High School Musical: The Musical: The Series is a streaming television show on Disney+ inspired byyou guessed it!the High School Musical film series. It is set in East High School and has a unique storyline with two of its stars, Frankie Rodriguez and Joe Serafini. The two are not only a couple on the screen, but in real life as well.
Rodriguez plays Carlos Rodriguez on the series and has performed on other shows in the past such as Modern Family and This Close.
Serafini is Seb Matthew-Smith on the show and brings a background of starring in several musical productions including The Sound of Music, Anything Goes and The Music Man.
Rodriguez identifies as gay and Serafini identifies as bisexual; they both use he/him pronouns.
High School Musical: The Musical: The Series won a GLAAD Media Award in 2020 and has an upcoming quinceanero episode with the two actors involved that will surely warm any gay heart. The duo talked on the phone about it, among other things, before the special episode airs.
Windy City Times: Start off with talking about your very different backgrounds.
Frankie Rodriguez: I was born and raised in Selma, California, in a little farm town.
Joe Serafini: I'm from Pittsburgh, in the suburbsBethel Park, to be exact.
WCT: Joe, you have a lot of musicals on your resume.
JS: Oh yes, I've been in a lot of musicals.
WCT: Were these intense auditions for this particular TV show?
JS: The audition process for High School Musical was one of the more chill auditions I have been to. I think it has a lot to do with the material. You basically go in and have fun. Everyone was supportive and nice.
It was my first time auditioning for the Mouse, so I was super excited. I expected to have to show more actually. I just sang and had to do sides. I didn't have to dance or anything. They trusted us!
WCT: You met each other on the show?
FR: We met on the first day of filming. My first day of filming was at the high school, so that alone made my brain want to explode, then here comes Joe saying hello!
JS: My first day was also at the high school. I literally went straight from the airport to a wardrobe fitting. It was crazy. I had just gotten the role three days before. It was a whirlwind and a life change. I met so many people right in a row and my world was just expanding!
WCT: Is the cast like a family?
FR: Oh my gosh, for sure. One of my favorite things about filming in Salt Lake City is the fact that we are all away from our homes. We really do turn to each other and rely on each other. It turns into a big ol' love fest basically. Now that we are back, we try to see as many people as we can.
WCT: Salt Lake City is known for being conservative. How is it there?
FR: It was not as conservative as I thought it was going to be.
JS: It is pretty progressive.
FR: There is a great Pride every year. We went to that during our first season and walked around.
JS: It was huge and so big!
WCT: I grew up where you couldn't hold hands in school if you were gay. What was that moment like for you in the series?
FR: We were emotional. We looked at it from that same lens and were very sensitive to that fact. We didn't grow up watching two boys hold hands on TV. The fact that we get to do that and be part of that representation that we didn't see is very special.
JS: I feel even now holding hands is such a moment. In my high school it definitely wasn't something I was seeing either.
WCT: Have you heard from fans who are supportive?
JS: Yes, we hear from fans all the time and I think that is one of the most rewarding aspects of it all. It touches people and helps them to see themselves onscreen. They are so sweet and kind. I am so glad they can watch our show and find comfort in it and the characters we are portraying.
WCT: Why can't we make quinceaneros a thing for everyone?
FR: After this episode it better be. I better see them popping up. I will be a guest DJ at quinceaneros for the rest of my life.
WCT: You will always have a job. Are you very different from your character Carlos? You have the same last name…
FR: Now that I am a little older, I definitely see a difference in me from the character. When I was 16, I was that theater kid that only thought about cast albums and Broadway shows. That part I relate to him.
WCT: Do you have a favorite musical?
JS: Mine is Into the Woods. That was the first musical I ever saw and I was obsessed with it. I feel like every time I return to it, there is more to discover.
FR: I will say the same thing, but also more current stuff like Six and Waitress. I'm bopping to that in my car.
WCT: What do you think about the new movie Dear Evan Hansen?
FR: I'm excited about that one. It is a big year. We get Dear Evan Hansen, In the Heights and West Side Story. Musicals are winning!
WCT: How did the two of you get together as a couple outside of the show?
FR: On the first day they had Joe playing the piano and it was all over for me.
JS: Honestly, at first I was sort of scared of Frankie. He's very confident and I walked into the set trying to figure out what I was doing there. I was so amazed by you, Frankie.
FR: Stop it!
JS: I was so excited to work with you. He is so funny and quippy on set. It's always a good time when Frankie is around. I just liked the guy. Soon enough we liked each other.
WCT: Frankie, what was a moment from Modern Family that you remember especially?
FR: Modern Family was a big one because my entire family would sit down and watch it. Getting to tell my parents that I was going to be on it was an exciting conversation.
The same thing happened when I was on Will & Grace. You grow up with these characters and you watch them on television, then to be in a room with them and hear them say lines makes them real. It feels like a fever dream!
WCT: Joe, did you feel pressure covering "The Climb" by Miley Cyrus?
JS: Of course. First, I have an Ashley Tisdale moment, then I have to sing Miley Cyrus. I was just so honored to sing it. I grew up obsessed with that song singing it at the piano in her key until my voice changed.
I got to put it in this context of Set going through this moment where he is going through his climb in life. He is figuring out who he is and who he wants to love. I think that is a really beautiful moment for him. It was great.
WCT: You made it your own too and it wasn't a copy.
JS: Thank you. I tried to.
WCT: Maybe you can come to Lollapalooza and sing on the stage with Miley Cyrus.
JS: Can you imagine? I would die!
WCT: What are your plans with Pride this year?
FR: We are still recovering from last year's pandemic.
JS: We have some events happening with Disney.
FR: We could always watch a favorite Pride movie.
WCT: What is your favorite Pride movie?
FR: The Birdcage is one I always try to watch every summer.
WCT: That's a good one. Your episode at the quinceanero is very special for Pride also.
FR: I am very proud of that episode.
WCT: Can you say anything else about future episodes on High School Musical:The Musical: The Series?
FR: In all the relationships there are some conflicts and tension throughout. You can look forward to Seb and Carlos having more conflict and you will see how they navigate that.
WCT: Well, I need #SEBLOS to keep going, so don't break up!
This very special episode of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series airs Friday, June 11, on Disney+.