It’s officially senior year for most of the Wildcats, and some newbies are going to be shaking things up in High School Musical: The Musical: The Series season 4. One of those characters is the sassy and driven Dani, played by Disney Channel alum Kylie Cantrall. You’ll definitely be feeling Sharpay Evans energy from this character.
HollywoodLife spoke EXCLUSIVELY with Kylie ahead of the final season’s premiere on August 9. She teased that Dani “wants the spotlight,” and she’ll go to great lengths to get it. The actress and singer also opened up about stepping into the Descendants universe and her latest single. (Note: this interview took place prior to the SAG-AFTRA strike.)
How does it feel to join the HSMTMTS franchise?
Kylie Cantrall: I started watching the original HSM when I was a little kid, and I remember the third movie was stuck on repeat in my house. So, to answer “what does this mean to me” is so difficult to answer. Surreal or a “pinch me moment” is probably the only way to describe it. When I got the call from my agent, I fainted. When I woke up, I was in East High, in full hair and make-up, filming a close-up while dancing to “I Want It All.” That’s how fast it all happened.
Were you cast in season 4 before or after working on the new Descendants movie with Dara [Reneé]?
Kylie Cantrall: I was cast in HSM first, then Descendants about 6 weeks later. But a strange twist to the story is that Dara and I worked on a Disney special called Descendants Remix Dance Party a few years back, but neither of us would have ever believed we’d be bringing this new Descendants chapter to life. And actually, Sofia Wylie was on the show with us too. So crazy! I just remember looking up to both of them so much, and I was just excited to be making TikToks with them in between shots.
How does Dani fit into the world of HSMTMTS season 4?
Kylie Cantrall: Well, Dani doesn’t really try to “fit in.” She literally makes it her mission to stand out because she’s the type of girl that wants the spotlight and all the attention in every room she walks into. That’s what really drew me to the Dani character, getting a chance to play someone so sassy and overly confident. I definitely think I’m way more subtle in real life though.
Will she be a friend or foe for the Wildcats?
Kylie Cantrall: I know I’m not supposed to give a lot away, so I’ll just say this: Dani is not coming to East High to make friends. She comes in with one goal, and that’s to take over the school. It’s going to be so fun to see what fans think about her. She is pretty spicy so you either love her or hate her. I definitely love her…but maybe I’m a little biased.
Dani definitely gives off Sharpay vibes. Were you inspired by the original High School Musical character?
Kylie Cantrall: Dani definitely gives off Sharpay vibes, but I also wanted to pull from some other classic high school teen villains. I tried to add a little Regina George and ‘Maddy Perez. I don’t know why I’ve always loved those mean girl characters. I think we deep down love a character that comes in and brings the drama.
Can you tease any of Dani’s musical numbers?
Kylie Cantrall: I don’t really want to give anything away, but I’ll say Dani is coming in HOT. She wants everyone to know that she has an agenda to be the star of East High. From day one, she is fearless in grabbing the mic and making sure her vocals are heard.
What inspired your upcoming single?
Kylie Cantrall: I started this series on my TikTok called “10 Minute Songs” where my followers give me three words, and I have 10 minutes to write a song around those words. I never thought it would lead to my next single, but it sparked this song called “Text Go Green.” It’s about a friend involved in a toxic relationship, and it’s killing you to see your friend going through so much sadness, so you have no choice but to tell them, “You’re so much better than that. It’s time to move on.” It’s crazy to me to know that this comes from actual conversations in my life. Maybe that’s what makes it so relatable. I think we’ve all been there before.
You’re joining another massive franchise with Descendants: The Rise of Red. Was it intimidating at all stepping up to the plate for this next chapter?
Kylie Cantrall: Yeah, it’s still unbelievable I went to buy some balloons at Party City last week and saw a whole Descendants section. I wandered up and down the aisle thinking, “Wow, next year this is going to be us [the new cast] on these plates, napkins, and decorations.” We wrapped the movie in March, so it’s killing me knowing how many amazing songs, dance numbers, fight scenes, stunts, and so on are coming soon. I can’t wait for a whole new generation to say, “I grew up on Descendants.” I guess it means so much to me because I was one of those kids saying that just a few years ago.
How would you say Red compares to original Descendants leads Mal and Evie?
Kylie Cantrall: Well, I think the fans of the other Descendants movies will be so happy that the overall vibe has stayed true to the franchise, but the writers definitely wanted to find a new voice for the character Red. We get to see a character who is struggling with trying to find her own independence and breaking free from her mom’s [the Queen of Hearts] evil clutches. Red is tired of being told how to live her life and realizes she has problems with building friendships because she doesn’t trust people. I think this relates to so many young people who are trying to figure out where they fit in and, in the end, it’s the relationships she forms that give her life so much love and meaning. Red teaches us all that you have to trust that there is a better life out for us all out there.
How did you react when you learned Rita Ora would be playing your mom?
Kylie Cantrall: I was in literal disbelief. I was actually obsessed with Rita’s song “Black Widow” when I was a kid, so that was actually one of the first thoughts that came to my mind when I found out she was going to play my mom. Does this mean we’ll get to sing “Black Widow” and harmonize together between takes? We actually never did… but hey, Rita, if you are reading this, let’s do a “Black Widow” duet next time I see you!