‘HSMTMTS’ star Matt Cornett spoke to HollywoodLife EXCLUSIVELY and weighed on that last-minute EJ and Gina twist, why Gina and EJ are right for each other, and more.
High School Musical: The Musical: The Series ended with a number of cliffhangers, and now fans are hungry for a third season. EJ and Gina finally got on the same page and realized they both want the same thing: to be together. While season 3 hasn’t been greenlit just yet, that season 2 finale gives us hope we’ll see lots more from the Wildcats.
HollywoodLife got EXCLUSIVE scoop from Matt Cornett about EJ and Gina’s relationship, and he revealed why he thinks they’re right for each other. He also opened up about filming the emotional song “Second Chance” and how that scene/song brought everything full circle. Matt even revealed some of his season 3 hopes! Read our full Q&A below:
We finally see Gina and EJ realize their feelings for each other, and they’re on the same page. By the end of the finale, Gina’s running to EJ and wants him to be her first kiss, but we don’t get to see the kiss. Why didn’t we get to see it?
Matt Cornett: You’ve got to leave some stuff in the future, right? He [Tim Federle] can’t give everyone everything all at once. It’s just a little bit of a cliffhanger and a little bit of suspense. That’s all it is.
Obviously, the EJ and Gina pairing was very much a slow burn over the course of season 2. Why do you think they work and why do you think now is the right time for them to explore a relationship?
Matt Cornett: I think they really are such similar people in the fact that they both have gone through so much in their lives. They also both come from the same place, especially the season 1 version of themselves where they both have walls put up. They both felt the need to be perfect and show that they were perfect and show that they needed to be the lead and deserved to be the lead. They thought they had their life figured out, but in reality, neither one of them did. They were kind of out of control of so many things in their life, and I think now because of the progression of where they’ve come from with this group of people and throughout the show, they really have grown in so many ways. They’ve learned so much from these people, and they’re in a position now where they know just being truly fully yourself is enough, and that is what is important. I think now they’re able to embrace who they are, and you see it when they’re together. They are so incredibly happy when they’re together. I think that is so important because I think up until this moment there hasn’t really been anything that has made them as happy as each other. I think they truly are happiest when they’re with each other.
Do you think they’re finally going to get that risotto?
Matt Cornett: I hope so. Sofia [Wylie] and I actually realized after… This is honestly probably embarrassing to say. After we finished the season, we were like, “We have all of this talk about risotto this season. Do even know what risotto is?” We kind of looked at each other and both of us were like, “We have no clue what risotto is.” Sofia and I had a plan to actually eat risotto at some point and hang out, but I don’t think we ever did. Maybe in real life, Sofia and Matt need to hang out, get some risotto, and hopefully, in the future of the show, we can see Gina and EJ get together and have that risotto and just talk and have a good time.
EJ ran into Gina’s brother, Jamie, who insinuated that Gina looked at EJ like a brother. Do you think EJ really believed that, or do you think he was just scared that he would be rejected?
Matt Cornett: I think actually a little bit of both. I think EJ is scared of getting rejected again because, even though he has changed and he has grown, he still has that little bit of insecurity of not being enough. I think you see that when he doesn’t get into Duke, and then gets into Duke because of his dad. He realizes in the conversation with Gina that he doesn’t want to get into Duke because somebody else got him into Duke. He wants to get into Duke because he got into Duke. I think that comes over to this situation with Gina. He has really put himself out there. I think he was scared to put himself out there even more. He finally did whenever he worked up the nerve to ask Gina out for risotto, and the next thing you know he’s hearing from her brother, “I’m glad she has a big brother figure in her life.” I think instantly he is just like, “Oh, no. What did I do? Did I misread this? Did I overthink this?” I think he immediately starts deflecting and pushing away. That’s why you know you have that scene in the hallway where he really hurts Gina because he’s trying to protect himself. He reverts back to the old season 1 ways where he just does what he can to protect himself and put up his wall. He in turn canceled the risotto date and hurts Gina. It’s really sad but luckily they do finally get to come together and bring their feelings to light and let each other know.
I have to say, it broke my heart to watch Sofia cry after EJ breaks off the date… Anyways, my favorite song of season 2 by far is “Second Chance.” How did it feel to work with Sofia, Olivia [Rodrigo], and Josh [Bassett] on that song and bring everything full circle?
