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In Better Nate Than Ever — a Disney film that follows a 13-year-old boy’s adventures as he sneaks away from Pennsylvania to Manhattan to score an audition for a Lilo & Stitch Broadway musical — Joshua Bassett stars as Nate’s protective older brother, Anthony.
The role marks a reunion in more ways than one for Bassett as the 21-year-old multi-hyphenate broke out by starring in the Tim Federle-created High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, also for Disney. Federle also directed him in Better Nate Than Ever from a script he adapted from his novel of the same name and Bassett has many good things to say about reteaming with his boss.
“Tim’s superpower is that he empowers people and he believes in people in such a way that it allows them to believe in themselves,” explained Bassett, who stars opposite Rueby Wood, Lisa Kudrow, Norbert Leo Butz, Michelle Federer and Aria Brooks. “Tim Federle has been instrumental in empowering me to be who I am, truly. Meeting him three years ago through High School Musical and seeing who he is and being so inspired by him, he’s changed my life in so many ways. He’s so fearless, and it’s allowed me to be fearless because of that.”
Bassett put those skills to the test last summer when he came out as a member of the LGBTQ community during an interview with GQ. Though he advocates for not labeling sexuality, Bassett told The Hollywood Reporter at Tuesday night’s premiere that while people have assumed it was scary or hard, to him, the revelation was the easiest thing he’s ever done.
“What was scary and hard was the 20 years leading up to it,” he said. “So, it truly was liberating. I really haven’t looked back. There’s power in telling the truth. People on the internet, trolls, they don’t really get to me anymore. I know that the people that it has helped are far more important than some people who maybe have some nasty things to project onto me. That stuff is just noise. When you hear a message from a kid saying, ‘You saved my life,’ or ‘Because of you, now I feel like I can be myself,’ — it’s the greatest honor in the world to be a role model in any way or to liberate other people to tell and live their truth.”
Better Nate Than Ever is backed by some of the same themes of authenticity and living in one’s truth and because of that, Bassett said it’s the film he wished he had when he was 10 years old. “As soon as I read the script, I was like, ‘I need to be part of that,'” he said. “This kid is a star and a light, and he’s not afraid of being himself, so why should I be ashamed?”
Bassett, who is prepping new music and will have more to announce on that front soon, said that his new outlook on life and work is having a great influence on what he chooses to do next. “I’m following my heart,” he said. “Every project that I do aligns with what I needed when I was younger; what will change the world, what is powerful and honest and authentic, and what is important to me. That sort of allows me to weed out the projects that would be cool, but aren’t really impactful. Everything I do is anchored in that, whether that’s music, film, TV or beyond. It’s all about what impact do I want to make in the world and how can we make this a safer and better place for everyone?”
Better Nate Than Ever is streaming April 1 on Disney+.
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