Arts & Entertainment, Features

Joshua Bassett, Matt Cornett talk ‘High School Musical: The Musical: The Series’ season 2

“High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” revitalized a generation’s love for the High School Musical franchise and expanded it to new audiences in 2019.

Olivia Rodrigio and Joshua Bassett
Olivia Rodrigo and Joshua Bassett in “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” season two. The Daily Free Press joined a press conference with Bassett and Matt Cornett to discuss the series’ upcoming season, which premieres Friday on Disney+. COURTESY OF DISNEY MEDIA & ENTERTAINMENT DISTRIBUTION

A nostalgic twist on the 2000s movie trilogy, the Disney+ original series follows a fictional high school drama group at “East High” — the same school where the original movie was filmed. In season one, a new drama teacher prepares an excited cast to perform “High School Musical” at the school almost 15 years after the original movie’s release.

The series, created by Tim Federle, is both an ode to the celebrated classic and a new fan favorite. It boosts up-and-coming stars such as Olivia Rodrigo, Joshua Bassett and Matt Cornett and includes new ballads like Rodrigo’s “All I Want” that could rival Vanessa Hudgens’ “When There Was Me and You.”

Season two expands upon the original series with new rivalries, songs and twists. It follows the Wildcats as they prepare for their spring musical “Beauty and the Beast” and compete for an award against their rival “North High,” led by drama teacher Zack Roy, played by Derek Hough.

The Daily Free Press joined a Disney press conference on April 19 with stars Bassett and Cornett — who play Ricky Bowen and E.J. Caswell, respectively — to discuss season two.

Season two premieres Friday in the United States on Disney+, with new episodes released each week.

Overall, the two stars reflected nothing but optimism for the new season, and both said loyal season one fans would adore the new season even more.

“Season two really is just double the everything,” Bassett said. “It’s double the singing, double the dancing and double the drama, and also double the fun.”

Bassett’s character Ricky ends season one finally reconnecting with his ex-girlfriend, Nini Salazar-Roberts, played by Rodrigo. But in season two, Nini breaks the news that she is leaving for a prestigious conservatory in Colorado, complicating the situation.

Cornett said the new season is “bigger and better in every way.” He said he thinks people will be drawn to the story because of the variety of characters and storylines.

“There’s so many different stories and so many different things to relate to,” he said. “I think there truly is something for everyone.”

Bassett said the series also hopes to “normalize a lot of things that might’ve been a little bit taboo ten years ago” by creating stories many different people can relate to.

“There’s so many unique characters that can speak to so many different people and I think that’s really important,” he said. “The underlying truth to a lot of the writing in the show … it really resonates with people.”

Bassett described Ricky as a go-getter and a character with a lot of heart who’s still learning — something he said he thinks fans can empathize with, as he does himself.

“Even though he’s trying his best, he falls on his face sometimes and he’s still figuring everything out and he’s still learning how to love and what that even means,” he said. “That resonates with me a bunch and so it’s interesting sort of learning from my character.”

Cornett said E.J. — an ambitious and confident but secretly vulnerable member of the drama club who also dated Nini in season one — is a “good guy deep down” still figuring out who he is.

“You get to follow him this season as well watching him figure himself out,” he said. “E.J. and [I] are very similar in the fact that … I truly always do want the best for everyone and I think E.J.’s very much so the same way.”

Cornett said though there definitely was “a little bit of nervousness” making sure they were doing justice to the High School Musical trilogy in the first season, they were all very happy with the final product.

“We got to pay respects to the films, but also kind of branching off and doing our own thing,” Cornett said. “The writing and all of our producers and the incredible cast did a great job of individualizing ourselves from the film while also still having the respect to the films.”

Bassett said his favorite song from the original trilogy is “You Are the Music in Me” from the second film, adding that the song “always has a special place in [his] heart.” Cornett said his favorite is “Scream” from the third film because of the intensity and special effects.

Cornett said he hopes people who watch the series will realize that though rivalry may at times dominate drama, what really matters, he said, are the people around you.

“It’s just a matter of not letting shiny things blind you and hide what really matters,” he said, “and that is just having your people.”

The new series will be available starting May 14 on Disney+.

Bassett said the cast “is just like a second family,” making filming an especially meaningful experience. Reflecting on his favorite memories from the season, he recalled a moment while filming episode two when the cast sang in the rehearsal room to Ben Platt’s “Grow As We Go.”

“We all were just dancing around in a circle,” he said. “I think somebody got it on camera. It was such a special, beautiful moment and it makes me cry just watching that video, it’s just such [a] loving environment and beautiful family that we have.”


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