Joshua Bassett Says He Nearly Died After Olivia Rodrigo Released ‘Drivers License’

Joshua Bassett is speaking publicly about the near-fatal health crisis he experienced last year as public scrutiny over his private life reached a fever pitch.

The actor, best known for his role on the Disney+ series “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series,” spent much of 2021 amid a frenzy of media speculation following the release of his co-star Olivia Rodrigo’s breakout smash, “Drivers License.” Many fans believe the song was an ode to a real-life, behind-the-scenes romance between Bassett and Rodrigo, and their subsequent breakup.

Though Rodrigo has never clarified the inspiration behind “Drivers License,” that didn’t stop legions of fans from inundating Bassett with hateful comments and even online death threats. Speaking to People in an interview published Wednesday, Bassett said the stress he subsequently experienced led to him being hospitalized with heart failure in January 2021, just days after “Drivers License” dropped.

“I was sleeping 16 to 20 hours a day,” he explained. “I couldn’t even stand up for longer than 30 seconds … I felt my heart literally failing. I was like, ‘This isn’t just anxiety. This is bad.’”

Joshua Bassett currently stars in "Better Nate Than Ever," which debuts on Disney+ April 1.
Joshua Bassett currently stars in “Better Nate Than Ever,” which debuts on Disney+ April 1.

Amy Sussman via Getty Images

Bassett was diagnosed with septic shock, and was told his illness may have been brought on my stress. “The doctors were like, ‘If you hadn’t checked in within 12 hours, you would have died in your apartment,’” he said. “It’s wild that I was this close to taking another nap.”

In the end, Bassett said he was hospitalized for nine days, and continued to experience depression and panic attacks after he was discharged. He went on to credit his therapist, along with yoga and meditation, with helping him regain his footing.

And these days, Bassett is hopeful to kick off a new chapter. In June of last year, he came out as a member of the LGBTQ community, and has since emerged as an outspoken advocate for queer youth. Last month, he unveiled a new pop single, “Doppelgänger.”

He also stars in the new Disney+ movie, “Better Nate Than Ever,” a coming-of-age story about a misfit teen (played by Rueby Wood) who runs away to New York in hopes of pursuing Broadway stardom.

Regarding his latest endeavors, Bassett told People, “Everything I do aligns with what I needed when I was 10.”

“With that, I’m constantly seeking how can I have a greater impact on myself and others, whether through music, charity or projects,” he said. “My mission is to bring light to people and help them find their peace. That’s all I ever want to do, truly.”

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