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How Better Nate Than Ever Brought a Gay Kid's Broadway Dream to Life

How Better Nate Than Ever Brought a Gay Kid's Broadway Dream to Life


Out chats with writer-director Tim Federle and actors Rueby Wood and Aria Brooks about Disney+'s new, inclusive movie-musical!

Better Nate Than Ever is the kind of lighthearted, fun, and affirming musical we wish we had when we were younger.

Based on out High School Musical: The Musical: The Series showrunner Tim Federle's 2013 novel of the same name, the film is a semi-autobiographical tale of young, gay, theater-obsessed kid named Nate Foster (Rueby Wood) trying to make his big-city Broadway dreams come true. Though he's not sure he has the full support of his family members, like older, jock-y brother Anthony (HSM:TM:TS alum and frequent Federle collaborator Joshua Bassett), Nate knows that his dreams of superstardom are bigger than his school's theater program (where he constantly gets passed over for coveted roles), so with his bestie Libby (Aria Brooks) in tow, the two take it upon themselves to go after what they really want and take a spontaneous trip to New York City to audition for an upcoming Broadway production of Lilo & Stitch.

Out spoke to writer-director Tim Federle, as well as the film's two bright, up-and-coming stars Rueby Wood and Aria Brooks, about crafting Better Nate Than Ever as a love letter to theater kids, the importance of having a best friend who understands you, the continued importance of queer representation, especially in a Disney project, and more!

"When I was 13, I did not have the word for it yet, I just had the hunch and I felt different but I was also excited about it because I thought that that queer element of my identity made me see the world in a different lens that was completely not adult," Federle tells Out about the intentionality of main character Nate knowing he's queer and different than everyone else in his life, but still not knowing quite exactly what it is called just yet. "It was about identity and expression and creativity and emotionality. Nate doesn't say the word because Nate's still figuring it out in real-time. And I do think it's a very adult prism to want to put labels on people, and that the fundamental experience of growing up is that you get to try on a lot of different hats until you find the one that fits."

"I think there's a lot of pressure to get it right," Federle later added when asked about what it's like getting to create so much LGBTQ+ representation for young kids who need it from a family company as big as Disney. "I mostly think it's a tremendous honor, and what I try to do is clear the way for the next generation. So a director like Ann Marie Pace, who's queer from Tennessee. She just directed an episode of my series. She knocked it outta the park. She's a young director on the cusp. And I think there's a lot of queer people and a lot of queer energy within the Disney company because it's a company that, at its best, teaches the values of optimism and inclusion and love and hope and music. Many of those qualities are fundamental to the queer experience. I think I'm just one voice of many who are trying to tell stories authentically with a lot of hope."

Better Nate Than Ever is now streaming on Disney+!

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Raffy Ermac

Raffy is a Los Angeles-based writer, editor, video creator, critic, and the digital director of Out.

Raffy is a Los Angeles-based writer, editor, video creator, critic, and the digital director of Out.