'HSM: TM: TS' Stars Joshua Bassett and Olivia Rodrigo on Ricky and Nini's Romantic Future (Exclusive)

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Warning: Minor spoilers from the ninth episode of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.

It's opening night of the High School Musical drama theater production on High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, and that only means one thing: Not everything goes according to plan.

The penultimate episode of the Disney+ series' first season started off promising, with the young thespians of East High -- including Gina, temporarily back from the East Coast -- acing nearly all the musical numbers of Act 1, and Ricky and Nini's roller-coaster relationship in the best place it's ever been. But everything fell apart once Ricky, in the middle of the signature basketball number, "Get'cha Head in the Game," spotted his mother's new boyfriend in the audience during his climactic moment. To say the rest of the number quickly became a disaster would be an understatement, as Ricky 

For HSM: TM: TS starsJoshua Bassettand Olivia Rodrigo, who play leads Ricky and Nini, exploring their characters' messy and often rocky friendship (and romantic complications) throughout the first season has been particularly gratifying.

"It perfectly mirrors real high school love lives. They can be pretty messy and the line is constantly blurred and literally every week, a new thing happens. I know at least when I was in high school, you're trying to keep up with what's going on and you're like, 'Wait, they're dating who now? This happened last night, what are you talking about?'" Bassett told ET. "Everything's kind of all over the place and it's cool to see the characters not only figure out their relationship with each other, but also grow into themselves as they are in their later years in high school and really starting to define who they are and what they stand for. I think it's cool to see the development of that throughout this season and seasons to come."

"Exactly that. I think it's so cool to be able to play this relationship. It mimics a lot of actual high school relationships, like Josh said," Rodrigo said to ET. "That it's just really fun and working with Josh and Matt has been amazing, and they're both lovely people. I think Rini stans are really going to want to watch episodes nine and 10, I think they're really going to love it."

While Bassett shared that his favorite Ricky and Nini moment is coming soon ("It has not aired... That's all I can say," the 19-year-old actor-singer hinted, revealing the scene is featured in next Friday's freshman finale), he offered a favorite of his that has aired between the two characters. 

HSM: TM: TS
Fred Hayes/Disney+

"In episode four when Ricky has basically lost all of his resources, he's got nowhere to go, his parents are going to be separating and the only place that he can call home is Nini's house. They have such a beautiful scene where there's nothing she can do to help him, but she's just there and that's enough in that moment to get him through that," Bassett said. "That's a beautiful scene because the romantic stuff is great, but at the end of the day, when everything hits the fan, for lack of a better word, having that person there for you at your darkest, worst moment is so important and it shows that they really care about each other in that moment in episode four. Aside from ... episode 10, that [scene], I would say, is my other favorite moment between Nini and Ricky, so far."

And in true high school fashion, Ricky and Nini's love lives are entangled with other people within their circle, namely Gina (Sofia Wylie) and E.J. (Matt Cornett). Bassett recalled being shocked that HSM: TM: TS was exploring a possible romantic pairing between Ricky and Gina midway through the season, which came as a bit of a surprise to viewers.

"I didn't even remember reading the script, and my jaw was on the floor. I was like, 'Wait, what?' I was like, 'What's happening here?' Yeah, I was just as surprised as the rest of the world," Bassett said. "But I think the cool thing is that these characters are so authentic, that you really care about them and you care about their well-being. And so, whether Ricky is there as a friend for Gina, or Gina and Nini are friends for each other, you care about them and you want each of them to succeed in whatever way they can. The audience figures it out as the characters are figuring things out, and it's cool to watch the evolution. And you know, Rick and Gina is just one of the crazy things that comes out of people figuring out who they are, who they're about and what they're about."

As Bassett and Rodrigo mused, the most inspiring and surreal interactions with HSM: TM: TS fans often involve their own covers of the show's featured songs and theorizing over what's to come for the East High Wildcats. 

"For me, it's seeing people do covers of the songs, whether it be people who do 'I Kinda, You know' covers or 'All I Want' covers. And 'All I Want' is viral on TikTok; it's crazy!" Rodrigo marveled. "That's cool to see people take something that we made and put their own twist on it and present it to the world in a totally different way, which is essentially what our series is doing with the original movies. People are doing that with our songs, so it's this cool creative process and it's fun to listen to people! People are so talented."

"Piggy-backing off of that, it is cool to see people finally discover [these storylines] for the first time. One of the funniest things for me is going on Twitter and seeing all the memes that people are making -- all the hilarious things they're finding and putting together and certain Easter eggs that they find that I completely forgot about or certain things they point out that I'm like, 'Oh my god!' Or fan theories," Bassett shared. "Some of them are spot on, some people literally predicted the entire season and then some people are completely off. So it's funny to see people in real time trying to keep up with the show. Watching them discover it is really exciting and really awesome to see."

HSM: TM: TS
Fred Hayes/Disney+

Production on the second season is mere weeks away, and Bassett and Rodrigo are already counting down the days they'll be reunited with their HSM: TM: TS co-stars in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

"I'm so excited to go back to Salt Lake. We've been texting and the whole cast, we're one big happy family. We get to go back to summer camp, essentially, and hang out with our best pals every day. I'm looking forward to that," Rodrigo said. "Season two, I think is going to bring a whole lot more drama. I'm excited to read in the script; I think I'm going to grow a lot as an actor and as a musician. I know I did in season one. If season two is half as good as season one is, I'm going to be in for the ride of a lifetime."

"I'm really excited to see further development of all the characters because everyone gets their spotlight in season one, but it's hard to fit all of that into 10 episodes, to really give everyone their moment. We got two more episodes for season two, so it'll be 12 instead of 10, and that gives us that much more time to really give people the moment that they deserve," Bassett said. "And one thing that Tim said -- I'm totally going to misquote him -- in the last sprint in episode 10, it was something along the lines of, 'That's the end for now because there's so much talent in this cast that we couldn't fit it all into one season.' I think that is so well-said, that there's so much more that each individual in this cast has so many hidden talents, that they're really going to be able to go into in season two. As we all grow together, the fan base will grow with us through the journey and it's going to be a beautiful thing. I'm excited for everyone to get their time in the spotlight."

Watch the HSM: TM: TS cast perform "We're All in This Together" in the finale:

To see original High School Musical cast member Corbin Bleu interview the cast for ET, watch the video below.

New episodes of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series drop every Friday on Disney+.

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