Kate Reinders On Dancing With Derek Hough, Olivia Rodrigo’s Success, & ‘HSMTMTS’ S2 Secrets

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Miss Jenn is back! Kate Reinders is here to spill all the details behind the second season of ‘High School Musical: The Musical: The Series’.

High School Musical — who says we have to let it go? Not us, especially since the second season of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series debuts today on Disney+, reuniting fans with their favorite new generation of Wildcats. The new season promises to be filled with surprises and even more epic musical performances than season one — and at the center of it all, watching and guiding her beloved students is drama teacher Miss Jenn, played by the hilarious scene-stealer Kate Reinders.

Catching up with Kate before the premiere, we chatted about the thrilling season ahead for character, which includes directing an unforeseen, lavish spring musical and reconnecting with a long-lost, but not forgotten boyfriend. For Kate, just being back for season two is a gift. “When we wrapped up season one, we didn’t know if there would be a season two,” Kate explained. “Little did I know it would lead right to Derek Hough!”

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Yes, the Emmy-winning choreographer and Dancing With the Stars pro joins the cast this season as Miss Jenn’s ex boyfriend, Zack, who has come back to Salt Lake to stir up some real drama for the drama teacher. “He is Miss Jenn’s first love who broke her heart,” Kate explains. “Miss Jenn doesn’t quite have closure on that. So, while she has just really embraced this new life of being a teacher, and her kids, and knocking High School Musical: The Musical out of the park and she’s feeling real good—BAM! Her past smashes into her face and she has to deal with it. And not only is he just back around, he is now directing the show at the rival high school. It’s going to be complicated.”

The season 2 premiere episode, Kate and Derek share a brief, albeit tense scene together when they bump into each other for the first time. However, as the trailer for the season has shown, Kate will enjoy a twirl on the dance floor with the six-time Dancing With the Stars champ. “I was so intimidated,” Kate confessed about filming the dance number. “But he was so good to me… Basically Derek Hough was dipping me, and lifting me back up, and spinning me around, and picking me up in the air; it was the best day of my life!”

But Zack isn’t the only man in Miss Jenn’s life that fans have to keep an eye out for. It’s clear that Miss Jenn will have her hands full with potential love interests, as Ricky’s dad (Alex Quijano) and fellow teacher, Benjamin Mazzara (Mark St. Cyr), are still in the mix. But don’t expect her to make a choice between the three suitors quickly. “Miss Jenn is just trying to go with the flow,” Kate explains. “She’s trying to figure out who she is and what she wants, and then hopefully, they will all fall in line.”

HollywoodLife/Paige Kindlick

As if her love life isn’t enough to juggle, Miss Jenn also has the daunting task of putting up an elaborate spring musical with her Wildcats. With her sights set on winning the Alan Menken Awards for Excellence in High School Musical Theater , Miss Jenn abandons her plan to put on High School Musical 2 in favor of the timeless Disney classic, Beauty and the Beast. As with season one, Kate teases that the soundtrack will have a different vibe and sound from the original Broadway production – and that’s just how everyone likes it! “The way that we use the songs … there’s layers upon layers of meaning that is going on,” Kate explains, before giving kudos to her beloved students. “All the kids have their own twist and their voices are just the best in the world.”

Speaking of her students, in the span of filming season two of HSMTMTS, co-star Olivia Rodrigo, who plays Nini, became a global sensation with her first debut songs, Driver’s License and Déjà vu. As Kate tells it, “She was at work one day with us, then she had the number one song in the world —  then she was right back at work with us!”

But it’s been no surprise to Olivia’s co-stars the acclaim she’s receiving, and Kate foresees that only to continue once her fans get into the second season of the show. “Olivia is the real deal,” Kate says. “There’s a song she does in season two where, when I read the lyrics in the script, before I knew she’d written it, I thought, ‘These lyrics are incredible!’  Then I heard the song with her singing it and then realized she’d written it and was completely blown away. When you see that song in season two, in particular, you will think to yourself, ‘Oh yes, yes. Of course. Of course, she’s number one in the world!’ It wasn’t a question of if. It was just when.”

But the biggest surprise of season 2 is just how grand the productions, despite the limitations of COVID-19. Filming in the middle of the pandemic was challenging, but as Kate puts it, it only forced the team to work harder and smarter. “I would say this season is more exciting to me because the kids know each other better,” Kate explained. “And, because we had to pause for COVID, we actually had months where we would have weekly Zoom calls with the cast and with a couple of producers, and we would talk about what we were watching on Netflix  and what we’re cooking or drinking. I think, even though we were covered in masks and socially distanced and all that stuff, this whole experience brought us even closer together.”

With a laugh, she added: “[Executive Producer] Tim Federle said a lot this year — nobody pivots like High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. These are musical theater kids. We make it work!”

High School Musical: The Musical: The Series season two is streaming now on Disney+

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