Matt Cornett is proud of his character’s growth. Matt, 23, plays E.J. in Disney Plus’ High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. Through the past two seasons of the show, fans have seen E.J. put his all into whatever game he’s playing, from auditioning for the lead role of his high school play to trying to win the affection of his crush. The show—better known by its acronym HSMTMTS—started as a spinoff of the beloved 2006 Disney Channel original movie, High School Musical, where students from East High School (the same school where the original HSM filmed) perform a meta stage production of the movie.
Since then, HSMTMTS has grown to tell its own stories. In season 3, which premieres on July 27, fans will see the Wildcats head to summer camp embark on a new production of Frozen as E.J. steps up as director and tries to manage his new relationship with fellow Wildcat, Gina.
I feel very lucky to be able to play a character that has such a great arc and has so many different stories he gets to explore.
Read to see what Matt had to tell StyleCaster about E.J.’s journey throughout HSMTMTS, what it was like to work with HSM original cast member (and legend) Corbin Bleu, and what musical he thinks the Wildcats should do next.
On E.J.’s character arc
“I always refer to E.J. in season one as ‘Season One E.J.’ because it’s such a different him than he is now. He’s learned so much through these three years. But, he’s also learned a lot from his Wildcats this time. I feel very lucky to be able to play a character that has such a great arc and has so many different stories he gets to explore. This season was its own completely new thing, that also ties into season one. ‘Season One E.J.’ was very focused on just showing that he had his life in order. He was perfect and he put on this facade of just being the perfect guy that has everything he wants. His parents were able to get him everywhere. He was gonna get into Duke. He quickly obviously realized it’s OK to not have everything in line. Getting to play him in this season in a sense it’s like, ‘OK, now I’m directing the show again. Now, this is really my chance to show my dad I can amount up to something.’ It ties back into season one where my character is trying to impress people again, and trying to impress his dad and show people that he is worth something because I think his dad has never been supportive of the musical arts. That’s why he gets so overwhelmed and stressed because he puts so much pressure on directing the show. He wants to show his dad, as well as everybody else, that he can really do something and that he can live the life he wants to.”
On continuing the Disney summer tradition
“We do a mash-up of ‘What Time Is It?’ and ‘Start the Party’ for one of the first songs of the season. It’s a perfect intro for the season because you get a Camp Rock and a High School Musical mash-up. It’s really fun. We definitely pulled from Camp Rock just because we’re at camp. There are so many Camp Rock moments and it felt very camp rocky to us.”
On working with Corbin Bleu
“We’ve known Corbin for a while. During season one, we did some press with him. He had interviewed us for a few different outlets. He’s always been supportive of the show, and loving and caring to all of us. He told all of us, ‘Hey, I’m here if you need help with anything if you just have questions, or you just want to talk, or just whatever I’m here.’ He’s such an amazing person. On top of the fact that he’s insanely talented. The man can sing, he can dance, he can act—I don’t think there’s anything he can’t do. Getting to be on screen with him was even crazier. He obviously was a big part of my childhood. There was one scene I had with Corbin, where I was in a scene with him and I just remember not feeling great in it. I went up to him and I said, ‘Dude, do you ever like feel this? How do you pull yourself out of this?’ We sat and talked for 25 minutes in between the take just talking about it and he helped me through it and made me feel better about a lot of different things.”
On his HSMTMTS castmates
“I love them so much, and I love getting to work with my best friends. I’m so lucky to get to say that. My work is not work to me. It’s getting to show up and have fun with friends. Some of my favorite moments are making music videos in our trailers and walking around filming a music video tour to whatever random song it is for that week. Any group scenes we ever film together are always fun because everyone’s in it. Usually it gets a little crazy, wacky and all over the place, especially this season being at the camp and getting to be outside. A lot of times during lunch we would all go sit out in the middle of the lawn at camp just in the middle of the grass and have a big picnic and l play some music. It’s so surreal.”
On the musical he wants for HSMTMTS season 4
“Maybe Peter Pan could be fun. I’ve heard a lot of people talk about Into the Woods. But I think Peter Pan would be a very, very fun one. Either Peter Pan or The Little Mermaid. How fun would that be? Oh my gosh. The water aspect of it.”
High School Musical: The Musical: The Series is available to stream on Disney Plus. Here’s how to watch it for free.