‘HSMTMTS’ Creator Teases Gina & Nini’s ‘Big’ Journeys & Breaking Out Of The ‘Zac & Vanessa’ Mold

'HSMTMTS' is back and taking things to a whole new level. HL got EXCLUSIVE scoop from Tim Federle about what's to come after that game-changing premiere episode.

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High School Musical: The Musical: The Series hit the ground running in the first episode of season 2. Nini revealed that she’s leaving East High for Denver, and Miss Jenn announced that the new musical was not going to be High School Musical 2 but Beauty and the Beast. HollywoodLife spoke EXCLUSIVELY with creator Tim Federle about Nini’s departure and how much we’ll see of Olivia Rodrigo moving forward.

“Nini goes on a really big journey this season,” Tim told HollywoodLife. “Look, East High is lonely without Olivia Rodrigo around, so I think the viewers will very much watch her go on a journey of trying to figure out where she’s happiest and with whom she’s happiest. She’s in every episode. I think that’s all I can say. She’s in every episode, but you have to watch and see where she goes.”

Joshua Bassett
Olivia Rodrigo and Joshua Bassett as Nini and Ricky. (Disney+)

Nini and Ricky had just gotten to a solid place after so many highs and lows last season. They found their way back together, and now they’re being split apart. Tim broke down how this relationship will evolve in season 2. “A lot of it is about… I don’t know if you’ve ever done the long-distance relationship thing, but having survived many, I think so much of the adolescent experience and really just the dating experience is just when you get something to what you dreamed it could be, then there’s the day after,” Tim said. “So that’s a lot of what this season is. The day after you finally say ‘I love you,’ what happens next? A lot of what their journey is this season as a couple is figuring out now that she’s gone on this journey to Denver, now that he’s trying to figure out if he’ll do the show without her, they’re also figuring out who they are as a couple now that they’re so willing to both say ‘I love you.’

At the New Year’s Eve party where all the big reveals were made, there was a look (we all saw it) between Gina and Ricky. Tim previewed Gina’s journey in season 2, which will include figuring out what’s going on with Ricky. “Gina goes on a big journey this season because it’s all about what happens when you put down roots and start to slowly take your walls down,” Tim teased. “Gina’s always cut and run. When ish got real, she got out of there. This is the season where she tries to run and struggles, too. She has to come face to face with things that could have been and might still be. I think Ricky is very much on that list.”

The season 2 premiere did feature samplings of iconic High School Musical 2 numbers like “Bet On It” and “Fabulous.” Tim revealed whether or not we’ll get sprinkles of more HSM2 musical numbers throughout the rest of season 2. “There are sprinkles,” Tim confirmed. “I think there are a couple of moments in the season musically where we do something we did not do in season 1. There’s one in particular that I’m really excited about. I’ll just say it’s episode 205 where it’s a cover of a song that everybody knows, but it’s not from the High School Musical canon, and it’s not an original song. I think that the song is really going to resonate with people emotionally. When it comes to the actual High School Musical songs, they’re amazing. We put a lot of them into the first episode to say to the fans: we hear you. We love you. We love them, too. But I also think that Sofia and Joshua and Olivia and Dara and Julia and this cast can kind of can do it all. We also wanted to expand and sort of break out of the Zac [Efron] and Vanessa [Hudgens] mold a little bit this season. I think we also go in new directions as well.”

High School Musical
The cast of ‘HSMTMTS’ season 2. (Disney+)

For all the Glee fans out there, Derek Hough’s Zack Ryan gave off major Jesse St. James energy, which Tim called the “greatest reference.” Tim explained what inspired him to cast Derek as Zack Ryan.

“The first inspiration was just that I’m a former dancer, and I think Derek Hough is our modern Gene Kelly,” Tim told HollywoodLife. “I just think he sort of does it all. He’s so savvy and smart. It’s fun to see him play somebody kind of smarmy because he is whatever the opposite of the word smarmy. I don’t even know if that’s a word we use anymore. He’s smirky. So Derek himself walks on the set. He’s from Utah. He’s a local. He’s so sweet. The inspiration was that we thought season 1 was our Waiting for Guffman season. I feel like season 2 is our Bring It On season. I really wanted competition from the top, and I also wanted it to be really personal to Miss Jenn as somebody from her past who she still has something to prove to. Derek emerged right away as my number one. I was like, if we’re going to go after a star, I want it to be Derek Hough because I don’t think anyone’s seen him do exactly this. He gets to dance later in the season, and he’s just such a lovely guy.” New episodes of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series air Fridays on Disney+.