'HSMTMTS' Boss Teases Season 3 and Olivia Rodrigo's 'Sendoff' (Exclusive)

Showrunner Tim Federle previews the summer season and what's in store for the Wildcats at camp.

Summer is heating up for the Wildcats on High School Musical: The Musical: The Series

As the weather warms up, so does the drama on season 3 of Disney+'s meta musical comedy with the action moving from the halls of East High to Camp Shallow Lake. The change in scenery will force some of the Wildcats to face new challenges, get real about their life paths and address their personal lives. Not only will the two-week summer camp bring out new sides, they'll be busy prepping for a musical production of Frozen -- all while taking part in a documentary about the making of the musical with High School Musical's own Corbin Bleu. Got all that?

"This season is a real return to some of the season 1 vibes," creator and showrunner Tim Federle previewed with ET, "and a real tribute to the DCOM mighty shoulders that we stand on as we carry the torch forward with this new generation of theater kids that's rapidly expanding."

Federle described the season as "a fun, summer-y, singing-under-the-stars kind of season. You know when you go away on vacation and you let your defenses drop? I think that happens," he teased, "and then lots of crazy stuff rises to the surface. It's a really joyful, breezy season with many songs, but also new relationships and new characters that shake everything up."

Camp Shallow Lake, a place that's been mentioned before on HSMTMTS, is E.J.'s familiar stomping grounds -- and he'll be the one climbing an uphill battle as he juggles various responsibilities and a new relationship with Gina. With new characters like camp counselor Maddox, played by Saylor Bell Curda, and fellow camper Jet, played by Adrian Lyles, entering the world, there's bound to be even more surprises and unexpected twists coming the Wildcats' way. 

"For Ricky, it's a summer of fun," Federle said, teeing up what the journeys will be for the respective central characters. "I just wanted to give Joshua Bassett the opportunity to be silly and play all season. For Sofia [Wylie] as Gina, it's a summer of firsts. Her first time away at a summer camp, first time with a boyfriend. For E.J., it's a summer of lasts, kind of saying goodbye to his childhood."

"And then for all of these characters, Ashlyn and Kourtney and Carlos, it's a season of real discovery of identity," he continued, before teasing Curda and Lyles' characters' arcs. "They arrive to further shake up that dynamic. Because I think when you're a young person, you think your friend group will stay your friend group forever and then new people arrive and explode it all."

But not everyone will be navigating camp life. Nini, whose storyline ended last season with an opportunity to go to Los Angeles and explore songwriting on a larger stage, will be off on her own parallel journey of identity this season as she puts Salt Lake City in the rearview mirror. Olivia Rodrigo, who recently wrapped a worldwide tour promoting her blockbuster debut album, Sour, in early July, will have a smaller presence in season 3 as a result.

"I think she's ready to explore the world outside the halls of East High," Federle said of Nina's trajectory, which he added will be surprising. "And Olivia herself was having such a monumental explosion in the music industry that it felt like the right thing to, frankly, work with Olivia to say, 'How do we get you out there into the world with us taking a little bit more of a backseat?' Which we were all proud to do to support her."

"And so this season it's about trying to give her character a proper sendoff while also leaving room for other characters to really step into the fray and step into the spotlight," he noted. "And personally, it's a joy to see Olivia's music explode in such a big way. It was so fun to have her back and reminisce on the beginning."

Federle acknowledged that the camp setting means several fan favorites from the first two seasons won't be featured as heavily this year, but promised that their presence will still be felt even if they're not seen onscreen.

"There's a lot of characters this season -- Miss Jenn, Big Red, Seb, Nini -- who might not seem like they're a big part of the season to begin but end up playing really monumental roles in the season. Important roles," Federle shared. "It's a safe assumption that you haven't seen the last of some of these characters."

Watch an exclusive featurette with the cast previewing the upcoming season below.

Season 3 of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series premieres Wednesday, July 27 on Disney+.

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