In anticipation of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, Teenplicity will be posting exclusive interviews with the cast of the show leading up to its premiere on Disney+ on Tuesday, November 12th. Each cast member provided exclusive stories and fun moments from their time on set.
Check out what Larry Saperstein has to say below!
When the doors open to East High once again, it will be to fresh faces, new songs, and a completely different format. HSMTMTS, an acronym that much of the cast favors to use, takes on the mockumentary filming style called cinéma verité that The Office made mainstream in the United States. The show follows fictional students in the very real East High as the school theater performs High School Musical for the first time.
Amongst the students that grace screens come Tuesday is Big Red. Portrayed by Larry Saperstein, there’s a lot of mystery surrounding his character’s names – the origin of his nickname Big Red and what his real name may be. “I can neither confirm nor deny,” he says when asked as to whether or not audiences will learn his actual name. “What I can say is to check out the High School Musical: The Musical: The Series Instagram for a fun statement about that. Bonus points to whoever figures it out!” (Anyone else placing bets on it being ‘Peter’?)
Until everyone finds out Big Red’s real name – seriously, even his nickname is listed on the official student roster – there’s still much for audiences to enjoy. Ricky’s best friend, he has been with him through the beginning and end of Ricky’s relationship with Nini, offering whatever he can to help out his best bud. Even if that means doing a musical…
There are a ton of group scenes in the show with literally everyone, and there isn’t one person that I don’t get to have at least one unique moment with throughout the season.
“Big Red comes into the story as Ricky’s best friend who gets roped into the world of musical theater because of Ricky’s plan to audition for East High’s production of HSM!” describes Larry. No stranger to theater in his real life, as the actor started performing in front of audiences around the age of ten, his character is another story. “He is definitely new to the theater world, but really gives it his all, which I think is a really amazing character trait.”
Viewers will get to see Larry’s struggles of being in this new environment as the show continues, beginning with the second episode. However, the theater at East High, like many find in their own local communities, is welcoming.
“Being part of the stage crew for the musical gives Big Red a community of people that he never had before. This show is all about finding your tribe and finding the group of people that make you spark; we get to see every character find that in a different way through this community of East High’s drama department.”
Through this growth, his loyalty, something that Larry really admires about his character, will continually be on display. “Big Red is definitely the kind of friend that sticks by his people, and Ricky is that person. Ricky goes to him for advice and [Big Red] is always by his side!”
Occasionally Big Red does spend a little too much time with Ricky. Thought of as the couple’s third wheel to them, though he says they’re two additional wheels on his perfectly functioning unicycle, he attributes it to their longstanding friendship. “Ricky, Nini, and Big Red have been friends since kindergarten and I think Big Red definitely feels like Ricky and Nini’s break-up means the end of their trio, which upsets him.” Larry does shut down whispers that perhaps Big Red has been harboring a crush on Nini. “I think this one boils down to just that… A RUMOR!”
Not all hope is lost for his character when it comes to love, however. “As far as romantic relationships go, I think you’ll get to see Big Red start down his own path throughout the season,” the actor teases.
That idea extends to the big changes happening in the rest of Big Red’s life as well. When first introduced, he’s goofy. He might not be the smartest person in the room but he is definitely the one who would have your back. Larry reveals that audiences will get to watch as Big Red develops into more than a funny best friend. “One of the coolest things about our show is that none of the characters are one dimensional. We all develop into real, full people. Big Red definitely has some funny and goofy moments, but the show also takes the time to develop him as a sensitive, heartfelt person, and I can’t wait for the world to see that side of him.”
A side that might not been seen? Big Red’s dancing. Larry is a talented dancer, most notably in tap. (He has also performed in musicals in New York and on tour. “I love LA and all of the experiences that I’ve been able to have there but NYC is my home! My family and childhood memories are in New York, so I’d have to say I definitely feel a greater connection to New York,” he says when asked which of the two areas he prefers.) When a fan asked what his favorite tap move is, he said, “I’m always partial to a good ‘over-the-top’. It’s where you drag one leg across and behind you while you jump over it with your other leg.” Don’t worry if you attempted this and didn’t quite succeed; Larry explains that he didn’t get it on his first try either.
“It took me a long time to develop the strength to be able to move that way, and it’s a really athletic move that makes the audience excited because it can look like you’re about to trip over yourself. And when you don’t fall on your face, they go crazy!”
