By Zach Johnson
This is the start of something new, Wildcats.
Production is underway in Salt Lake City, Utah, on the highly anticipated and reimagined High School Musical: The Musical: The Series for Disney+, The Walt Disney Company’s upcoming streaming service. Joining previously announced star Joshua Bassett (Stuck in the Middle) are cast members Olivia Rodrigo (Bizaardvark), Kate Reinders (Modern Family), Sofia Wylie (Andi Mack), Matt Cornett (Bella and the Bulldogs), Dara Reneé (Freaky Friday), Julia Lester (Mom), Frankie Rodriguez (Modern Family), Larry Saperstein (Fan Girl), and Mark St. Cyr (Doomsday).
The 10-episode series picks up nearly 15 years after the first movie aired, at the real-life location where it all began: East High. It follows a group of students as they rehearse for opening night of their school’s first production of High School Musical. Behind the scenes, show-mances develop; friendships are both forged and tested; rivalries rage; and lives are changed forever.
Brand-new songs and acoustic “rehearsal-room” reinterpretations of songs from the original High School Musical provide the soundtrack, with Zach Woodlee (Glee, Dumplin’) choreographing the numbers. The series is developed and executive produced by Tim Federle (Ferdinand) with showrunner and executive producer Oliver Goldstick (Pretty Little Liars); Bill Borden and Barry Rosenbush, from the original High School Musical trilogy, are also executive producers. Tamra Davis (Empire, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) is directing the first three episodes.
“The challenge we handed the creative team was Herculean. How do you recapture the joy and the magic of the original High School Musical movie… and simultaneously reimagine it completely?” said Gary Marsh, president and chief creative officer, Disney Channels Worldwide. “That’s like trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube blindfolded. And Tim and Oliver—and this amazingly talented and diverse cast and crew—have done exactly that!”
Here are the character breakdowns:
- High school junior Ricky (Bassett) is a sarcastic yet charismatic skater who sets out to prove himself to his ex-girlfriend Nini—by auditioning to star opposite her in a musical.
- Nini (Rodrigo) found her voice at summer theater camp—along with a new boyfriend. Fiercely loyal to her two moms, she’s a shining star—even if she doesn’t always think so.
- Miss Jenn (Reinders) is a new drama teacher who believes musicals can save lives. She may experience imposter syndrome, but she’d do anything for her students.
- A transfer student with a secret past, Gina (Wylie) is a theater veteran. Ambitious and entitled, she’s keen to show Miss Jenn she shouldn’t have been cast as an understudy.
- Nini’s new love interest E.J. (Cornett) is the completely confident son of two corporate lawyers, who secretly feels the pressure of living up to his picture-perfect social media persona. As co-captain of the water polo team, senior class treasurer, and trust fund baby, E.J. is used to getting what he wants—like the lead in role in the school musical.
- Kourtney (Reneé) is obsessed with makeup tutorials and feminism in equal measure. Nini’s ride-or-die BFF, Kourtney also works on the costume crew of High School Musical.
- E.J.’s cousin Ashlyn (Lester) is an “old soul” who worships Sara Bareilles—so much that she secretly dreams of following in her idol’s footsteps to become a songwriter herself.
- As captain of the color guard and student choreographer, Carlos (Rodriguez) thinks of Miss Jenn as a peer. In fact, he eats lunch in her office and has been drinking espresso since third grade. And of course, Carlos already has his Tony Awards® speech memorized.
- Big Red (Saperstein) is the quintessential skater boy, always fuzzy and sleep-deprived. He’s weirdly devastated by Ricky and Nini’s split, as he’s been their third wheel forever.
- East High’s somewhat stiff S.T.E.M. teacher Mr. Mazzara (St. Cyr) believes in preparing students for the future, which leads him to butt heads with the daydreaming Miss Jenn.
“We are truly excited about this extremely talented cast and the fresh and contemporary take on this globally beloved franchise,” said Agnes Chu, senior vice president of content, Disney+. “From the music and dance, to the characters and hilarious meta references, there is something here for fans of the originals, as well as people who are new to East High. It’s going to be an unforgettable viewing experience for Disney+ subscribers.”
Disney+, The Walt Disney Company’s upcoming direct-to-consumer streaming service, is set to launch in the U.S. later this year.