Have you fallen in love with Netflix's delightfully endearing teen musical comedy, Julie and the Phantoms? There's probably one standout performance from the 9-episode series that grabbed your attention: the Phantoms' lead singer, Luke. Just who is the actor who plays the ghost band's frontman and makes the vintage '90s muscle tanks look good? He's Canadian actor Charlie Gillespie, and he's about as close as you can get to a real-life Luke.
Before Julie and the Phantoms, Gillespie -- who had bit parts on The CW's Charmed and Chris Pine's I Am the Night -- was in a band and did the Los Angeles open mic scene last year. And Gillespie's musical tastes align with Luke's, even though he was born on the tail end of the '90s. (Luke and his bandmates, Alex and Reggie, unceremoniously died after eating fatal hot dogs in 1995.) "My brothers have been drilling into me the kind of music I should be listening to, the type of people I should be admiring," the 22-year-old actor told ET. "And it's always been musicians from the '70s all the way -- all the way till today really -- but a lot of Green Day, a lot of that punk rock stuff."
It doesn't take long for Gillespie's Luke to build a friendship with Madison Reyes' Julie, and the two like-minded teens grow into fast friends with the potential of something more. And there's Gillespie's soul-crushing ballad, "Unsaid Emily," that's fast becoming one of the series' musical gems. With Luke and the Phantoms skirting a paranormal curse in the finale and discovering their newfound ability to touch, what does this mean for the ghost band? What does this mean for Julie and Luke (or Juke, as they're affectionately called)?
ET: How did you come to Julie and the Phantoms and what initially drew you to the character of Luke?
Charlie Gillespie: I think every actor feels that once in a while you'll read a script and you'll be done reading it, and there's butterflies that'll stick around with you. It's something that just struck with your values, that you can relate with and I was definitely there. When I went to the end of the first episode, the relationship between the Phantoms and Julie, I could just tell that these two groups were going to be absolutely amazing friends. Like family, instantly. And then on top of that, the music. I didn't hear any songs, but they were like, "There's going to be this lead guitarist [in the group]." We went into the room, because when you read the script and then go into the rehearsal room, they'll warm you up. They weren't recording what I was doing at all. It was just like, "Hey, come over here and you're going to read the lines." I was so blown away by that because usually it's like, OK, they're going to record you and then they'll go and re-evaluate you again later. I played a couple of songs and then did this slide, and I knew the second that I did the power slide from the back of the room to their table [that I had a shot]. They went nuts over it. I knew we were going to have fun.
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When did you know that this was going to be Julie and the Phantoms, the band?
There were three different stages of it. The groups were getting smaller and the groups were getting more precise. I was sticking around with Madison and Jer[emy] and Owen. I could tell that they vibed with us and we could tell that we were vibing together. I always felt like everything we were talking about onstage had happened, and we were that band from 1995 and we were playing in a garage. But then they called us up again one last time, they were like, "Hey, we want to see you guys. They want to see you guys play one more time." I think me and Jeremy had an inkling, but no way that we thought we were going to know that day. We get up onstage, we do our song, Madison introduces us and then Kenny walks up -- and that was the coolest line. He says, "You're the band," not you're the character, not you're the actors who got the role on the TV show. That's been the biggest line for all of us.
Since the Phantoms are a product of the '90s, were you alive then? What kind of '90s stuff are you into?
I was! [Gillespie was born in 1998.] My brothers have been drilling into me the kind of music I should be listening to, the type of people I should be admiring. And it's always been musicians from the '70s all the way -- all the way till today really -- but a lot of Green Day, a lot of that punk rock stuff. That's what I really vibe with. And so I already had a bit of a knowledge, if that's how you want to say it. But other than that, the '90s are a little far from me.
How much of Luke is your own personality? What personality traits do you identify with and don't identify with?
Now I'm going into [the direction of] who he is a lot more because of the show, but at the start, I only had an acoustic guitar and I'd bring my guitar around to a bonfire. I'd play a bunch of songs, we'd all sing and that was kind of it. When I went to the little electric [guitar], I started going around Los Angeles and I would go to every open mic that I could find; I was at two per night. I started diving into this little world of open mics and, yeah it was 2019, but the environment, the people there, their passion for music is what it would have been like in the '90s.
Let's dig into the series. You had a really big episode with the eighth of the season, which offered powerful insight into Luke's relationship with his parents and the awful note they left before he died. And there's a beautiful song in that episode, "Unsaid Emily," as well. Was that episode a personal highlight for you?
Yeah. The writers all gave us a lot of insight on who these characters were before the show. And so we got to figure out a lot about our characters and get them open about talking about that stuff. But being able to live it like that and sing that song for my mom in the show was pretty next level because everybody has moms. Everybody's fought with their parents and everybody's taken it a step too far, but you should never forget what family means to you and who your family members are to you because one day you might lose them. Being able to have that scene was really something special. I hope more people reflect on that because it's their parents.
Julie and Luke have a special connection that grows stronger throughout the season. From Luke's perspective, what is it about Julie that he's enamored with or likes?
