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+ Tuesday, November 12th. Each cast member provided exclusive stories and fun moments from their time on set.
Check out what Matt Cornett has to say below!
Everything in the premiere episode of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series makes it a no-brainer as to why Nini fell for EJ after her breakup with Ricky. Her new love is not only an athlete but loves musical theater. He constantly supports her and believes that she can be the best there is.
While EJ may have been looking at life through rose-colored glasses, it makes his introduction wholesome. Audiences will want to root for EJ and Nini to persevere, but it isn’t smooth sailing ahead.
“EJ truly cares about Nini and would do anything for her, but through that he starts to realize that he has been acting like this person that he isn’t,” Matt Cornett says of his character’s relationship. “That starts to become a problem for him and his relationship with Nini.” Any issues between the two aren’t exclusive to EJ’s personal discovery. Nini’s ex-boyfriend Ricky is doing everything he can to win her back, causing a lot of confusion for Nini and drawing battle lines for audiences.
Matt admitted at D23 that he was on “Team Ricky” but the rest of the cast is pretty divided on where they stand. “I truly think it will be a constant team battle between Team Ricky and EJ,” the actor dishes when asked what he looks forward to most as audiences experience the same confusing feelings as the show’s leading lady. “EJ truly cares about Nini and even though he does the wrong things at times, it’s all for the right reasons.”
It might seem clear cut at one point or another who the obvious choice would be, if Nini decided to pick one of them, but the star brushes off the idea that the situation is black and white. “Throughout the season you’ll learn more things about Ricky and EJ both that will sway your decision one way or another… and not just once… it’s a constant flip.”
Through it all, Matt doesn’t want viewers to forget that EJ really does have a good heart, despite his missteps.
“EJ is a very good guy and loves with his whole heart but with that comes some problems that he has to work through,” Matt Cornett says of his character. “Including the realization that he doesn’t have to put on this fake façade for people to like him.”
That sets off a personal journey of growth for the aspiring-Troy Bolton. “The number one thing that you will see EJ go through is just finding himself and who he is. He slowly realizes that just being yourself is what really matters most.” To describe EJ’s self-education this season, Matt chooses the song that “fits perfectly with his inner conflict” to be ‘The Way I Am’ by Charlie Puth. “This fits so well because it talks about being the person who is a little ‘out there’ but if you look underneath the surface, EJ is also a little anxious and insecure.”
When tasked to think of a question that he hasn’t been asked yet about the series or his character, Matt doesn’t hesitate. He zones in the self-reflection his character will have during the season.
“I think a great question would be ‘Is EJ Team Ricky or Team EJ?’ And as the answer to that, EJ is definitely Team EJ! He is very confident and you’ll see in the first episode the looks he gives to Ricky that prove that he’s definitely Team EJ.” Surprisingly, the actor makes it seem like his character comes to a self-awareness of catastrophic effects from his drastic actions to get what he wants. “That is, until he starts to realize the problems that he’s causing and the effect he’s having on others, which makes him question himself.”
EJ’s insecurity, especially with regards to how he sees Ricky as a threat to his relationship with Nini, drives him to some lengths that he probably wouldn’t go to otherwise. How audiences view these instances is one thing, but it becomes pretty clear early on how other characters feel.
One person that may take this as a chance to get what she wants is Gina, whose one goal at East High is to take the lead of Gabriella in the school’s performance of High School Musical. She views EJ’s unease as an opportunity and pounces.
“I feel like Gina and EJ almost have the same feeling about what is happening. They both want the leads and they are both used to getting what they want,” explains Matt. “So when they don’t, they start to spiral, which in turn may cause new sparks.”
I truly consider everyone in the cast family.
EJ and Gina aren’t the only dynamic that fans should be looking out for. Frankie Rodriguez teased to TEENPLICITY that Carlos has some “interesting scenes” with EJ this season.
Matt happily expanded on that, saying, “EJ and Carlos definitely have an interesting relationship. And you’ll see that relationship pan out throughout the season. There are a lot of fun scenes between the two that I think audiences will love!”
