(KGET) — Debates continue across the country as to how to get young people back into classrooms but there’s no such problem at East High. A second season of “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” launches on Disney+ May 14.
Just like a new school year, the new season means a lot of returning faces to the classrooms along with some new students. Among those back for another year is Frankie A. Rodriguez, a Selma native who plays Carlos.
The young actor says there are a lot of differences between going to high school in Central California and being part of the singing-and-dancing high school world of the series.
“It has been kind of nice to get to relive high school in a more fun way and without the classwork,” Rodriguez says.
He and the rest of the young cast might not be taking tests but they are working hard on the show. Not only do they have to play high school students dealing with the typical angst that comes with growing up but there are endless musical numbers to learn.
This year the East High Wildcats have a special reason for preparing to perform “Beauty and the Beast” as their spring musical. They will be battling rival school North High to win a prestigious student theater competition.
Playing a member of a high school theater department is a perfect match for Rodriguez. He tried participating in a long list of sports and afterschool activities but nothing clicked. It was his mother who recognized that because Rodriguez loved to sing and dance so much he should try performing and got him involved with a local young acting group.
Rodriguez has been excited to see the positive response to the relationship his character has with the one played by Joe Serafini.
“Just to get to be the representation that I didn’t even see as a kid on television has been super exciting,” Rodriguez says. “To have it on a platform like Disney and Disney be so supportive is the best feeling ever.”
The fact there is such a diverse group of characters represented on the show is one reason Rodriguez believes the franchise has been so popular since the original “High School Musical” movie debuted in 2006. He’s also convinced that the show has given his generation their own special musical to embrace the way past generations fell in love with “West Side Story” or “Grease.”
Also returning for a second season are series regulars Olivia Rodrigo, Joshua Bassett, Matt Cornett, Sofia Wylie, Larry Saperstein, Julia Lester, Dara Reneé, Mark St. Cyr and Kate Reinders.
Just like any real high school, there are some new faces. Along with Derek Hough being added as the coach for the rival school, the new cast members include: Roman Banks, a high school junior who works after school as a delivery guy for Big Red’s family’s pizza shop, Salt Lake Slices; Andrew Barth Feldman, a French exchange student; and Olivia Rose Keegan, an East High student who is not as sweet as she looks.
Keegan performed in musical theater while growing up in San Rafael.
“That’s where I caught the acting bug and the singing bug at a very young age and since then it has always been a part of my life,” Keegan says.
Keegan comes to “HSMTMTS” as an award-winning daytime actress. Her work as Claire Brady on “Days of Our Lives” earned her the Daytime Emmy as Outstanding Young Performer in a Drama Series in 2020.
Working in daytime television has been a great learning experience. Because so much material must be completed so quickly, Keegan calls daytime television a “sink-or-swim” environment. The first thing that hit Keegan in regards to doing a regular TV series was how much time was given to discuss every detail from hair style to character motivation.
The Disney+ series is giving Keegan the chance to play a wicked character. She calls the role one of the most fun – and familiar – she has ever played.
“A couple times in a row now I have been playing this sort of scary, wicked girl,” Keegan says. Laughingly she says, “Maybe it is time to look inward to see what kind of vibes I am giving out to the world because it seems to be a common theme.
“It is super fun and it doesn’t mean it has to be superficial or surface level mean girl. You can add as many layers as you want. That’s been really fun – to dive into the different sides of Lily to see why she is the way she is.”
If you did not see season one of “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series,” it is currently available on the streaming service Disney+.