While her friends at Camp Shallow Lake await the results of their Frozen auditions, Nini gets some life-changing news of her own in Wednesday’s episode of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.
Ahead of her moms’ college reunion, Nini is reintroduced to their friend Marvin (played by Modern Family‘s Jesse Tyler Ferguson), whom they reveal to be — wait for it — Nini’s biological father!
“I’ve always wanted to do a Nini bio dad story,” showrunner Tim Federle tells TVLine. “She has this amazing relationship with her moms, who are very much her parents, but I think there’s this certain moment right before you turn 18 when you start imagining what your life as an adult is going to be like. I certainly think, for a certain population of kids, they wonder about those beginnings.”
Federle says it was “such a joy” watching Ferguson on set, casually giving a “masterclass in mockumentary acting.” So, how did Ferguson find himself playing Nini’s bio dad?
“I’ve known Jesse for a long time because we’ve overlapped in the New York theater community, and I knew that his husband Justin [Mikita] was a super fan of pop stars,” Federle explains. “So I texted Jesse and was like, ‘Would you like to play Olivia Rodrigo‘s dad?’ and he texted me back faster than a Door Dash confirmation. That was really easy.”
The episode ends with Nini performing “You Never Know,” a full-circle reflection on how far she’s come and how far she still has to go. As Federle tells TVLine, “It’s very emotional and a real summary of her experience on the show.”
Hit PLAY on the video below to watch the full performance, then drop a comment with your thoughts on Nini’s big surprise… as well as Rodrigo’s departure.