Julie and the Phantoms – Netflix’s newest musical series exploring life’s challenges and raising your voice – is finally out on Netflix!
The 9-episode series follows Julie, a high schooler who’s lost her love for music after her mother’s death. Things start to change for her when she meets the ghost of three band boys – Luke, Reggie, and Alex – in her mother’s old studio. She ends up forming a band with them – Julie and the Phantoms – and she finds herself rekindling her love for singing and making music.
Julie and the Phantoms is directed by Kenny Ortega, who also gave us Descendants and the High School Musical franchise. It stars a talented roster of young artists, led by Madison Reyes who plays Julie, Charlie Gillespie, Jeremy Shada, Owen Patrick Joyner, and Booboo Stewart, who play Luke, Reggie, Alex, and Willie, respectively.
Already binge-watched all 9 episodes and are now craving for more Julie and the Phantoms content? We got your back!
We got to sit with the cast of Julie and the Phantoms in a virtual roundtable interview where they talked about their characters, making music together, and what’s next for the show. Check out the highlights below:
Can you tell us what it was like to audition for Julie? How did you react when you first learned that you’ve got the role?
MADISON REYES: We were all together, me and the boys. With it being my first time ever doing something like this, I had been told I was going to have to wait [for] 10 days. So you kind of always get yourself mentally prepared for things like this. You’re going to probably psych yourself out and question if you did good or not. Being able to be told so early and together was an experience in itself and a moment I will always remember. It was the starting point for us [to] becoming a band, us being able to be close because we share these moments together. It was a lot of fun. I was actually very happy that I didn’t have to go home and [stress] out. Now that I know this, I know I’m gonna be able to sleep better.
How did you build that chemistry we see on the show as Sunset Curve?
OWEN JOYNER: Kenny put us in this big six-week rehearsal process that was intense, relaxed, fun, and cool. It was at the SIR Studios, and it’s this rehearsal space with a bunch of old rockers. We met KISS there, we saw Snoop Dogg, so it was really cool. But beyond this intensive boot camp where we were learning our instruments and vocals, it was pretty smart [because] we’re together eight hours a day. [We were] learning these things that are pushing each other out of our comfort zone, so we really had to just trust each other pretty quickly and allow ourselves to expand and try new things. I think that led us to become really good friends because we had to let our wall down really fast to be able to do some of the things we did in front of each other.
How is it like to be reunited with Kenny and Cheyenne after Descendants?
BOOBOO STEWART: It’s insane. It’s ridiculous. As soon as Kenny brought it up, I just was like, “Yes, of course.” I’ve been doing interviews with Cheyenne all day and we’ve been praising Kenny, as we should. The thing with Kenny is there’s so much to learn [from him] every single time. Every single time I’m around Kenny, I always kick myself in the butt, because I’m like, “I need to be around him more.” I’m always learning from Kenny. He sets a standard for the level of attention to detail and the level of the way you should be on set, and just how much you should bring to what our craft is.
Can you walk us through what it was like to work on “Perfect Harmony”? Was it really inspired by “Can I Have This Dance”?
CHARLIE GILLESPIE: Madison and I wanted to dive into our characters a little more because, throughout the series, we talk about writing songs. Julie and Luke go through that in an enormous amount. And so it was a really cool exercise which developed into something a little bigger, and something that was totally unexpected for us.
MADISON REYES: Like you said, it was inspired by that moment on the rooftop. We also just wanted to pay a little homage to Kenny, because of how much he meant to us. We [also] loved High School Musical both so very much. That process really helped us get into touch with our characters, as well. We realized the kind of relationship that they might have. It’s established in the show, but not seen that they write songs with each other all the time. So being able to have an experience like that and really understand why these two people might feel the way that they feel about each other helped a lot. It’s definitely our top moment of filming.
Many of the songs in Julie and the Phantoms are memorable and good. Do you have any particular favorites?
MADISON REYES: When it comes to sentimental value, and the emotional connection that I have with the song, it would probably be “Bright”. That’s the song that we sing at the audition, so watching us grow and become the band with that song, then recording it and then leading up to us actually performing it in front of a live crowd was an experience. That’s what becoming a band is like, that’s the process.
What’s a song that you wish you had performed for the show or was written for your character?
MADISON REYES: “The Other Side of Hollywood”, probably! If not, then “Now or Never”. [I chose “Now of Never”] because watching the guys perform and do that was so dope. I would love to have been a part of that. “The Other Side of Hollywood” is just a big number. It’s so colorful and Cheyenne is so cool. Being able to watch them on set and do stuff like that, I wish I could be him because he’s just so amazing.
How long did it take for you as Willie to be perfectly comfortable with Owen’s Alex? What were the preparations you had to do for the role?
BOOBOO STEWART: It was really easy. Honestly, we just hit it off. I remember [that] Kenny invited me to one of the rehearsals early on. Even before we started filming, he invited me to one of the rehearsals just so I could meet the guys. Owen, Kenny, and I were in a room together and we just really talked. I thought we were going to go over the scene, but we didn’t. It was just for us to get comfortable, for us to meet and get to know one another. We just became friends. Literally, that was it.
