The cast and creator of the upcoming Disney+ original series, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series recently gathered together for a press conference to share more information about the show, which has already been picked up for a second season in advance of the platform’s November 12th launch date. One of the biggest takeaways from the conference was the behind the scenes casting process and character exploration. Below are quotes on each of the main characters from Tim Federle, the series’ creator, writer, and producer, along with a few quotes from the actors themselves on their characters, their love of High School Musical, and their excitement for Disney+.

Tim Federle

“The casting process is always challenging and I think one of the things that I said on day one when I pitched the show to Disney was it’s going to be a docu-style series about a group of kids putting on High School Musical and I was inspired by Waiting for Guffman and The Office. I wanted to find kids that could really sing live, because we don’t do lip synching a lot in the show, we wanted real voices captured live who could really play their real ages. So Olivia is sixteen to play sixteen. And also who I want to be stuck in Salt Lake City with for six months. I need good people because I come from the theater and I know the real fun of theater is being backstage in the dressing room.”

Olivia Rodrigo

Tim Federle on Olivia: “With Olivia it was the fact that she walked in with no makeup, clearly did not have stage parents, she was just there because she has a story to tell and when I learned that she is a songwriter later on in the series I gave her the chance to write a song and in three days she turned around a song that Regina Spector would want to write, it’s so special. It’s always about trying to identify what makes this person unique.”

Olivia Rodrigo on Nini: “I play Nini, she’s a junior and a total theater nerd and throughout the course of the show she’s dealing with normal teenager things and she’s taking her SATs, and she’s dealing with boys and dealing with finding her voice amidst all this chaos of theater.”

Olivia Rodrigo on Disney+: “It’s so surreal to be part of the launch of this amazing incredible thing and to see the support that’s gone behind it is really inspiring as a creative person. But honestly just as a fan to get Disney+ and see all the content that they have and watch all the old DCOMs and watch all the old Marvel movies is going to be so much fun for me. I’m just so happy that it’s coming out and I get to experience it too as a consumer.”

Joshua Bassett

Tim Federle on Joshua: “The first audition tape I saw of hundreds of kids was Josh, and the minute I saw that tape I knew I had a Ricky because of the look and the charisma and the lack of Hollywood polish. That was a compliment.”

Joshua Bassett on Ricky: “I play Ricky, he’s best described as a snarky sweetheart. He’s a skater who thinks he’s a little too cool for guitar but he’s really not. And he’ll do whatever it takes to make amends with his girlfriend Nini.”

Sofia Wylie

Tim Federle on Sofia: “For Sofia Wylie who had come from a Disney Channel background and has such a following online, so many girls look up to her… She came in and had sort of never played a villain before and starts out as the sort of thorn in the side of Nini and is able to grow over ten episodes into an arch that I think a lot of people will relate to, which is that you’re always the protagonist of your own life even when other people think of you as the antagonist.”

Sofia Wylie on Gina: “I play Gina Porter, she’s a transfer student, sort of like Sharpay 2.0. She’s very mischievous and scary at times but she has a lot of layers and I think that’s going to be fun for audiences to see her development over the series.”

Sofia Wylie on her love of High School Musical: “When I was around 5-years-old there was this contest at my local mall where you just had to walk across this red carpet and you could win tickets for your family where you would fly out to LA and be a part of the High School Musical 3 premire. And so somehow, 5-year-old Sofia walked across this carpet and won, which was so strange. And so I have pictures of my family at the premiere. I still am excited to this day just thinking about it, but then ten years later it’s weird to think that I’m able to be a part of this amazing show.”

Matt Cornett

Tim Federle on Matt: “For Matt, it was the fact that he walked in with this kind of charm and polish and looking a certain way but he could land a Hollywood punchline.”

Matt Cornett on EJ: “I play EJ and he’s Nini’s current boyfriend and EJ is a very goodhearted guy, he’s just very passionate and Nini is one of those things he’s passionate about and so in that he gets himself in a bit of a pickle sometimes. As he’s trying to work his way through that, he gets himself into even more of a pickle.”

Matt Cornett on East High: “I’ve said it a thousand times, I didn’t think it was possible to be starstruck by a building but I was genuinely starstruck by the school whenever we walked up. It was like it was magical in a way.”

