Alex to be gay and out in it.
Speaking about Alex (Owen Joyner), Kenny said: "I think that today's a day when we should be able to tell stories that have gay characters that don't have to be coming out and going through the pain of coming out. Alex's life's complicated and he's an anxious young man but not because he's gay and I thought that that was really wonderful because that wasn't my story."
Kenny then added: "I had no role models. I had no characters on TV or at the movies who were telling me, 'Hey, Kenny it's okay, you don't have to hide or live in the dark'. So it's really wonderful that today in this world we can put characters out here like that."
Kenny also revealed that, out of all the auditions, he's ever done Madison Reyes' (Julie) stands out to him the most. He said: "We had seen about 200 young girls and there were about 10 in there that we were considering. I thought that they brought a lot to the day but I felt like there was something that they were missing."
Kenny then explained that he wanted a girl "that other girls are really gonna see themselves in, who's honest and authentic and relatable." He continued: "And then my casting directors called me one day and they said 'Sit down. We think we've found your Julie.'
"When her video came on, I was bedazzled, I mean everything that I'd hoped for was right there. The promise of something great was before me. I had tears in my eyes and I said "that's the girl to beat" and she came through."
Kenny also teased that he has big plans for season 2. Discussing fan faves Carrie (Savannah Lee May), Flynn (Jadah Marie), Willie (Booboo Stewart) and Nick (Sacha Carlson), he said: "We hope all these characters will come to life in season 2". As for if he's team Luke or team Nick in the Julie, Luke, Nick love triangle though, he is: "Team Juke, of course."
Kenny then confirmed that he wants a world tour. "One of the things that we pitched right from the start with Netflix is that we wanted this to be more than television. We wanted to do albums and touring and a life beyond the small screen. Absolutely. We hope to come to the UK, we hope to travel with these kids everywhere. They do it all."
Beyond Julie and the Phantoms, Kenny praised High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. He stated: "I've watched it in its entirety. The casting is superb. The writing is superb. It's so smart. I was so impressed. It's wonderful and I'm honoured to have been part of the legacy of High School Musical to see the extension of that universe."
He also teased a brand new Christmas movie: "I have one project that may come next but it's called Auntie Claus and it's a wonderful new musical take on the holidays."
All nine episodes of Julie and the Phantoms season 1 are available to watch on Netflix now.