Matt Cornett: It was so beautiful. First of all, I have to agree the scene where Gina is crying after that hallway scene between EJ and Gina broke my heart. Sofia is such an incredible actress. I literally was just sitting watching just in awe of how insanely good she is, and it made me cry. So, Sofia, thank you. You made me cry. Moving on… “Second Chance” is such a beautiful song. It’s so amazing because all 4 of these characters come together in this moment without knowing that we’re all here together. We’re all in the same boat, we’re all feeling the same way, we’re all feeling like we wish we can go back and just get a second shot and just try it again to get it right. We’re all kind of feeling we’ve screwed things up in our own respective ways. I really enjoy the way that it came together. When we actually all come together in our season 1 clothes in front of the red curtain, that was actually the last day of filming season 2, so it was a very, very, very emotional day. It was just so much fun. I don’t even know if we got a picture altogether in season 1 clothes, but it was just crazy thinking back on how far we’ve come not only as a cast but as friends and as family and as characters and as a show. Everything has grown so much. My jeans did not fit me anymore. They were about 4 inches too short, so I physically grew. It was just very, very fun getting to go back. It was very nostalgic and extremely emotional, especially on the last day of filming season 2 we’re back in the first wardrobe we ever worked in on the show. Everything came full circle in such a beautiful moment.
I think another one of the best emotional moments of the finale was EJ’s senior moment. How did you feel filming that scene as the only one playing a senior on the show?
Matt Cornett: He’s definitely heartbroken because these people have become a family, so I don’t think even EJ knows what’s next for himself. I personally don’t know what’s next. I talked to Tim a little bit about that but nothing too much because we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. Hopefully, we’ll get to season 3 and get to explore. But I don’t know what the future holds. The writing staff is also incredibly creative and talented that I know they’ll figure something out to make it work and make it beautiful. It’s definitely a heartbreaking moment for EJ because he is a senior, and he is scared of not getting to be with the people all the time. He’s grown up with these people and, especially in the last year of school and these 2 seasons, he’s grown so much as a person because of these people. They’ve taught him so much, and that’s brought him even closer to them. He loves all of them so much, so we’ll see what the future holds when we get there.
The ending of season 2 leaves everything wide open for season 3. Is there anything you’d like to explore with EJ in a potential third season?
Matt Cornett: With him and as well as everybody else in the show, I think there’s always stuff to explore because everyone has a past, everyone has things that they’ve dealt with, and the way that those things affect them in the present day will always be a thing. I think there are moments that will happen, hopefully, in a possible season 3 because of something they experienced in their past that kind of causes tension or problems or whatever. I would love to see a little bit more of EJ’s home life and see how that kind of makes him who he is. Maybe because of his home life he does feel that pressure to be perfect. You can see a little bit of that when he’s really nervous to go to his dad about not going to Duke. You see he is very nervous, but he’s finally standing up to the dad because I think his family has this kind of expectation of him, and I think that’s where the season 1 version of himself comes from. I think unrealistic pressure and expectation from the family kind of cause that. I think there’s a lot to explore in that in the future as well, and then also a future with him and Mr. Mazzara and working together with A.V. club or robotics or whatever. I think EJ really enjoyed kind of getting to do all that with Mr. Mazzara this season. Hopefully, there’s a future with them together, and I loved doing things with Mark St. Cyr.
You’re also set to star in the upcoming Zombies 3. How does it feel to jump from one major Disney fandom to another?
Matt Cornett: It’s super fun. This project is such an incredible project from cast to crew to writers to producers to directing. The story itself is such a beautiful story. Especially in the third one, there’s so much in terms of just being so inclusive on every level. It’s just so beautiful. There are so many stories to tell in it and so many messages to hear from. It’s so much fun. It’s also fun getting to go from one vehicle to another. I’m really enjoying the music and the dancing. This cast is so incredible. I’ve kind of known them through mutual friends for a while but never really crossed paths with any of them, except for Meg Donnelly, so it was great to get to reconnect with her and then meet everybody else and become a part of this family. They already have become a family to me. I cannot wait for everyone to see this movie because it’s actually insane how amazing it is.