I think the more we hung out, the closer those scenes felt, and the closer we were. I love those scenes. When you watch them, it just feels natural. It feels easy, and it doesn’t feel like we’re trying to make something out of it. It’s just there, and that connection between the two feels like an actual bond.
Willie did not have a musical number or singing part in season one. Do you hope to address that in season two?
BOOBOO STEWART: If there’s a season 2! Cheyenne and I have been doing interviews all day, and this question kept coming up. Cheyenne kept saying that he wants a duet between Willie and Alex. He says that the young LGBTQ community needs that. I honestly would love to do that. I think it would be something special.
Do you have any plans on writing more songs with Charlie and the other boys?
MADISON REYES: We haven’t been picked up yet [for Season 2] but we are constantly working on our craft still. So we kind of just like to mess around with a few songwriting camps, just to refresh. Charlie and I are constantly on FaceTime, just messing around with some song ideas, but they’re not with the intentions of [a season 2] because there’s no script of anything, so there’s nothing to go off of. We’re just keeping it fresh so that when we do get picked up, we can write again. We would love to be able to have more of our music in the show.
Since you’re all real-life musicians, have you guys considered writing a song together, or forming a band for real?
CHARLIE GILLESPIE: We’re in a band! The band is called Julie and the Phantoms!
JEREMY SHADA: With the show, [the] big stipulation with the cast was that everybody could actually play and sing and do everything. I think their goal was if it was successful enough, and when we’re actually able to do concerts again, we could go on tour and play as a band, which would be super awesome. I know we would all love to do that.
In our free time, me and the guys, just to get into the headspace and mindset of being a band, have written Sunset Curve songs that you probably haven’t heard, which is fun. I’m sure the ones we wrote at the beginning, like in between takes and we had a break, totally suck. But they were so much fun and I feel like the more you get into the headspace, the better you get. So we’ll see! Hopefully, if we get a second season, it’d be cool to try and do a lot more writing for the show as far as songs go.
If you could switch roles with any of the other characters, who would you want to be?
OWEN JOYNER: Cheyenne Jackson. I’m just going to go ahead and say, Caleb Covington. I would like to lock that in now. That is my official answer. I’ve got to relax with him. He’s going to think I’m a weirdo, [and] he’s not going to want to shoot any more scenes with me. Every interview, I rave about this guy, but I take this too far sometimes. I would like to play Caleb Covington and do a really bad version of what Cheyenne was able to do.
JEREMY SHADA: I would probably choose Luke. My problem is: my guns aren’t going to be as big as Charlie’s. That’s the problem. I don’t know if I can rock the tank top quite as well as Charlie. I just really want to kind of embody the way he speaks in that role. It always makes me laugh.
CHARLIE GILLESPIE: If I had to pick… Reggie has one of the best jokes in the entire series. When he pulls the blanket over his head and scares Sonny and the aunt? My god, that was the funniest thing! It’s the perfect joke! I think it’s just such a classic, a throwback to old television, where a ghost used to be under a blanket and it makes me laugh so much!
But then again, Alex gets to have these romantic scenes with Booboo…
Julie and the Phantoms ended at such a cliffhanger. If you could write or decide what happens next to your character, what would you want it to be?
MADISON REYES: With Caleb now being in the body of Nick, I would really like to be able to work with Cheyenne. I feel like there would really be a cool interaction between the two of them because we see Julie at the end of the show as someone who’s gone over a big leap with her being prepared to perform by herself. Knowing that she is a little tougher, and she can get through things is really cool and it would be really dope to see how she would interact with Caleb now knowing that he’s the man who was behind [what happened to] her and her friends, and see how she would defend them. Nick is really somewhat close to Julie, so there could be a possibility that the two of them might interact.
BOOBOO STEWART: I would really love to just dive deeper into the relationship with Alex and with Caleb. Because you have Caleb on one side, Alex on the other, and then those two relationships create so much tension, friction, and obstacles to make both of them work or not work. [Willie] is stuck in between two polar opposites, and he’s managed to be on both sides of the coin and is trying to juggle it.
What do you think, Julie’s character can teach young girls today when they watch the show?
MADISON REYES: Something that’s really cool about the show is the things that it touches upon — grief, loss, and how it’s okay not to get over it right away. It’s okay to feel things, and with Julie, she let that experience take over her. I just want people to take away that you know it’s okay to be sad sometimes. Know that you still can go out there and do those things that you want to do. You just have to wake up and seize the moment, basically, which is the message behind “Wake Up”.
Let the music guide you and let your friends help you, which is something that the Phantoms do for her. At first, she really wasn’t looking for that hope because she thought that it wasn’t right for her to. But when the guys came, she started seeing all these signs and how if you just let your friends help you and you open up to that one person who means so much [to you], you can get through anything.