These two people probably would never run into each other in the real world. Her love for music is beyond just vibing with a song. To her, it's something that she has to do. It hurts her at the start that she's not playing anymore, and it hurts her because her mom's not there playing with her but she tries to face it but just can't. I think that lives in Luke as well. There's nothing he wants to do more than to play his guitar in front of people. They can relate on that and they can relate on their parents, but they can also relate on just being friends. Have you ever been friends with somebody, and then you almost want to ask, "Why does it work so well?" But then you kind of don't want to and you just want to live it? And these guys are best friends like that. These guys were thrown into a situation that was out of the ordinary, 100 percent, and they're just rolling with it.
Since you are technically playing a ghost, who can walk through doors and walls, how tricky was that to film? Was there a moment on set where you were like, "I don't know... I look ridiculous right now!"
Always. You have to teleport. You have to do this little movement. And I was thinking, it's like a little fun movement and the other boys were always a little hesitant. But I was like, "Just do it. It's going to look cool at the end with the special effects, guys. Just do something big. It's going to look cool at the end." And so, then we were in. But it looked so ridiculous. If you watch it without the special effects, it's kind of giggly, right? But it was cool. Imagine being a 17-year-old-boy who walks through walls and then -- well, he can't pick anything up yet, but then he'll grow to pick things up -- all you're going to want to do is have fun with it. There's a scene where Julie and Luke are in the kitchen and they're talking, and Julie has to get back to school and the teachers won't let her because there's not enough room. And I was like, "You got to play. You got to go. You've got to go play for them. That's how you're going to get back in." There's a couple that were written in the script, but I was always like, "What if I put my head through the door here? What if I walk through Madison or walk through the streets?" Just all excited because that's what I was doing as Luke, and they were going for it. They were loving the idea. There are a few moments that were added afterwards, but he was trying to cheer up this person -- might as well put my head through a couple of doors.
You got to record a slew of original songs for the soundtrack and also co-write "Perfect Harmony" with Madison. Which one is your personal favorite?
I could tell you the name of a song. I've been saying different songs in every interview because I can't decide. I love them all. Every one means so much to me. I'll give you two. "Bright" is the first song we ever played as a band. It's the one we used to play so strong together. That one means a lot to me, but "Now or Never" -- it's a punk rock song from the '90s, it's so fun. What's your favorite?
You have to give kudos to "Edge of Great," but "Unsaid Emily" is a special one because everyone can relate to what the song is about.
You don't want to see anybody hurting with their mom. I really liked filming that [song]. We were supposed to film that in a studio, but then everyone was like, "Why don't we just do it near a garage?" And I think the garage is one of the coolest locations we filmed in because it's the coolest s**t ever. It's just a perfect band room, but I'm so stoked that I ended up filming that one there.
Let's talk about the cliffhanger. Caleb possesses Nick's body at the very end of the finale and he clearly has a plan for the Phantoms. And all of a sudden, Julie and the Phantoms can touch. What do you make of these finale cliffhangers and what do you personally want to explore in season 2?
Dun, dun, dun! It's going to be fun. Maddie's really wanted to interact with Caleb a little more because he's now [in the inner circle]. She's really excited about that. I really hope that if we do get a season 2, to let my superpowers grow.
There's also unfinished business between Julie and Luke, and they could possibly be more than friends. But there's the little wrinkle of Luke being a ghost. What are you hoping for?
Yeah, it's complicated because he's a ghost. In Luke's eyes, I'm sure he wants to date Julie, like 100 percent. He's smitten about her, I can guarantee you. But they're ghosts, so it's impossible because I don't know, he's dead. (Laughs.) And you hear Flynn talk about it and she's like, "You know, he's not real." That's the hardest thing. And you know, she does work really well with Nick too. Nick's a pretty cool guy and he's an amazing musician as well. So, it makes sense if they try and start dating but who knows?
It's hard because he's a ghost and she's a girl. I think what's so beautiful about season 1 is you know it's there, the energy is there, the chemistry is there but there are very specific moments where my character figures it out, there's a specific moment where her character figures it out and they became best friends. They write music together you know? And so, I think it's a great message for people to realize -- make sure you're best friends with somebody before you continue, before we really ask that question on the show. So I'm excited to see what the [writers] have in mind for what's next.
You're being very diplomatic about it, but it's hard to root against Luke right now.
No? Oh Sacha [Carlson, who plays Nick]. That smile? He's excited for that if we get a season 2. He's going to be able to play this really innocent boy and then to [does an evil laugh]-type villain. I wonder if Caleb is going to possess any other people...
Like one of the Phantoms?
Oh my god! Do you think they can do that? Do you think another ghost can do that to another ghost? That's intense. Who knows! I mean, they are ghosts.
A portion of the Q&A was combined with a junket interview.
Julie and the Phantomsis streaming now on Netflix. To watch Julie hilariously attempt to divert attention away from the Phantoms with her oblivious father on the series, watch the clip below.