Actor Joe Serafini got his big break by landing a role on the Disney Plus series High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. The show is based on the ultra-popular High School Musical film series that aired on Disney Channel in the 2000s. Before his Disney Plus role, Serafini was involved in several theatre productions dating back to his childhood.
YEM had the chance to speak with Joe Serafini about HSMTMTS and how he first got into acting.
Young Entertainment Mag: When did you first find out you’ll be playing the role of Seb Matthew-Smith on High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. What was your reaction? (I love how you must say the show’s name in its entirety when talking about HSMTMTS, lol)
Joe Serafini: I was in my junior year of college in February 2019 and I was sending out videotapes. I was in the middle of class, actually. An email popped up on my IPad, and I showed it to my friend who was next to me. We freaked out silently. As soon as we left class, we were obviously screaming, and I called my parents. I was super excited because I grew up with the movies.
YEM: Was there anything about Seb you were nervous about before taking on the role?
Joe: Certainly. With all roles, there may be instances where you don’t know how a plot point will play out or what exactly you are going to be doing. I knew he was going to be cast as Sharpay, but I didn’t know what that would entail. Indeed, I was a little nervous to see how audiences would react to that. I was overall pleased to see how that played out and how everyone seemed to go with it and accept it for what it was.
YEM: You were part of quite a few theatre productions before landing the HSMTMTS role. How did they help improve your craft and what skills/lessons that you learned from those have you applied to your role as Seb?
Joe: I was in theatre since I was a child. I feel like with every experience, you learn more about what you can do and what you bring to the table. By the time the Seb role came around, I had a good idea of what I could do and I was confident with my skills because of my experience and techniques that I’ve been learning for years. My education at the University of Michigan was also very helpful and influential.
YEM: Which of the HSM films that aired on Disney Channel was your favorite and why (do you also have a favorite song)?
Joe: The first one. It was the original one that changed my world. I just remember watching this in my basement thinking about what this was and how can I do this in my own life. It holds the most memories.
My favorite song is “What I’ve Been Looking For,” the slow version.
YEM: Playing Seb seems like an important role for young adults struggling with their own sexuality. What are you hoping the audience takes away from Seb and how he deals with it? What has the feedback been?
Joe: One of the greatest things I have learned from Seb is just how he wants something not so conventional, like playing Sharpay. That is not a very normal thing for a young boy to want. I love that Seb goes for it and is clear in what he wants. Anyone that wants to do anything, if they believe in themselves and want to go for something, they can do whatever they want. If you can believe it, you can achieve it. The most general reaction is that everyone seems to like what’s he doing, and I’ve been very pleased with the response.
YEM: I love Seb’s backstory. We still don’t know too much but from what we know he’s a farmer who tends to cows in labor. How did that backstory come to be? And will we see more from Seb’s family (based on the signs from the audience in the final episode they seem pretty accepting of him. Is that something we’ll see play out in season 2?)
Joe: I can’t say too much actually. I don’t know too much either because we only got so far with Season 2. Hopefully, we do, I love that backstory too, it was part of his character description when I auditioned for him.
YEM: What was it like filming the homecoming episode and are we going to see more Seblos in Season 2 (I totally swooned when Seb finally showed up to the dance)? Will there be a kiss?
Joe: That episode was my all-time favorite of the first season. It was awesome to be a part of that kind of history for Disney and showing an openly gay relationship between two teenagers. I think we will be seeing more of Seblos in Season 2, but we don’t know too much.
YEM: It was announced that you’ll be doing a production of Beauty and the Beast in the upcoming HSMTMTS season, what was your reaction to this? And are there any other productions Disney or otherwise throughout musical theater that you’d want to tackle?
Joe: I was super thrilled about this and have very fond memories of Beauty and the Beast growing up. I think it was my favorite animated Disney musical.
Into the Woods would be great to tackle because there a lot of fun characters in that. I know a lot of fans have been mentioning Hamilton now that it’s out on Disney Plus. But, I don’t know if I’d want to tackle that quite yet. There are so many amazing musicals out there that we could have a lot of fun with.
“Anyone that wants to do anything, if they believe in themselves and want to go for something, they can do whatever they want.”
YEM: I know you probably can’t tell us which character from Beauty and the Beast you’ll be playing. But growing up, did you have a favorite character from the film and/or a song from the film you always wanted to sing on a large stage?
Joe: Growing up, I did a summer camp with Beauty and the Beast, around 2008. I was cast as Gaston because I was the smallest boy in camp. They thought it was funny that a small boy would be cast as the macho Gaston. It ended up being funny and I grew to love Gaston and his antics and ridiculousness. I think Gaston would be a fun role to play in adult life as well.
High School Musical: The Musical: The Series is available to stream on Disney Plus!