Cornett also reveals whether he thinks Nini and Ricky are endgame, sounds off on Olivia Rodrigo and Josh Bassett’s solo careers and whether he plans to release music himself.
The mockumentary musical drama series centers on the drama club at the East High School, where the “High School Musical” films were shot. While Season 1 featured the group putting on a production of its namesake, Season 2 finds the drama club preparing for their spring musical of “Beauty and the Beast,” which they’ll perform as part of a musical theater competition.
And get ready, Wildcats — according to Cornett, Season 2 is full of drama.
TooFab caught up with Cornett — who stars as E.J. — to chat about the new season, which he described as “everything Season 1 was but amped up to like level 10 or level 1000.”
The 22-year-old actor also opened up about reuniting with his cast mates and filming during a pandemic, explained why he thinks Nini (Olivia Rodrigo) and Ricky (Joshua Bassett) are endgame, teased his character’s Season 2 storyline and more.
Cornett also praised Rodrigo and Bassett’s music careers — noting that the former has “one of the most angelic voices on planet Earth” — and shared his thoughts on possibly releasing music in the future himself.
Check out the full Q&A, below!
First of all, what was it like coming back for Season 2 and being reunited with everyone? And what was it like filming during the pandemic?
“I mean, coming back was so exciting. Just to see everyone again and kind of be back in the space of getting to make the show. I think the thing I’m always most excited about is just to hear the music — and the music this season does not disappoint. So it was a lot of fun getting to come back and just be with my second family again.”
“And in regards to filming during the middle of a pandemic, it’s definitely tough, but we made it work and there’s a lot of changes kind of around set and we don’t get to kind of hang out outside of set as much as we used to, but there would still be … we would have weekly Zoom calls to call and check in with each other and just chat. And then, obviously, when we’re filming, we’re getting to kind of chat there. I mean, we did what we had to do to make sure that we could keep everyone safe, but yet still get to make the show that we are lucky enough to get to make. I really don’t think you can tell. I think it still feels like the same show and still has the heart and the energy that Season 1 had.”
Your character, E.J., seemed to have learned a lot about himself last season and came out somewhat of a changed man. Where is E.J. at the beginning of Season 2?
“I think E.J. coming into this season, he’s really just trying to kind of figure himself out. I think he’s kind of been humbled a little bit and he’s starting to realize that there’s more to the world than himself at times. I think he’s really just trying to kind of focus on where he wants his life to go and really what’s important to him. He’s trying to figure out like, ‘What’s next for me?’ and ‘What’s next for my life?’ And I think he realizes that this group has really what he loves and who he loves and he’s not quite ready to leave that. So you’ll see in the first few episodes, there are times where he just kind of stands there for a second and just takes everything in because … he’s a senior, so he’s really trying to just take in every moment and just enjoy every second that he can with the group.”
Season 2 begins with a few people already coupled up, but some relationships are being tested, namely Nini and Ricky’s. Is it safe to say there’s going to be some drama with some of these relationships?
“Drama in our show? No, no. Yes, there’s going to be a lot of drama and not only relationships that have kind of already formed in the show, but there are new friendships and new relationships that form throughout the season. There will be drama there as well — some good drama, some bad drama. The show definitely keeps you on your toes and keeps you wanting more. It’s definitely drama-filled, but in all of the best ways.”
Is E.J. possibly going to find love this season?
“I think E.J. kind of going into this season is really just trying to figure himself out. And I think there are certain people that kind of catches his eye in certain ways and he sees people in a new way that he didn’t really use to because a lot of times he would look at things kind of thinking about how it affects him first and talking to people in a way of like, ‘Okay, I’m going to talk to them because it’s going to make me feel better about this’ or ‘It’s going to make me look better doing this.’ I think this season he has a whole new relationship with the group and with certain people in the group and I think there are times where he talks to people and they kind of change his outlook of them. I think [he] has a really, really good time with everyone, but we’ll see. I don’t want to say too much and give you a yes or no because who knows? We’ll see what ends up happening.”
