Is Olivia Rodrigo exiting High School Musical: The Musical: The Series? Comments from the showrunner and by Rodrigo herself suggest that might be the case. Arriving in November 2019, as one of the very first Disney+ original shows, HSMTMTS initially focused on a group of teenagers at East High School as they participate in a stage play of the High School Musical movie. In season 2, rather than recreate the High School Musical sequel, the East High students work on a production of Beauty and The Beast in an effort to beat their North High rivals.
Rodrigo, in the role of Nini Salazar-Roberts, had a pivotal part in season 1 of HSMTMTS. She plays Gabriella, the character originated by Vanessa Hudgens in the High School Musical films, and her relationship with Ricky Bowen (Joshua Bassett) is one of the focal points of the series as a whole. In High School Musical season 2, however, Nini’s theater involvement is scaled back as she begins to focus more on her music career aspirations. The storyline echoes Rodrigo’s own trajectory, as the young star’s pop career has exploded over the past year. Her debut single, “Driver’s License”, topped the charts worldwide and led to waves of discussion online. Other singles, such as “Deja Vu” and “Good 4 U” garnered similarly massive success. The release of her debut album in May continued the upward trajectory. Titled “Sour”, the album broke records and garnered acclaim from critics for Rodrigo’s abilities both as a singer and a songwriter. Rodrigo’s impressive rise has led to speculation that she may not be playing Nini for much longer.
High School Musical Season 3
With the news that the High School Musical series is returning for season 3, that speculation has once again resurfaced. Statements from showrunner Tim Federle, and from Rodrigo herself, have done little to quell the sense of uncertainty. After the season 2 finale of HSMTMTS, he told Hollywood Life: “I think Olivia is a massive part of our success but I think season 3 is sort of a TBD in terms of where Nini’s journey would go.” In another interview, with EW, Federle was even more direct. “It’s hard to imagine High School Musical without Olivia, but Olivia is also experiencing a level of success and fame and opportunity that I would never want to stand in the way of.” While it’s clear that Federle would like for Rodrigo to continue being part of the cast, the showrunner pointedly stops short of confirming it.
Federle’s reluctance to be definitive is all the more notable, considering that Rodrigo told The Guardian in May that she was contracted to HSMTMTS for another two years. In the same interview, the singer-songwriter spoke candidly about the difficulties of balancing the show with her music career. “I think it’s really hard to split time between the two and there are very few artists who do that efficiently, because acting is based on being a good liar and presenting a version of yourself that’s believable, and being a songwriter is the complete opposite,” she said.
It’s worth noting that the High School Musical season 2 finale does allow Rodrigo to exit the series, at least as a regular cast member. Nini and Ricky break up earlier in the season. And, in the final episode, Nini calls music producer Jamie (guest star Jordan Fisher) to begin the next step in her music career. High School Musical: The Musical: The Series season 3 will take place during the summer break, at a sleepaway camp, and Nini might just be off-camera for some of it to give Rodrigo the space to pursue her other passions.