'HSM: TM: TS' Stars Joshua Bassett and Olivia Rodrigo on 'Surreal' Co-Writing Debut: First Look (Exclusive)

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Getting a songwriting credit is an accomplishment not many reach. For Joshua Bassettand Olivia Rodrigo, the young leads of Disney+'s High School Musical: The Musical: The Series cast, they'll add one more impressive skill to their growing resumes as they bop to the top.

Bassett and Rodrigo teamed up to co-write the emotional ballad, "Just for a Moment," a Ricky and Nini duet that will make its official debut during Friday's penultimate episode of the freshman season at an extremely critical point in the series. (Watch ET's exclusive first look at the song in the video above.) While Rodrigo already made her songwriting debut with the original HSM: TM: TS song, "All I Want," this is Bassett's first credit as a professional songwriter.

As Bassett, 19, and Rodrigo, 16, told ET over the phone during the holidays, the opportunity came unexpectedly when they were approached early in the season about the small chance that a co-written song of theirs could make its way onto the show in a later episode.

"We were all in the East High Theater and Tim Federle, the creator of the show, approached Olivia and I and said, 'Hey, I know this is a wild idea -- it's very early in the process -- but there might be a slot where you two could submit a song. There are no promises, but I just want to plant the seed in your head now,'" Bassett recalled. "So Olivia and I literally turned around that minute, I grabbed my guitar, we sat down and we just started pumping out ideas. Writing it down, everything we could think of and then we'd come back every five minutes and say, 'I thought of this.'"

Bassett and Rodrigo, who have written songs in the privacy of their own bedrooms, spent weeks working on options to submit for consideration before eventually landing on "Just for a Moment," which was written in a matter of days. "We were like, 'Hey, this feels right,'" Bassett said. One recording session later (with new singers performing Ricky and Nini's parts, so as not to give away Bassett and Rodrigo's connection), the song was sent into Disney blindly along with several others.

High School Musical: The Musical: The Series
Fred Hayes/Disney+

"We got the news a few weeks later [that it was chosen], which was just the most surreal thing in the world," Bassett enthused. "When it actually happened, I think it was kind of a shock to both of us, but it was really neat. I think it was both of our first times being legitimized as songwriters professionally, because we've been both writing on our own. And to actually have that on paper, to be able to prove that we did that was just a dream come true."

Because "Just for a Moment" comes at a crucial point in Ricky and Nini's roller-coaster relationship, Rodrigo noted that when she and Bassett sat down to write the song, they weren't given any context for the scene or where their characters would be at that point in the season. 

"It was strange because we wrote the song before we filmed episode nine. We didn't totally know what was going on with the characters when we wrote it, but our showrunner, creator Tim Federle walked us through what was going on with the characters. It's a really special experience because to write a song for the characters is amazing, because I feel like nobody is going to know the character as well as we do. No one's going to know Ricky like Josh knows Ricky, and no one's going to know Nini like I know Nini," Rodrigo said. "We were there for their creation, we make them who they are and we're literally living their lives all the time."

"To get to write from that perspective was really great, and I think the song turned out better because we had that background knowledge," she continued. "I'm so inspired by Josh and I think he's such a great songwriter, and to co-write with him was really a wonderful experience. It's something I wouldn't trade for the world."

HSM: TM: TS
Fred Hayes/Disney+

That's not to say writing the ballad together wasn't without its ups and downs. "I don't know about that...," Rodrigo said when asked if the co-writing process with Bassett was a seamless one. "We had our debates," Bassett agreed.

"We're also both really strong-willed and we're both used to writing on our own. Having to compromise on things and be able to speak your mind. I remember thinking that he was so brilliant and I was like, 'What if I throw out this idea and he doesn't think it's good?' But we totally got over that so quick," Rodrigo shared. "I don't know if it was a really easy experience, per se, but it was so worthwhile and it was meant to be."

Both Bassett and Rodrigo now have the songwriting bug and are already looking forward to getting the opportunity to pen a song or two (or three) for the upcoming second season.

"I think one of the cool things that this kind of did with 'Just for a Moment' and with 'All I Want,' is it opened the door to a different kind of environment where, initially, when Tim wanted to have us write songs, there was a little bit of a push-back because they're letting the actors write. That's unheard of," Bassett said. "Because of Tim, he was really our champion through all of this. He pushed for it and he was like, 'Just give these kids a shot and let them prove themselves.' Now that we both had a chance to, in a way, prove ourselves, going forward I'm really excited to see any more opportunities that they might give us because of it. And who doesn't want to write a song for a TV show? Any chance I could get, I would love to take a crack at it."

HSM: TM: TS
Fred Hayes/Disney+

"It really broke down some barriers for us. But I had an amazing experience and I learned so much about myself and about music and creation in general. If nothing else comes of it in the future, I will be grateful for this experience, so I have no expectations, but obviously I would love to do it again," Rodrigo said. "I am just so passionate about the show and so happy with where it's going, so whatever's good, I'm just happy to be here."

With the final two episodes of the HSM: TM: TS fast approaching, it's "go" time for East High's school production of High School Musical: The Musical -- and the drama is going to be at an 11 when it comes to Ricky and Nini's complicated romantic status.

"There's a whole lot of chaos and it's nothing that you'd expect to happen. Expect the unexpected is all I'll say, really. It's all over the place in the best ways," Bassett teased. "There are a lot of exciting payoffs and a lot of interesting twists and I think people are really going to enjoy the ride."

"I think Rini stans are really going to want to watch episodes nine and 10," Rodrigo hinted. "I think they're really going to love it."

HSM: TM: TS
Fred Hayes/Disney+

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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