East High – the real East High – opened its doors on Friday for a sneak peek from High School Musical: The Musical: The Series only days ahead of its official launch on November 12 at Disney +.
Picking up the first day of a new school year, the premiere introduces us to Ricky (Joshua Bassett), an emotionally clueless junior who is crushed to discover that his ex-girlfriend Nini (Olivia Rodrigo) has moved on with a new guy who she met at the theater camp – although it was his idea to take a break from their relationship during the summer. (For all boys, I'm sorry. I don't know why we're like this.) And Nini didn't just go on with anyone, etc; she now goes to E.J. (Matt Cornett), a real Troy Bolton with an angel's voice and a Disney prince's jaw.
When East High's new theater director ̵
Gas couples abound when the cast list is published and Not only does Nini beat out new girl Gina (Sofia Wylie) for the role of Gabriella, but Ricky also manages to land the part of Troja, much to the dismay of EJ, who is forced to serve as Ricky's understudy. As the show's stage manager says so eloquently, " Buckle up, Wildcats. S – t is about to become real. "
TVLine talked with executive producer Tim Federle about bringing HSM: TM: TS to life, as well as what we can expect from the rest of the first season … and on:
TVLINE | When I first heard that this show was made as a mockumentary, I had my doubts, but now that I've seen it I feel it couldn't have done
The second way would have been a direct start-up or a fourth movie. And while I get the fantasy about all this, I don't know the real world [possibility] to get them all these actors again. I'm a Broadway guy and I have a language for taking original material and doing it in a new way. That's exactly how theater treats things. And I love the original songs. They are still bop. But it's fun to hear them transformed in new ways. It's also an opportunity to get a whole bunch of new songs out there. So it's been a blast.
TVLINE | The original movie also takes itself so seriously. Thirteen years later, I'm not sure the same tone would have worked.
Yes, and we took the mockumentary strategy – because I grew up with Waiting to Guffman and The Office which are such cultural pointers – so we could look at the camera and say : "We know this is a little ridiculous," which felt important.
TVLINE | As I said, the musical numbers, at least in the premiere, are quite serious. Did you specifically want them to feel separate from the rest of the show, stylistically?
We do a variety of musical thinking. Later in the season we have a complete fantasy number, which has a cameo from an original cast member. But we also have super-earth songs. We got these actors – like Joshua and Olivia – playing their own instruments and singing the songs live without autotune. I hope that level of authenticity reaches an audience so used to Tik Tok's own life, and that they will know the real when they see it.
TVLINE | Are you predicting that fans will take sides between Ricky and EJ?
I think there will be some Team Ricky and Team EJ But beyond the premiere, E.J. do some really stupid high school boy things that feel a little irrevocable. Team Ricky is the obvious thing, but I think a number of people will agree to EJ as well.
TVLINE | Given that this show is about musical theater, I appreciated the level of LGBT representation, from Nini's moms to characters like Carlos and Seb. Much was suggested, but will some characters actually talk about being gay as the show progresses?
If you stick to the series long enough, you will see [Carlos and Seb’s] relationships grow into something that I think is both very relatable and maybe a little new to Disney. With Disney + of everything, there was a sense of "Let's swing big and take risks." At no time did anyone [from Disney Channel or Disney+] tell "Please please this joke that makes fun of Disney or Zac Efron." Or, "Please please this serious moment that suggests a level of authenticity and diversity we all know exists in the real world." I think we push boundaries, while always thinking that we want the show to appeal to a wide audience , including moms who can watch it in a viewing experience with their children. Sometimes we take baby steps, and sometimes we take jumping hope.
TVLINE | Looking back at the original movies, the fact that Ryan – which was so clearly gay – ended with Kelsey feeling like such a tragedy.
I wasn't there right now, and I understand the challenges of trying to appeal to as wide an audience as possible without raging I don't feel like my show is trying to compensate for everything that wasn't there before, but I think it's a new generation and having a role with 15, 16 and 17 year olds, I'm aware I can't put something there that they will roll their eyes on. They are real teenagers who live real lives.
TVLINE | And you've already been picked for season 2, which is exciting. However, I understand the plan not to do High School Musical 2 next year?
Right, there will be another musical. We are circling a title right now that I'm really excited about. It is definitely outside the world of Troy and Gabriella. At the end of the day, it comes after something that will be escapist for people.
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