The ‘HSMTMTS’ cast is blessing us with a holiday special on Dec. 11. HL spoke EXCLUSIVELY with the cast about singing iconic Christmas songs, what’s to come in season 2, and more.
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If you’re looking for some holiday cheer, look no further than High School Musical: The Musical: The Holiday Special. The special will debut Dec. 11 on Disney+ featuring your favorite HSMTMTS stars singing holiday classics. The soundtrack for the holiday special is available now, so just go on ahead and add to your playlists.
HollywoodLife talked EXCLUSIVELY with Olivia Rodrigo, Matt Cornett, and Sofia Wylie about their performances and got some season 2 scoop. Olivia revealed why singing Joni Mitchell’s “River” means so much to her, while Matt raves about teaming up with Joshua Bassett for a holiday duet. Plus, Sofia teases “new, fun relationships” in season 2.
Olivia sings Joni Mitchell’s “River” in the holiday special. For a songwriter like herself, performing a song by an “iconic female songwriter” was a dream for Olivia. “Tim Federle, the director of the holiday special and our creator/executive producer on High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, knows that I’m a big songwriter,” Olivia told HollywoodLife. “When this opportunity arose to sing Christmas songs for the holiday special, he said I had to sing Joni Mitchell’s ‘River’ because it’s such an iconic Christmas song by this iconic female songwriter. I was so excited, and I think it turned out really well. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to sing in on the show.”
Her co-star, Joshua, sings a brand-new song in the special. “The Perfect Gift” is Joshua’s latest original song, and Olivia opened up about Ricky’s special song for Nini. “Josh is such an amazing songwriter, and he inspires me a lot as an artist,” Olivia raved. “I think I heard it for the first time when we were actually filming the scene that Ricky sings the song to me in. And I just remember being like, oh my gosh, this kid is so talented. The fact that he wrote it is just spectacular. I think people are really going to love it.”
As for what’s ahead for Nini in season 2, it’s not going to be an easy road, especially now that Nini has been accepted into a prestigious music school. Olivia teased to HollywoodLife that “Nini goes through a lot of changes in season 2. She is a little bit stressed out and confused. There are a lot of different balls in the air for her in season 2, so I think the audience is going to be really invested in how her story turns out. I think that she definitely grows more complex and grows more as a teenager over the course of season 2.”
Oliva also revealed that she did write another for the show, following “Just For a Moment” that she wrote with Joshua, but couldn’t divulge much. “I’m so excited about it. I feel so grateful that they let me have that opportunity,” Olivia gushed.
Matt has two major performances, in addition to the group number, in the holiday special. He first performs the iconic holiday song “Last Christmas.” Matt admitted that taking on such a legendary song was a “little nerve-wracking” for him. “There are so many different versions of it and so many amazing artists have done it. Now I get to do a version of this that will live in the album of ‘Last Christmas’ versions forever. It was a little nerve-wracking, but it was so much fun,” he told HollywoodLife.
The actor also performs “Little Saint Nick” with his co-star, Joshua. The performance combines two of our very favorite things: Christmas and summer. “We had a really, really fun time with it,” Matt told HollywoodLife.”It helped that we got to shoot it at The Bachelor house in Malibu. First of all, it’s gorgeous. It was summertime and we got to jump in the pool a little bit. Josh and I always love to goof off with each other all the time. The dude is literally my best friend, so it was very fun doing that with him and getting to kind of goof off on camera, which we don’t get to do on the show.”
With this duet, Matt revealed that he hopes to see EJ and Ricky form a friendship on the show. “I strive for it. Josh is literally the coolest dude on the planet. I strive for a deep friendship between EJ and Ricky on the show so we can actually get to goof off like that on the show,” Matt said.
Matt teased season 2 is “is bigger and better in every way with storylines, character arcs, music, dance numbers. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better from season 1, season 2 comes out. I think people are going to start to get to see a little bit of a different side of EJ, which will be really, really cool. EJ got himself in trouble in season 1, and I think it’ll be fun to kind of get to see a different side of himself and see him figure it all out.”
As for the possibility of an EJ and Gina romance in the future, Matt won’t rule it out. “I think the cool thing about EJ and Gina is they’re different, but they’re similar,” Matt told HollywoodLife EXCLUSIVELY. “They’re both struggling with something similar in the way of Gina’s always trying to figure out where she’s going next with her mom always having to move with the work she’s in, and Gina always having to go with her. EJ is kind of going through the same thing in season 2 with being a second-semester senior and just trying to figure out what’s next for him… I think it would be really, really fun to explore. At the beginning of season one, I was like, at some point, there’s no way that Ricky and Nini get together and something doesn’t happen with EJ and Gina. There was always that hint of something whenever they were conniving and scheming with different things.”
Sofia performs “This Christmas” in the middle of the Arizona desert. “I was really happy that they chose that song and that I was able to dance with it and just kind of make it my own,” Sofia told HollywoodLife. “I know there are so many different renditions of it, but I absolutely love the way that everyone was able to make each song their own and really fit their own individual style.”
She also incorporates her incredible dancing skills into her performance. “It was fun for me because with each take I just got to do something different,” Sofia revealed. “That’s what I really love to do. I love to just move and have fun. That’s one of my favorite things about dancing. It’s just such a freeing art, I guess you could call it. It was really fun to dance like that.”
At the end of the first season, Gina’s world was rocked when she had to move away from Salt Lake City. She returned for the finale, thanks to EJ buying her a plane ticket. Sofia’s not going anywhere, so what does this mean for Gina?
“Gina’s going through it,” Sofia told HollywoodLife EXCLUSIVELY. “I think that’s how it always is. Every character is going through something. For Gina specifically, last season we saw so much growth from her. She really changed a lot. There was a really big arc for her there. This season, I think we’re uncovering a lot of who she really is since the first season we kind of peeled back her little wall that she had up. Now we’re seeing all that’s underneath that. So it’s a lot of fun this season. I don’t know what I can actually say, but there’s just a lot of new fun relationships and dynamics that I’ve had so much fun filming because there are a lot of people that I wasn’t able to film with last season, so being able to film with more people this season has been really fun.”
High School Musical: The Musical: The Holiday Special and the entire first season of the show is exclusively available on Disney+. You can get Hulu, Disney+, and ESPN+ bundle for only $12.99 a month. The holiday special also features the reveal of “Something In The Air.” The first major musical number from the upcoming second season of the series. Season 2 does not have an official release date yet, but the musical that will be featured is none other than Beauty and the Beast.