The curtain has closed High School Musical: The Musical: The Series Season 3, and nothing will ever be the same. Gina and Ricky finally faced their feelings, which led to an epic kiss on stage. That Frozen Documentary changed everything for the Wildcats, as did new characters like Jet and Maddox.
HollywoodLife Get an EXCLUSIVE Scoop from Creator/Showrunner Tim Federle about that groundbreaking Gina and Ricky moment and how one scene in Season 1 changed everything for these two. He also spoke about the future of EJ, the status of the original cast members returning for Uber’s fourth meta season, and more. Read our interview below:
Ricky and Gina finally get their place in the spotlight, which is what I’ve been waiting for. When it comes to the two, they’ve obviously had chemistry for years, was romance always the plan for them?
Tim Federle: Well, the night of Homecoming changed everything for the characters, for me as a writer. Sofia Wylie was cast as Gina, and Gina was the villain of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series at a time when none of us knew if we would go beyond one season. We are against it Mandalorian. Will anyone look at this? Will anyone accept this show if they didn’t Ashley [Tisdale] and vanessa [Hudgens]? When Sofia Wylie leaned in and kissed Josch [Bassett]’s Cheek in the back of this orange bug that changed the entire series. So the short answer is I don’t know when I wrote the pilot if I thought Gina and Ricky were going to kiss in the Season 3 season finale, but from Homecoming onwards that was the plan.
Since Nini was involved at the time, I wasn’t sure if it was still the plan from that moment on [Ricky and Gina’s Homecoming kiss] because it has changed for me. I knew in that moment that there was more between them.
Tim Federle: Nini and Ricky will always have something very special. I’m in my office in Salt Lake City right now. I just came here to start season 4 and we disassembled some of the earlier sets to build new sets. There is a set piece in my office that someone from production brought over. They’re like, “Do you want that?” And it’s the “Nini loves Ricky” carved into the tree house. These two actors, these two characters, Ricky and Nini will always be special because they brought the series to life. I think a lot of adults look back on first love with a kind of nostalgia because there’s something so real about it. It’s a bit like what parents describe when you have a child and suddenly it’s like an extra chamber in your heart. I think there will always be a chamber in Ricky’s and Nini’s hearts that only the other occupies, but Gina has a way of making hearts beat faster. I’m looking forward to these two characters.
There was a slow burn between Gina and Ricky. I love a good slow burn. But I also want to add that Josh’s performance this season was just next level. All his feelings were conveyed only through looks. I thought he was brilliant.
Tim Federle: We had something of a creed in the room this season that was: We have to get back to having fun. I’m really, really proud of so many moments in season 2. It was a darker season in every sense of the word, darker, but the show is ultimately called High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. We as writers work so hard on his scripts and we take the show so seriously. But I never want it to take itself seriously. We take the writing seriously, but the show itself needs to have a sense of humor. And for Josh, who’s such a really goofy person himself, he’s like a golden retriever in human form, I knew this was the season to have him sort of released from that because I also think that’s the reality of young people is. You’re a skater, then you’re a theater kid, then you are Jim Carey, and you find out what your ultimate form is. Seeing Josh go silly this season is his brand of romance. I have a strange thought and you’re the only person I’m telling this to. So in 303 when Ricky and Gina are walking up the hill and talking about the woman in the woods and he puts his hand on her heart… I pulled Josh aside after we shot the scene a couple of times. I was like, “Josh, this just needs to be a little more flirty.” He was like, “I don’t know what you’re saying. That’s how I flirt. I tease people.” I thought, “Okay, I get it. Do your thing.” But it just made me laugh. He said, “I know what the intent of the scene is. I thought I’d do it.”
EJ has already graduated from high school. Will we see Matt Cornett next season?
Tim Federle: I don’t think there is high school musical without Matt Cornett. He’s an incredible actor. While I know EJ had a really challenging season and was kind of broken especially at the end by the experience of living up to his toxic father’s expectations, there are definitely more stories to be told with EJ, what I caution about expectations is EJ completed those High school in every form of this sentence. I think EJ has some time to find himself and figure out what he’s doing. He’ll be there, but I don’t think he’ll be back in high school.
Season 4 is going to be incredibly meta. School musical 4 will be filmed at East High and the Wildcats will be extras. Does that mean we’ll see more original cast members in Season 4? Is that the plan?
Tim Federle: That is the plan. And so far the answer is yes. I am still working on it.
Does this have anything to do with performers like Zac? [Efron] and Vanessa posing outside of East High?
Tim Federle: I will call this an extraordinary and inspiring coincidence.
I loved Emmy’s solo moment in the finale. Your voice is really incredible. Will we see more of her in Season 4?
Tim Federle: I definitely think there are a few characters in season 3 that I love so much and the actors are so extraordinary that you didn’t see them last. I think Emmy is at that age where she’ll be a freshman somewhere, she’ll probably want to go to East High.
I can’t imagine the show without Jet and Maddox at this point.
Tim Federle: I mean, I have to be honest with you, I can’t either.
I mean they need to transfer if they’re not going there already.
Tim Federle: They don’t go there and I think they have some things to do at home because Jet got expelled from his last school. Maddox has to deal with Madison, played by the only one JoJo Siwa. When Saylor [Bell] and Adrian [Lyles] I had quite a long schedule for them because I think they’re really special actors and I think they’re both so under the radar. Look, we’ve got some really cheesy comedy on this show. I am a former theater child. I used to tell dad jokes when I was 11 so it’s really nice to have an Adrian Lyles who’s so much more subtle because he’s new to acting and he’s so brilliant and raw and real and then he’s da Saylor just carrying that light within her that is irreplaceable. I hope we see a lot more Jet and Maddox.
All Gina ever wanted was for someone to put her feelings for her first. There were a number of events that prevented EJ from doing that, but we see Ricky coming full circle in the finale. Now that summer is over, there are many things to play with. Back at school it’s a whole different world. What is Ricky and Gina’s relationship like now that they’re in the spotlight, especially with the documentary?
Tim Federle: I think the most important thing I would say is that it’s about time Gina’s world became on Gina’s terms. She stood in the shadow of her mother’s moving career, in the shadow of a really great friend in EJ who was just getting on with his own life. I think it’s time for Gina’s next steps as a young woman and also as a possibly in a relationship with Ricky so it’s on her terms. I think it’s going to be a lot of Gina making the rules.
dara [Reneé] goes to EGOT. I’ll just say it.
Tim Federle: Yes I agree with you. By the way. I just want to say that telling these stories about a young black woman’s struggle with anxiety is the opposite Aria Brooks, and when I saw Dara triumph in “Let It Go…” I showed the cast the finale at D23. When Dara’s light went out, her mother yelled at the screen. It was so real and beautiful. I’m so proud of Dara for bringing her entire gift to the screen this season. Dara is just getting started, and she deserves it.