Julia Lester

Tim Federle on Julia: “We read Matt Cornett with Julia Lester and they play cousins in the show and they had such natural effervescent family vibes that it was sort of undeniable. We were always going to hire them.”

Julia Lester on Ashlyn: “I play Ashlyn and I would say my character is definitely the pacemaker of the group. She just wants everyone to be happy, has a very loving heart, just wants everyone to have a nice peace of mind.”

Julia Lester on East High: “The first week that we were there we were filming at the school and so we were all obviously really excited to be cast in the show and hanging out before we even started filming. But then the second that we walked onto the East High campus was kind of like the moment that it really set in. Being in the cafeteria, being in the gym, being in the auditorium where all those iconic scenes happened. That was the moment that hit me like a rock. Unreal.”

Dara Renee

Tim Federle on Dara: “With Dara Renee, who was a star of Freaky Friday, the Disney Channel film, she walked in and she was going to have three lines in the pilot and then you couldn’t stop looking at her. And I believe that Dara’s the type of person who little girls are going to say I haven’t seen hair like that on screen, I haven’t seen emotion like that on screen from a character that I’m used to being just a punchline.”

Dara Renee on Courtney: “My character is Courtney, she’s a feminist, fashionista, beauty guru, it goes on and on.”

Dara Renee on Disney+: “I grew up on Disney so this is like, I’m so amazed. Even going to Disneyland, I’m like ‘I work for y’all.’ I’m just so grateful to be here because my character, I was only supposed to be in like one episode and then Tim was like we’ll keep you around. I’m just so grateful and I’m excited for you all to see it because a lot of tea and juice is spilled.”

Larry Saperstein

Tim Federle on Larry: “For Larry Saperstein who plays Big Red, I needed someone who could be a real sidekick type but who could also emerge as a romantic interest with his own sort of dreams and loves. Every guy who came in to read for Big Red was this over the top like Disney brother and they were all great and many of them would’ve been cast in a different type of show but in our show he was so under the radar and I knew we needed that authenticity and we all felt in the room that if we cast Larry as Joshua Bassett's best friend it would also make us like Ricky more because Larry is so loveable.”

Larry Saperstein on Big Red: “I play Big Rid, Big Red is Ricky’s best friend who sort of falls into this musical theater world as the supportive best friend and starts to experiment with what that’s like.”

Frankie A. Rodriguez

Tim Federle on Frankie: “Frankie Rodriguez came in, the character of Carlos was based on a very dear friend of mine who was a male captain of the color guard in his own school and when I cast Frankie I saw in him the fact that everything that got me picked on in middle school gets me paid now and that is who Frankie is, he announced himself instantly as Carlos.”

Kate Reinders

Tim worked with Kate Reinders on a Broadway revival or Gypsy starring Bernadette Peters. “I was a chorus boy, I was always sort of intimidated by her. And then all these years later she literally brought a flute to the audition, not even like a weird euphemism, and she auditioned for us and she was this drama teacher who cares so much about theater and has so much to say to the next generation.”

Kate Reinders on Miss Jenn: “I play Miss Jenn and she is the star of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.”

Kate Reinders on East High: “Sharpay’s locker is still there. It’s real.”

Mark St. Cyr

Tim Federle on Mark: “For Mark St. Cyr who was cast out of New York City, we got a tape. We could not find a Mr. Mazzara, he’s the STEM teacher who needs to land a bunch of punchlines, super dry, and all these guys came in who had tons of TV credits who were hilarious but played everything very big and we wanted to reinvent the Disney brand for Disney+ and do something that felt really premium and different and streaming and rough around the edges in a shakey docustyle, so Mark sent in this video that was practically shot on an iPhone in selfie mode and I was like he’s either a serial killer or he should play Mr. Mazzara.”

“So the casting process was so challenging but there were no runner ups for any of them,” Tim Federle concluded. “I lived in New York for twenty years and I moved to LA full time to do this show because I would literally bet everything on the people you’re looking at right here.”

Subscribers of Disney+ can enjoy High School Musical: The Musical: The Series when the streaming service kicks off on November 12th.