A big draw that helps the show succeed in such a unique way is its filming format. Shot in a mockumentary-style similar to The Office and Modern Family, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series uses this fun, interactive form of filming to set itself apart from the film series the show is based off of. It allows the characters more freedom and it gives the viewers much more to be enthralled by.
“It was so much fun!” the actor exclaims when he discusses what it was like to film in such a style. “I’ve never done anything like it before. The best part about it is that no matter what, you always have to be on your toes, even if the camera isn’t on you. You can’t just goof off and not pay attention because at any point the camera can whip over to you and capture your reaction. And it’s really fun how the talking heads,” those moments when the character breaks the fourth wall to talk directly to the audience about their thoughts and the events around them, “gives the audience a chance to see what the character is going through without anyone else knowing.” It is in those scenes that the characters tend to be their most vulnerable.
Other scenes that are sure to grab the hearts of viewers are the performances. All executed live while filming, it puts the spotlight on every character. Some of the cast were already familiar and comfortable with that aspect but Matt wasn’t as experienced.
“My biggest fear was definitely the fact that EJ is supposed to be this extremely experienced singer and dancer,” the actor says of the challenges that came along with taking the role of EJ. “I didn’t sing and dance growing up, so I’m getting to learn to do both throughout the course of this show and it has been so much fun for me. It’s definitely also one of the most exciting things as well.”
The fantastic group of people he performs alongside is also a huge bonus for him. “The fact that I get to work with these incredibly talented people in the cast to help encourage me and coach me through new things [is exciting too].” Now that he’s growing more as a performer, it’s easier for him to decide what aspect he likes more when it boils down to singing or dancing. “I think I prefer singing more, however, throughout the rehearsals and filming of this show, I’ve started enjoying dancing a lot more!!”
EJ is a very good guy and loves with his whole heart but with that comes some problems that he has to work through.
Upping his skills aren’t the only things he’s gained from this experience. If one were to ask him, Matt would say he’s a pretty lucky guy to be in this situation. “This experience has been an absolute dream come true and I have learned that friendship and family is everything. I truly consider everyone in the cast family.”
It’s easy to see how the cast became so close to each other. Not only were this all going on this incredible journey together, but they immediately had one thing in common before learning anything else – they all love High School Musical. Matt reveals, “When I was little, I remember having one of those toothbrushes that played ‘We’re All in This Together’ while I was brushing my teeth.”
It’s almost poetic, then, that Matt, along with the rest of the cast, performed that same song at D23 this past August to an audience of thousands as a way to introduce the world to HSMTMTS.
“It was absolutely insane,” the actor recalls. “I’ve never performed in front of more than like 100 people, so performing in front of a few thousand was definitely a pretty jaw-dropping moment for me. It was so much fun and the fact that I got to share it with my castmates was a blast.”
Through this entire experience, not only has Matt found a family with his castmates but he’s also been able to grow his fan base, all of whom are eager to interact with him. To ease any curiosities – also, sorry guys but it doesn’t seem like he has a TikTok – Matt told TEENPLICITY how you can get in contact with him.
“Instagram is absolutely the best way. I try to do the best I can to respond to the comments on my posts.” His handle is @MattCornett.
When speaking with the cast, there were five questions that every cast member was asked. Here are Matt’s answers to four of those questions!
TEENPLICITY: What is your favorite musical?
“Dear Evan Hansen.”
TEENPLICITY: What is your favorite High School Musical song from any of the films?
“‘Scream’ from High School Musical 3.”
TEENPLICITY: Do you have a favorite original song from the series?
“It’s so hard to pick one because they are all genuinely incredibly good. But one of my favorites is a song that Josh [Bassett] and Olivia [Rodrigo] co-wrote together for one of the later episodes.”
TEENPLICITY: If you could play any High School Musical character in the original films, who would you be and why?
“This may sound like a cliché and easy choice, but I think Troy would be fun to play. I can relate to Troy extremely well just because I played basketball and was in theatre at the same time.”
High School Musical: The Musical: The Series premieres on Disney+ on Tuesday, November 12th!