A new take on the original HSM movie is here and High School Musical: The Musical: The Series also comes with an entirely new cast. The original High School Musical actors aren't in the Disney+ series, but there are so many HSM references and easter eggs — and there's going to be at least one cameo from an OG cast member.
Disney still owns all the footage from the original films, and it's used liberally in the first episode of the series. In the opening scene, new drama teacher Miss Jenn (Kate Reinders) is watching one of the basketball musical numbers to get psyched up for her first day at East High. Later, Ricky (Joshua Bassett) studies footage of Zac Efron's Troy Bolton performances so he can prepare for his own audition. EJ (Matt Cornett) also shows a photo of Vanessa Hudgens to Nini (Olivia Rodrigo) as inspiration for her to go "full V-Hudge" for her audition. Showrunner Tim Federle told Entertainment Weekly that viewers can expect these kinds of "Easter eggs and callbacks and references to the original" in every episode of the series. He said these callbacks would come in the form of everything from old props to an actual cameo from one of the original cast members.
In an interview with TV Line, Federle elaborated that the cameo comes later on in the season in "a full fantasy number." He couldn't reveal who the cameo would be from, but we may already have a clue. The series' soundtrack contains a listing for Lucas Grabeel, who played Ryan Evans in the movies. Grabeel sings with Miss Jenn on a song called "Role of a Lifetime." Even if Ryan doesn't show up in the series, at least his voice will be on the soundtrack. But it seems likely that he will indeed be the cameo Federle mentioned.
As for other OG actors returning, never say never. In an interview with Extra from April, Zac Efron expressed interest in possibly appearing as Troy Bolton again. "Absolutely… I don’t see why not," he said, adding, “I’m not, like, committing to it — I didn't know there was [a series] … [but] that message still resonates to this day.”
According to Teen Vogue, Ashley Tisdale told E! News in 2018 that she didn't think she'd want to step back in Sharpay's shoes. "I’ve matured so much," she said. "I just don’t know if I can give her justice … and be that character again." Vanessa Hudgens had a similar thought process in 2017 when asked by E! News if she would ever come back for another HSM iteration. "I mean, I'm 28," she said at the time. "I could be a teacher, but I refuse to be a teacher! I'm still a teenager at heart. So probably not with me, but I'm excited to see what they whip together."
Maybe Hudgens will change her mind now that she saw how much fans loved her recent karaoke rendition of "Breaking Free."
Whoever does end up cameo-ing on the series (*cough* Lucas Grabeel *cough*) it will be exciting for OG fans to see. And maybe a positive public reaction to the cameo will encourage the other stars to stop by at some point too.
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