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Queerty: Owen Thiele dishes on Disney Channel crushes and the theater kid to ‘Theater Camp’ pipeline

Owen Thiele in a grey sleeveless suit at SundanceImage Credit: Getty Images

Yes, Owen Thiele identifies as a former “theater kid.”

Well before he was an actor, singer-songwriter, and internet personality known for his hilarious videos, this jack-of-all-trades was—like so many baby gays—singing his heart out on stage in front of his classmates.

So it’s destiny that he found his way to the satirical comedy Theater Camp (starring opposite fiancés Ben Platt and Noah Galvin) as the delightfully named Gigi Charbonier, a counselor at Stagedoor Manor-esque summer camp for musically gifted kids.

Even among a killer ensemble of seasoned performers and scene-stealers, Thiele’s a breakout star in his first major film role. But that should be no surprise to anyone who first discovered his comedic chops through Cazzie David’s (the daughter of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm creator Larry David) web series Eight-Sixed, or has followed his hilarious antics on Instagram.

Since then, Thiele has has memorable turns in Hacks, Dollface, Netflix sketch comedy I Think You Should Leave, and more. But 2023 is poised to be his biggest year yet, following up Theater Camp with a role in the Brittany Snow-directed drama Parachute and the movie sequel to Jamie Lynn Spears’ Nickelodeon series, Zoey 102.

With the curtain set to rise on Theater Camp on July 14, we invited Thiele to be the latest guest in our rapid-fire Q&A series, Dishin’ It. The actor opens up about the very “summer camp” vibe on the set of his new movie, reveals two (very different) crushes from his Disney Channel days, and gives us a glimpse into the past at “high school Owen.”

Is there a piece of media—whether a movie, TV series, book, album, games, etc…—that you consider a big part of your own coming-out journey, or that has played an important part in exploring your own queerness? Why does it stand out to you?

High School Musical. A true awakening. Seeing Zac Efron run through a golf course pulling up his shirt singing “Bet On It”… I was like, “You bet your *ss I’m gay!”

You filmed Theater Camp at an actual theater camp, so what can you tell us about life on set? Were you all sleeping in bunk beds and eating in a mess hall? What’s one of your favorite memories from the shoot?

Practically! A lot of the cast were all staying in one little hotel and we would go sit near the hotel’s very janky pool and bond and talk. It was beautiful… the relationships, [if] not necessarily the pool. Jimmy [Tatro]and I would go to Outback Steakhouse almost every night. I will say— Outback is yum. A blooming onion?! Delish.

Were you a theater kid yourself back in the day? How would you describe high school Owen?

I was very much a theater kid. I was lucky because at my high school, if you were a theater kid or an artist or just creative in any way, you were actually the cool kid. The jocks were begging me to get them into our production of Bye Bye Birdie. It was iconic.

Your career has taken you to a lot of cool places and festivals, and you’ve had the opportunity to work and talk with so many other celebrities. With that in mind, who’s a star you’ve met that surprised you the most?

I watched the movie version of Hairspray so much growing up that I thought Brittany Snow was actually Amber from the movie. And then I had the pleasure of working with her on her film Parachute and I realized that she’s just an amazing actress and that’s ultimately what acting is. She is so talented and nice and such a light.

Who’s a fictional character you had a crush on at a younger age (or maybe still do!)? What do you remember loving about them?

This is going to be so weird and I can’t believe I’m sharing this but Shego from Kim Possible. So hot….

Who is a queer or trans artist/performer/creator that you think is doing really cool work right now? Why are they someone we should all be paying attention to?

I think Ethel Cain is one of the most talented and brilliant musicians on the scene right now. I listen to her album everyday. I think I started taking walks to just listen to her music. The neighbors think I’m having some kind of life crisis because of how much I walk around the block.

Scroll down below for more from Thiele’s Instagram…

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