Do you think Nini (Olivia Rodrigo) and Ricky (Joshua Bassett) are endgame?
“I so badly just root for Nini and Ricky. I’ve said since Season 1 — I play E.J. — and I’ve always been on the Rini train. I think they’re so great for each other. And I think it’s just a matter of both of them trying to kind of figure themselves out. I think Ricky is — I’m not going to speak for Josh on his character — but I do think that Ricky is similar to E.J. this season and the fact that he’s also just trying to kind of figure himself out and navigate some struggles that he has. I think that’s kinda where a lot of the relationship trauma from Season 1 stems from between them too is just certain struggles that Ricky deals with personal life outside of his relationship with Nini. And then he kind of lets that affect his relationship. And so I think he’s really focused this season on rather than it affecting the relationship in a negative way, kind of having Nini to be that go-to for him, where he goes to her to talk about things and figures that out. I think they’re in endgame. I would love to see it.”
What is one word –- or a few words — you would use to describe “HSMTMTS” Season 2?
“I would probably say just bigger and better. It is everything Season 1 was but amped up to like level 10 or level 1000. It’s like we took Season 1 and [we were] trying to turn the notch up one notch, but somebody accidentally flipped and turned it up like 50 notches. It’s incredible. I mean, it still has the heart and soul of Season 1, but we’ve kind of taken everything to the next level. Everything down from the look of the show — personally, I feel like it’s just more athletically beautiful this season — and the camera work and the music and the numbers and the writing and the storylines, everything is just so much bigger and the storylines are so much deeper and it’s just so beautiful.”
The whole East High drama club is like a huge family. Are you and the cast like a family as well? Do you all bond off set? Is there a group text?
“Oh, absolutely. There’s a group text that we all talk in almost every day. We’re very much so a family. We’re very similar outside of the show as we are in the show in the sense of we’re all so close. I actually was talking to my mom last night. It blows my mind how much I miss these people because we finished filming like a few months ago and it’s only been a few months, but it’s like I left my family and haven’t been able to see my family in months because we are just that close. I’m homesick of Salt Lake City, Utah where we film because I just love being there with everyone so much. And we have such a good time. I think that’s the thing we have such good chemistry off set. I think that really shows on camera and that really comes out on camera. You can tell that we have that chemistry outside of the show as well. I love them all so much and I have nothing but good things to say about each and every one of them.”
Your co-star Olivia Rodrigo has blown up with her music career. Joshua Bassett has been successful as well. What is it like to see them succeed? Would you ever consider releasing an album in the future?
“It’s exciting to me to see them blow up in the way that they have because they’re both so deserving of it. Olivia has got one of the most angelic voices on planet Earth and like anything that comes out of her mouth, it’s just beautiful music-wise. She’s such an incredible writer and she’s such a sweet human being. She deserves every bit of it. And same with Josh. I consider him a brother. He’s literally one of my best friends and I’ll be right by that dude’s side until the day I die. So I’m super proud of both of them and I’m so excited to kind of see what they [both] do moving forward. And Olivia’s album’s coming out soon, so I’m super excited for that. They’re both super incredible and I’m so proud of both of them and happy for both of them. And they’re both so deserving.”
“As for myself, I would love to do music at some point in the future. Acting is definitely my focus right now, but there are a couple of things right now that I’m trying to work on and trying to kind of create. I have a song that I’ve been wanting to write for a while. I have no clue what it’s going to be. I just know I want to write a song and I’m trying to … I’ve gotten tips here and there from Josh and Olivia and I just want to write it from my heart and have a genuine song, but working on a little bit of that. And then my dad wrote a song not too long ago — I guess it was quite a few years back, so it was a while ago — but he wrote a song about his dad right before his dad, my grandpa, passed away. So I’ve been kind of talking to my dad about that and maybe my dad and I might try and work on that and you know turn it into something. So we’ll see. I’m not gonna make any promises, but yeah, I’d love to do some kind of music of my own in the future.”
Season 2 Episode 1 of “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” is available now to stream on Disney Plus. New episodes come out every Friday.