His character on the other hand probably wouldn’t even think about trying that move. “Let’s just say Big Red doesn’t like to show off his sick dance moves, but they definitely exist. Next question!”
I think, though, that I’ve really learned the importance of maintaining your own mental health and taking breaks from social media and the internet, and even your friends, when you need them.
When it comes to the on-screen dynamics, the opportunities are endless in High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. The show, which the cast says is about finding one’s tribe or a group of people they can connect and grow with, finds endless ways to pair up different characters. It’s due to this that Larry can’t quite name any characters he wish Big Red interacted with more. “I wish I could say yes but the writers have done such an amazing job of creating an ensemble show that allows us all to develop our relationships as a group.” He goes further to explain, “There are a ton of group scenes in the show with literally everyone, and there isn’t one person that I don’t get to have at least one unique moment with throughout the season.”
Season two will give the cast the ability to further their interactions and unique dynamics. The cast was actually surprised by the news of a second season, being told when they least expected it.
“I think we were all in shock!” exclaims Larry. “There were so many times when we had asked our executive producer Tim Federle if he had any news about the possibility of us going back, and he never budged.” As fate would have it, the news came when it was the biggest surprise. “As soon as we stopped asking for news, we got the news! I couldn’t be more grateful, and I think we are all just so excited to keep our characters and stories going. Not to mention the fact that we get to hang out with each other for another year.”
They also get to hang out at the real life East High again which still has the very prominent and pink locker that Sharpay had throughout the film series. Aside from that, eagled eyes fans can spot some other items from the original movies throughout the series. “You can actually see this on Instagram too! — If you look at Nini’s ‘talking heads’ in any of the characters intros, you can see one of the infamous camels from the first movie in the background!” the actor gushes. Larry continues, praise clear in his statements, “Major credit goes to our fantastic art department. They did such an amazing job of working in so many little details that allowed us to give a ton of fun nods to the original movies.”
The bridge between the original films and the new series was gapped during D23, when the cast was officially introduced to the world and had a panel hosted by Corbin Bleu who played Chad in the three films.
“This is so tricky because they’re all so important to the legacy,” Larry says, thinking of all the original actors when asked which of them he’d like to guest star on the show. “We’ve gotten to spend a good amount of time with Corbin during press tours for the show and he would just be so much fun to work with in that setting! I think he adds such a nice energy to our group!”
Discussing the convention itself, the actor says, “D23 Expo was INSANE and we had a blast! I was so nervous that I was going to forget the dance steps but my adrenaline took over and it all went smoothly!” Performing for thousands of people is a daunting task for any performer but the cast made it seem easy. The crowd’s great energy helped them along the way. “I think the most exciting thing was seeing how excited people are for the show and for Disney+. It’s really going to make an impact and I can’t wait for the world to see it!!” exclaims Larry.
Through this whirlwind experience, the entire cast has learned so much. As for Larry, he talked about how this was his first “really big thing” along with a few cast members. “There are so many purely technical things I learned from this show about acting, about life, it’s so hard to name just one!” the actor exclaims when asked what he’s learned from the experience.
“I think, though, that I’ve really learned the importance of maintaining your own mental health and taking breaks from social media and the internet, and even your friends, when you need them,” Larry says candidly. “It can be so difficult when there are so many people saying so many things online, and that really can affect the artistic side of things, so it’s nice (and totally acceptable) to unplug when you need to!”
When speaking with the cast, there were five questions that every cast member was asked. Here are Larry’s answers to those questions!
TEENPLICITY: What is your favorite musical?
“Into the Woods or Pippin. (I’m a lover of ‘old’ Broadway, as they say.)”
TEENPLICITY: What is your favorite High School Musical song from any of the films?
“‘You Are the Music in Me’ from High School Musical 2.”
TEENPLICITY: Do you have a favorite original song form the series?
“The one in Episode 6 is pretty great! No spoilers!! ;)”
TEENPLICITY: If you could play any High School Musical character in the original films, who would you be and why?
“Ryan! He’s so passionate about musical theater and really comes into his own over the three films.”
TEENPLICITY: Though you play Ricky’s best friend on the show, personally, are you Team Ricky or Team EJ?
“OOF, that’s tough… I think it’s hard to NOT be Team EJ…”
High School Musical: The Musical: The Series premieres on Disney+ on Tuesday, November 12th! You can catch the television sneak preview tonight at 8pm on ABC, Disney Channel, and Freeform.