What’s Netflix’s Julie and the Phantoms like? Imagine High School Musical with ghosts.
The new shows follows Julie (Madison Reyes), a teen girl who forms a band with three ghosts living in her garage (played by Charlie Gillespie, Jeremy Shada, and Owen Joyner), a trio of young rockers who met their demise 25 years ago when they ingested some gnarly hot dogs. (Yep, it’s a long story.)
The High School Musical comparisons are especially apt since half of the series’ episodes are helmed by out HSM director Kenny Ortega. The teen-focused supernatural musical series also has a surprising number of queer elements. Aside from Ortega, the series also features Cheyenne Jackson as the villainous Caleb Covington, and the central love story for the majority of Season 1 is between Alex (Owen Joyner) and Willie (Booboo Stewart), a skater ghost he meets in the afterlife.
Joyner spoke with NewNowNext about playing a gay ghost, what it was like working with Kenny and Cheyenne, and if he’s ever had a supernatural experience of his own.
Alex being gay was a nice surprise. Going into the project, did you know he was going to be gay? What was that like when you read the script?
Thank you, so did I. When I initially read the script for the first audition, I didn’t know much about the character. I think I got the entire pilot script when I went in to audition for the producers, but I didn’t know Alex was gay yet. We didn’t find out until the second episode. Nothing really changed with how I wanted to execute the character once I found out he was gay, I was just honored that Kenny trusted me with a character that I thought had a really important message for a younger generation to watch. I took a lot of Kenny’s advice and input into the character because I just wanted to play him earnestly, respectfully, and do something people would be proud of.
Alex and Willie’s relationship is the main love story for the majority of the season. How was it working with Booboo?
Booboo is the best. He was a guest star and because we were filming out of Vancouver we didn’t really get the one-on-one bonding time that me and the rest of the band got to build up during rehearsals. Prior to shooting the band had an intensive six-week rehearsal. I remember him being so easy to play off during his auditions, and he always made every scene so relaxed and comfortable which allowed us to explore different things and have fun with it. The day he landed in Vancouver, I think we were filming one of our biggest scenes the next day, he shot me a text and came over to my apartment. We went over the scenes for a couple of hours and it was like we had been friends forever. Plus it’s not that tough to act like you’re in love with Booboo Stewart.
What was it like working with Kenny Ortega and Cheyenne Jackson?
This is a pretty big question. Working with Kenny has been the most exciting, humbling, scariest, greatest experience of my life. He’s an amazing and thoughtful director and an even better human being, a really cool example of what I’d like to strive to become one day. You will hear the exact same thing from anyone that has worked with him. Starting theater when I was 10, working with Cheyenne was kinda like pooping your pants everyday on set… but that’s just me. I remember our first week of filming, we were shooting “Other side of Hollywood” and I got the pleasure of just sitting at a table the entire week while watching Cheyenne do his thing. Pretty cool learning experience.
Have you ever seen a ghost or had a paranormal experience?
Oh yeah, I have. November 3, 2010. It was a cool night, I was lying in bed at around 8:45pm, as you do when you’re 10. The AC was broken so there is no explanation for this next part: My door straight up just opened. The doorknob turned by itself and everything. I can’t say anymore.
What do you hope happens for Alex in Season 2?
I would hope we get to see a little more from Willie and Alex, maybe a couple more adventures with them on location… I’d like a couple more dance moments from Alex, but I’m sure Kenny Ortega will come through with those. No need to ask. And obviously a lot more music, maybe the band and I get to help out even more than we did in Season 1. Fingers crossed we get the chance!
Julie and the Phantoms is streaming now on Netflix.