The curtain rose on the new season of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series on Wednesday, July 27 and there is so much in store for fans of the Wildcats. Season two left off with so many unanswered questions: What’s going to happen with Nini? Are EJ and Gina now endgame? And who will Miss Jenn give her heart to – Ricky’s dad or Mr. Mazarra?
Well, who better to share all the juicy details than Miss Jenn herself! Kate Reinders has portrayed the fearless leader of the Wildcats from the very beginning, and in her EXCLUSIVE interview with HollywoodLife, she shared just what we can expect from the drama teacher in this new chapter.
“If we know anything it’s that the kids are the most important thing in the world to Miss Jenn,” Kate says of her beloved character, but admitted that it would be awhile before the teacher would reunite with her students. Season 3 picks up weeks after the events of the last season, with summer vacation underway and the kids spread out, though most head off to camp together. In the first episode, we learn that Miss Jenn won’t be following her kids into the wilderness, but rather she’s adventuring on a cruise with – SPOILER ALERT – Ricky’s dad!
So, has Miss Jenn made her choice at last? Perhaps – perhaps not! “We love them both right,” Kate says of Miss Jenn’s two suitors. “Wonderful, wonderful guys that complete her in different ways. Ricky’s dad was always first, but maybe Mr. Mazzara is the long game? We’ll see.”
While Miss Jenn makes up her mind, we also learn in the first episode back that Nini, played by superstar and 3x Grammy winner Olivia Rodrigo, is skipping camp with her friends to head to Los Angeles. It was revealed ahead of the premiere that this would likely be Olivia’s last season with the show and that her character would have a “smaller presence” before her ultimate sendoff. This means that Kate got to share one of Olivia’s final scenes in episode one, and she couldn’t be prouder.
“Between season one and season three, Olivia has exploded in the world,” Kate said, “And what was so, so wonderful and refreshing is that when it’s just us, it could’ve been 2018 again. She is just the same sweet, wonderful girl, & great actress. She’s really just good-hearted person. I was so happy to know, being the show ‘mom’, that sweetness of her’s hasn’t been snapped out of her. She hasn’t let [fame] change her.”
With Nini on a new path, the show takes a stronger focus on some of the other characters, especially those who head off to Camp Shallow Lake for the summer. While EJ thinks his pals are joining him to spend quality time, it soon becomes clear that Ashlyn, Carlos and the rest are much more interested in meeting the secret celebrity guest, who turns out to be none other than original Wildcat, Corbin Bleu.
“It’s wonderful to actually see how inspiring they are still to the kids in our show.” Kate says of Corbin, and of all the original High School Musical stars who have appeared on the show thus far, like Lucas Gabreel in season 1. “Corbin has grown into such a wonderful, lovely man. And he’s clearly such a good example for kids. How you can have huge success at [a young] age and still be a wonderful person. I know our kids will go on and do the same.”
Speaking of the future, with this season following the trajectory of the High School Musical films, it stands to reason that the show will eventually have to contend with its stars aging out of high school. That could very well mean that season 4 could find the kids going into their senior year. But with new characters entering each year and the franchise being so popular, is there a room for a new class after this one graduates? Kate thinks so and she’s ready for Miss Jenn to be around for all it!
“Miss Jen is happy to stay until she’s Mrs. Jenn, Grandma Jenn, even Golden Jenn!,” Kate teased. “ There are new kids joining this season who are incredible talents. [Casting Director] Julie Ashton and [Creator] Tim Federle definitely have some sort of special, voodoo eye for crazy talented kids. So as much as it would be sad if our kids were to move on, I think there are other kids who will be ready to take the torch and then the originals will be available to lead them.”
As promising as that sounds, the other big plus to keeping the show going is that it keeps the doors open for other High School Musical alumni to return. Prior to the season 3 premiere, both Vanessa Hudgens and Zac Efron posted selfies in front of their Disney alma mater, East High, leading many to wonder if the pair are poised for some kind of Wildcasts reunion. While fans of HSMTMTS shouldn’t expect to see them this season, Kate admits you shouldn’t count them out.
“I’ll be waiting inside the door with refreshments and leading the way anytime they’re ready,” Kate teased. “ I don’t know if Frankie Rodriguez (who plays Carlos) still has this, but at one point we did have a Zac Efron cut out in in the dressing room and then there was an Ashley Tisdale one as well. So, I mean, they are already sort of there, but if they wanted to increase their presence, we’d love them.”
Season 3 of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series premiered Wednesday, July 27, 2022 on Disney+.