Quirky show idea? Check. Diverse characters? Check. Awesome soundtrack? Check. Cute band boys? Triple check!
A show made for teens is always hard to make when it’s walking the line between too childish for adults and too graphic for teens. But, maybe the new teen musical, Julie and the Phantoms is the answer to this problem.
Directed by Kenny Ortega (AKA the mastermind behind the High School Musical and the Descendants trilogies), nothing short of amazing was expected out of this new show, which is exactly what Ortega delivered. The Netflix series is a musical-based supernatural storyline filled with mystery and romance.
The new Netflix series, based off of the original Brazilian hit show, Julie e os Fantasmas, stars upcoming actress Madison Reyes as Julie Molina.
Julie is a 15-year-old musical prodigy that is maneuvering her way through high school while dealing with her mom’s recent death and the resulting loss of her passion for music.
One night she discovers and accidentally summons the three ghosts (or phantoms, if you will) of Luke (Charlie Gillespie), Alex (Owen Joyner), and Reggie (Jeremy Shada), who were teenage rock stars that died back in 1995, right before they were going to perform the biggest show of their career.
Julie is the only living person (or “lifer” as described in the show) that can see the three guys, you know, in true Disney-esque fashion. Soon after, they discover that the band can actually be seen by humans when they perform with Julie (a twist!). So of course, they decide to start a band. Julie navigates her way through high school drama and crushes while also finding a passion for music again with the help of her new ghostly bandmates.
Credit: Netflix (Left to Right: Jeremy Shada, Madison Reyes, Charles Gillespie, Owen Patrick Joyner)
In this unique Netflix original, there is so much to love. The idea itself is very intriguing in the fact that it has a little bit of everything for everyone. Especially when it comes to its characters.
The cast for the series is one of the most diverse for a children’s/teen’s show that I have personally seen. Having characters with different ethnicities, sexual orientations, and home life dynamics which is one of the best things about this show. It gives its audience of young, impressionable teens and pre-teens the representation that many television shows lacked in earlier years.
Our main character, Julie Molina, is a talented, young Latina that has an incredible passion for music but who’s also struggling to grapple with the expectations of being a teenager. Coming from a newly single-parent household, she is attempting to figure out the new dynamic structure for her family with the absence of her mother.
The band’s kind-hearted drummer, Alex (Owen Patrick Joyner), is the show’s only openly gay character. This is a huge strive in the right direction when it comes to LGBTQ+ representation within shows that are targeted toward young audiences.
Luke (Charles Gillespie), the guitarist of the band, although not an outwardly diverse character, goes through an interesting development throughout the series. Towards the end of the nine-episode season, we find out that Luke had left his parents on bad terms before he died due to the lack of support for his music career. Thus, revealing a more vulnerable side of the lovable guy that we first see in the beginning. Having a character have a situation such as this, makes them much more human and relatable to many teens who have gone or are going through similar struggles right now.
The show’s comedic relief and bass player, Reggie (Jeremy Shada), had been insinuated to have parents that were not very loving and that fought frequently. In one of the early episodes, his parents had been described to have been “one fight away from a divorce” which may resonate quite a lot for many people who have unstable home lives. It has actually been a conspiracy amongst fans that due to the instability of his home life, Reggie has developed a need to cling onto other parental figures to find comfort.
We also get introduced to Julie’s best friend, Flynn (Jadah Marie Johnson). Flynn is a talented, 15-year-old Black girl, who is in the same music program as Julie. Throughout the series Flynn’s character becomes a voice of reason, playing a huge role in Julie’s character development. She remains a prominent character in Julie’s life, so much so that she is actually the subject of one of Julie’s songs in the show, Flying Solo.
As a supportive role, there is Willie (Booboo Stewart), a fellow ghost that becomes tied into the Phantoms’ ghostly adventures. His character provides guidance through the afterlife, becoming a key element in the progression of the story. Although not specifically touched upon in the series due to Willie having less of his backstory revealed, Stewart is known to be of mixed descendants thus translating into his character’s identity.
Additionally, Julie’s father in the series, Ray Molina, is played by the famous Puerto Rican telenovela actor, Carlos Ponce. This is seen as a significant inclusion by the Latinx community since Ponce was a prominent actor within the telenovela world throughout the 2000s and 2010s.
Along with having a huge range of diverse characters, there’s also something else that’s amazing, the soundtrack!
The entire nine episodes of the feel-good, musical series are actually named after the song that is most prominently featured in each episode. Each episode comes with lessons being learned, friendships being tested, and bonds being formed between many of the characters. Music becomes the glue that sticks the entire show together and makes everything work.
Photo credit: Netflix
As the show progresses, we see how Julie’s relationships with her bandmates, friends, family, and her passion for music goes through many different twists and turns. The series soundtrack steers the audience through the dynamic changes in each character’s life.
Photo credit: Netflix
From the Phantoms’ ‘90s punk rock song, Now or Never, to the last song that Julie wrote with her mother, Wake Up, the soundtrack details the vastly different aspects of the show and the journey that the main characters take.
The songs from the show even become an outlet for the show’s antagonists to reveal their own personalities and stories.
There really is something for everyone in the Julie and the Phantoms soundtrack.
(As of September 16th, the Julie and the Phantoms soundtrack went #1 on the iTunes music charts.)
This surprisingly deep and meaningful show is one with many different themes and lessons that the characters go through. By having these themes be put into a show made for such a wide audience, it provides a great platform to talk about subjects that may have been seen as too taboo for tv. But, this show somehow makes these tough subjects much easier to digest and to learn from with the way that it is structured.
Julie and the Phantoms does a good job touching on difficult subjects such as dealing with death, grief, and regret as well as emotional healing with multiple characters. The series tackles teenagers having to figure out who they are and the challenges of finding your identity. During this modern age, the question of sexuality arises and the anxieties that come along with it. The struggle to figure out the way the dynamics of love and relationships are different now when compared to before. Redemption is also seen in multiple forms throughout the series when characters are forced to deal with the consequences of their actions, whether they were intentional or not.
Family is also a huge aspect when it comes to the relationships within the show. The literal interpretation of this theme can be seen as Julie’s family deals with the loss of her mother, their family struggles in restructuring themselves into a single-parent household throughout the entire season. This theme can be found through the turmoil that was left behind in Luke’s family due to regret and grief being addressed toward the end of the show. But there is a more figurative representation of this theme in how the band sees one another as their new, chosen family that can depend on each other since some of them didn’t have that opportunity when they were alive.
I would highly recommend everyone to go and see what I mean when I say that this show is definitely not something that you want to miss.