What happened at Camp Shallow Lake is not going to stay at Camp Shallow Lake.
Wednesday’s season finale of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series brought an end to the Wildcats’ summer, complete with an empowering performance of Frozen, a change of heart for Corbin Bleu and a dramatic farewell from surprise-guest Nini.
But it’s what happened after the one-month time jump that’s guaranteed to shake up the Disney+ comedy’s fourth season. A group screening of the trailer for Bleu’s documentary created a rivalry between Gina and Kourtney (not true!), suggested that Carlos cheated on Seb (also not true!), revealed that both Ashlyn and Big Red are bisexual (apparently true!), and confirmed that Ricky’s feelings for Gina are more than just friendly (definitely true!).
The episode even ended with Gina getting a long-awaited kiss, albeit one with Ricky as opposed to EJ. What a difference a season makes!
Below, showrunner Tim Federle answers our burning questions about the HSM:TM:TS finale, including how those last-minute developments will affect the Wildcats moving forward:
TVLINE | First of all, I wasn’t expecting to see so much of Nini in this finale — a pleasant surprise!
That’s nice to hear, thank you. I felt like we couldn’t do a season finale without Olivia Rodrigo.
TVLINE | I’m sure you’ve seen it, but #Rini is already trending on Twitter.
I did not see that. I stay off Twitter around premieres and finales, because it’s too overwhelming. I think there will always be a contingent of people who were there from the beginning and know that Ricky and Nini were a special launch to the show. But it’s also fun to start writing new chapters.
TVLINE | Would we have seen more one-on-one goodbyes, particularly between Nini and Ricky, if you had more time?
Yeah, Olivia was about to go on tour, so I had three days with her at the beginning of the season. Even before we shot anything at the camp, we shot Olivia out of the entire season. There were only so many actors available that early in the run, and since she and Kourtney were the OG besties, that felt right. I would have loved a big group sendoff, but it just wasn’t in the cards with our schedule.
TVLINE | Fair enough. I love that last season and this season both ended with kisses for Gina, albeit very different ones.
A very different one, right? Gina’s big thing is that she doesn’t get anything right the first time, but she doesn’t stop when she sees something she wants. I distributed blacked-out pages for that last scene with Gina and Ricky, and everybody made fun of me, like this was a Marvel movie or something. And then I learned from Disney security that 90 percent of our season was leaked on Reddit, so I stand by my decision to keep that one private. Sofia [Wylie] and Josh [Bassett] shot that in two takes, and it was pretty thrilling on the day.
TVLINE | EJ isn’t happy, of course, but does Ricky even have to worry about that, since EJ has graduated?
EJ has graduated from high school in every sense of that phrase, but Matt Cornett is so incredible to write for. His season was a difficult transitional season into young adulthood, and there are definitely more stories to tell there, but we’re focusing on our high school students for now. I look forward to EJ being an important later part of the series.
TVLINE | On a lighter note, I howled when Big Red casually revealed in the trailer that he’s also bi.
I learned at D23 that Julia [Lester] and Larry [Saperstein], since Season 1, have been like, “Wouldn’t it be so cool if we did a bi/queer storyline for our characters?” So it’s kind of funny how the show sometimes imitates the actors’ thoughts or lives or dreams. It’s cool to be writing for Disney in an era where I feel like I’m free to tell these kinds of stories.
TVLINE | I love that they’re going on this journey of discovery together.
For sure. This generation is really inspiring. When I was in high school, if you came out as bi, the joke was “next week, you’ll be gay.” That notion has changed, so necessarily and beautifully. This is an era of freedom and discovery, so I’m going to step back and let the young people lead.
TVLINE | And you’re doing High School Musical 3 next year! Was that always the plan?
Because it’s Ricky and Kourtney’s senior year, it felt like a really good one. The music is incredible, the franchise is iconic, and the third movie is unbelievable. You go back and watch it, and you realize, this had a Top Gun: Maverick budget. We always did kind of know that we’d be working towards that.
TVLINE | And with EJ gone, Ricky is practically guaranteed to play Troy, right?
I’m not sure. Josh has been begging me for a couple of years to sing “Scream,” and it does feel like this would be the season so see that. There’s a lot to look forward to with this inctedible music from HSM 3 and all of the characters and who steps into what role. It’s going to be raeally fun.