Joshua Bassett Opens Up About His Sexuality and the Olivia Rodrigo, Sabrina Carpenter Love Triangle

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Joshua Bassett wants to translate his feelings to music, à la Olivia Rodrigo. In an interview with GQ, the 20-year-old High School Musical: The Musical: The Series actor reflects on how his 18-year-old co-star and rumored ex wowed with her breakup anthem-filled debut album, Sour, which is thought by many to be about their split.

"[It's an artist's job to] carry the emotional weight for other people. That's what's so great about Olivia's album," Bassett says. "She was able to articulate the feelings that she felt in a way that works on behalf of other people. I haven’t been able to face any of it. I’ll get back to it."

"... I've had a hard time writing just because it's been so painful," he adds. "I've had a hard time facing it in the way that I need to."

Before Sour made Rodrigo a star, she and Bassett were cast alongside one another in the Disney+ series. Their chemistry, Bassett says, was instant. 

"It was very obvious, in my opinion, that she was the perfect one for it," he says of Nini, Rodrigo's HSMTMTS role. "I think people can tell when they watch the show. It was just an instant sort of connection."

That connection is rumored to have developed into a relationship, though neither Bassett nor Rodrigo has ever confirmed as much.

Then came "Drivers License," Rodrigo's breakout single that sparked all sorts of speculation, namely that Bassett broke up with Rodrigo for "a blonde girl," thought by many to be Disney Channel star Sabrina Carpenter, who Bassett is currently rumored to be dating.

"People don’t know anything they’re talking about," Bassett says of fan theories, the likes of which only increased after he released "Lie Lie Lie," a song that many saw as his response to "Drivers License," though it was written months prior.

"The hardest thing [has been] biting my tongue, in a lot of ways, but the reality is it’s kind of like a lost cause trying to talk about any of that stuff, and I refuse to feed into any of the bulls**t, so I just don’t," he says. "[Everyone] is asking me about Sabrina [Carpenter] and Olivia. Why don't we focus on these women for who they are? Let's focus on the art that they're making and how great they are instead of their relationship to a boy."

While fans were busy debating who the songs were about -- a conversation that significantly ramped up after Carpenter released her track, "Skin" -- Bassett was focused on something else entirely: his health. Amid all the drama, Bassett was "getting very ill, and it kept getting worse."

"I thought it was, like, food poisoning or whatever. It got worse, it got worse, it got worse, it got worse," he says. He ended up being hospitalized with "unimaginable pain" on the day "Lie Lie Lie" was released.

"I’m sure stress had a part in it," he says, noting that his illness turned out to be septic shock and heart failure. "[The doctors] told me that I had a 30 percent chance of survival. They told me that if I had not checked into the hospital within 12 hours, I would have been found [dead] in my apartment."

The medical emergency, Bassett says, made it so he "didn't have any energy to be able to focus on anything but staying alive."

Joshua Bassett
Andy Jackson/GQ

Following the release of his self-titled EP in March, Bassett made headlines once again, this time for his sexuality. In May, a clip that Bassett described as his "coming out video," in which he called Harry Styles "hot," went viral.

While some questioned the seriousness of the clip, Bassett tells GQ, "I wasn't joking."

After the video went viral, Bassett took to Instagram to reflect on his sexuality, telling his followers, "Love who you love shamelessly. It’s OK to still be figuring out who you are. Life’s too short to let ignorance and hatred win. I choose love."

"[It gave me] an opportunity to say something that I believe in," he tells the magazine of his Instagram post. "I stood behind every word that I said. Even if there are consequences, I would much rather deal with consequences and live my truth than live in fear."

Bassett says that he identifies as part of the LGBTQ community, but is hesitant to put any labels on his sexuality.

"I am anti-coming out in the sense that there’s no need to. People are welcome to have boxes if they want them," he says. "... There are plenty of letters in the alphabet... Why bother rushing to a conclusion? Sometimes your letter changes, sometimes you try a different one, other times you realize you’re not what you thought you were, or maybe you always knew."

"All of these can be true," Bassett continues. "I’m happy to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community because they embrace all. Don’t let anyone tell you love isn’t love. They’re the ones who probably need it the most."

Bassett hopes that being open about his sexuality will encourage other young people to do the same. 

"I just hope that this generation can feel comfortable, confident, and safe talking about sexuality without needing to be a box and without needing to have it all figured out," he says. "It makes me emotional. I didn't necessarily have that when I was younger. I didn't have a me saying stuff like this. I'm very at peace. I'm celebrating Pride all month long."

As he's celebrating pride, working on new music, and doing his best to ignore the chatter, Basset says he's "growing so much."

"The year that I've had has been earth-shattering," he says. "I'm still landing on my feet."

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