Since the release and massive success of Sour, there’s been tons of speculation around whether Olivia Rodrigo would remain a part of the cast of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. Now, showrunner Tim Federle is opening up about Olivia’s future on the show ahead of the season 3 premiere. 

Olivia’s charcter Nini Salazar-Roberts had been reduced from regular status to recurring back in March 2021, which seemed to reflect the major changes in Nini’s storyline as she begins to come into her own as a young songwriter. Near the end of season 2, she’s faced with an opportunity to travel to L.A. to pursue the craft more seriously. Nini appearances are sprinkled throughout the trailer for HSMTMTS season 3, but it’s clear that she’s not the main focal point of the show this season.

“I think she’s ready to explore the world outside the halls of East High,” Tim Federle said while speaking to Entertainment Tonight about Nini’s “surprising” season 3 character arc. “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.”

Olivia Rodrigo was first cast as one of the stars of HSMTMTS back in 2019, and received critical acclaim upon the show’s release for her performance as Nini and her chemistry with co-star Joshua Bassett. One year after the show’s season 1 finale, Olivia released her debut single “Drivers License,” which became a global, record-breaking hit. Olivia just wrapped up her first concert tour in support of her debut album Sour on July 7, 2022.

“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,” continued Tim. “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.”

Tim’s comments about Olivia/Nini’s potential departure from the show are a bit cryptic, but it seems that Olivia’s eventual exit from HSMTMTS is going to come sooner rather than later. However, that doesn’t mean she’ll be gone from the show forever.

“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,” Tim explained. “It’s a safe assumption that you haven’t seen the last of some of these characters.”

While a handful of fan favorites will have a somewhat smaller presence in the third season, HSMTMTS is making up for it with the addition of many new — and familiar! — faces. This season will see stars like HSM OG Corbin Bleu, Hannah Montana alum Jason Earles, Nickelodeon star JoJo Siwa, and many more. Season 3 of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series will hit Disney+ on Wednesday, July 27, with new episodes weekly. You can watch the trailer for the third season below:

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