Creator Tim Federle reveals why he kept that scene a secret from the cast and teases the drama that's about to unfold in season 4.
Spoiler alert! Do not proceed if you have not watched the season 3 finale of Disney+'s High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.
The romantic development came in the final minutes of the season's final episode, following the release of the shockingly salacious The Hills-esque trailer for the Frozen documentary chronicling the "making of" their musical production at Camp Shallow Lake. Soon after the trailer played for the group for the first time, Gina came clean about where she actually stands with her feelings for Ricky, revealing that he was "never the plan" and has never been "a maybe," but "a yes" in her eyes. Gina's confession wasn't one-sided either as Ricky returned the favor, pulling her in for a kiss.
"It's true!" creator/showrunner Tim Federle confirmed to ET of Ricky and Gina's new relationship status in a phone interview Wednesday morning. "Josh [Bassett] and Sofia [Wylie] are incredible actors. Ricky and Gina are so fun to write for, and these two characters understand the other one like nobody can. They both share a lot. They actually have a lot in common. Cliffhangers are fun, but sometimes you also have to breathe. I felt that, for what the fans have gone through over these last three seasons, at least for the Gina-Ricky fans, it was time to give the world a little bit of a win."
Ricky and Gina's finale moment was held so close to the vest that the majority of the cast wasn't even aware of the ending to the season. As Corbin Bleu hinted in a previous interview with ET, "two pages [of the script] were blacked out" to maintain the sanctity of the HSMTMTS development.
"I was so concerned about that sequence leaking that only Josh, Sofia, the director, the dialogue coach and a couple of crew members even knew what we were shooting. We didn't tell the other actors," Federle shared, reaffirming Bleu's prior tease. "Just really wanted that to be a private moment 'cause it's meaningful to us and to the people who've been working on the show for many years now. And I'm excited to keep writing for them because they're incredible performers and now they have a lot to figure out."
With the season 3 finale of HSMTMTS now available for fans to watch (and rewatch and rewatch), Federle -- who's already in Salt Lake City prepping for the new season -- discusses the thought process behind putting Ricky and Gina together after dancing around the question for a few seasons, saying goodbye to Olivia Rodrigo's Nini as she decides to formally leave East High and what to expect in (the even more meta) season 4 following the surprising revelations disclosed from the juicy documentary.
ET: Gina has a line where she tells Ricky that this wasn't the original plan, that this wasn't exactly something that she expected to happen between them. Was this pairing expected from the perspective of the writers' room?
Tim Federle: There's a lot. If you go back and rewatch the series, I think Gina and Rick are so coded throughout. There's a lot of false starts and there's a lot of timing is everything and their timing has never been good, I think, until this moment. But look, when I wrote the pilot, I don't think Gina and Ricky were a big plan. I think "Homecoming" changed everything and the performance of Josh and Sofia in that car changed the trajectory of the show forever.
They have this documentary that is coming out that might have implications for their relationships with each other, with other characters, friendships as they're trying to figure out what this new beginning means for them. What is their next obstacle? What does their next chapter look like?
At a bare minimum, Ricky's a senior in high school, Gina's now an upper-class person and they have a lot to figure out about their lives after high school, too. It's going to be a matter of Ricky, who's so afraid of change, and Gina, who has gone along with her mom's crazy schedule her whole life, moving to different places. She finally gets to have her own place. In terms of obstacles, the biggest obstacle is the world is now going to have opinions on these characters who are in a documentary and what are they going to do about that? That's some of the stuff we're going to be exploring in season 4.
The finale definitely gave the Gina and Ricky fans a lot to celebrate.
That's good to hear. I've been staying away, but I'll take your word for it.
I presume this is the last episode for Olivia Rodrigo. Nini decides to leave East High and permanently move West. What can you say about wrapping up that character's arc in this world?
I think so much happens off-screen. I think Nini is ready to explore the next chapter in her life and she's not going to be enrolled at East High, for sure, as a senior. But yeah, I never say never. I don't like the word "last," and the door is always open for Olivia, who will always be a shining example of the kind of actor and singer and human you dream of writing for. If, down the line, Olivia finds herself back on our set, I would be thrilled. But I think for now, there are stories that are front and center that we're going to be addressing head-on.
There are a lot of implications that will be coming from the release of the Frozen documentary and many relationships re-examined. There's a lot going on with Ashlyn and Big Red's, for instance, with Ashlyn discovering her sexuality and Big Red revealing that he's bi in the trailer. What can you tease for them in season 4?
I think it's for all of them. The point of season 3 was a summer of fun. What could possibly change in two weeks? Everything does. And so now, we're heading back to East High and Kourtney has blown up in the documentary. Jet admitted he's in love with her. Ashlyn finds out that Maddox maybe has a thing for her. Big Red just came out as bi. Looks like Carlos maybe was edited to look like a bit of a bad boy at camp. And so, there's something for all of them to deal with when they go home. That's going to be, I think, a big part of what we're exploring in season 4.
You're already working on season 4, which has an intriguing premise to say the least. A High School Musical reunion movie is being produced at East High, which leaves the door open again for familiar faces to swing by and appear onscreen. You've already had several on as guests -- Corbin Bleu, Lucas Grabeel and KayCee Stroh -- but what's the likelihood of that actually happening?
This show has always been built on the shoulders of the OGs and we wouldn't have a show without that incredible original trilogy. What I find gratifying and moving is that when our show was announced, there was a lot of, "I'm not going to watch this if Zac [Efron] and Vanessa [Hudgens] aren't there." And then by the end of season 1, Ricky and Nini were trending. I've always believed that with the right actors on the right story, you can win a new fan base who grows up with their own High School Musical. I think we can all exist under the same metaphorical roof of East High, which is a long way of saying, I really think that Ricky, Gina, Kourtney, Ashlyn, Big Red, Carlos and Seb -- these characters really drive the modern audience for our series. And yeah, I think you can expect some familiar faces from the past, but the real drive is ultimately the series cast.
In the last couple of weeks, Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens posted Instagram photos posing in front of East High. Are these posts related to season 4 in any way?
I consider those posts the divine coincidence that it would be nice if someday soon I could actually get those incredible people inside the building in front of some cameras. But I think that was just them on their own volition. It speaks to the power of this franchise. Ultimately, what's so incredible about talented young people singing and dancing, which is it spoke to a generation for a reason, but I think that was fairly unrelated to my series.
Before I let you go, it was a great touch having Ricky mime the classic Disney Channel logo on the press line in the finale.
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. That one made us laugh. We thought it would be really fun to do the OG Disney Channel and he spells out the Disney+ logo with the plus. We got to bring it into the new generation.
High School Musical: The Musical: The Series is streaming now on Disney+.