Sofia Wylie’s dream has always been to be an East High Wildcat. Even though she’s already toured the world as a backup dancer for Justin Bieber, starred on Disney Channel’s Andi Mack for three seasons, done voiceover work for Marvel Rising: Heart of Iron, and is fresh off her first cinematic lead in Marvista’s Back of the Net (released February 2019), the 15-year-old Renaissance woman is still justifiably giddy over her new role as Gina in the iconic franchise’s upcoming TV reboot, High School Musical: The Series.
“Deep down, I’ve always known this was what I wanted to do, but I never actually thought that this could happen,” Wylie tells EW. “I mean, it’s just a surreal thought that I would be on High School Musical: The Musical: The Series… that doesn’t seem real to me.”
Growing up, Wylie loved shows like Hannah Montana and Shake It Up along with the High School Musical movies because they combined all of her passions — acting, dancing, and singing. The Wildcats of East High, however, have always held an irreplaceable spot in her heart, starting in earnest when, age five, she won a contest to go to the premiere of High School Musical 3 at her local mall in Scottsdale, Ariz.
“My sister and I were the biggest High School Musical fans, and still are, so I begged my mom to let me go and do the contest, and somehow I won and got tickets for my whole family. We got to fly out to LA and meet all of the stars,” says Wylie, recalling how star-struck she was. “I don’t think [my sister and I] spoke a word the whole time because we were in absolute shock. I would still be in shock if I met those people today! You know how everyone’s doing those ’10-year challenges?’ This is mine. Like, that was practically 10 years ago and it’s come full circle and I couldn’t be more thankful for all of these opportunities.”
Wylie’s genuine love for the series (and prophetic tweeting) has stayed as chlid-like as ever, and she feels that it, along with her experiences on Andi Mack, have been the two most integral parts of her preparation for the role she’s about to take on.
“It helped me grow and learn so much in the television industry because when you’re working, you have to learn as you work. You’re learning everything you need just by doing it. Of course there’s so much more I have to learn but it really prepared me for everything else that I’m going to do in the future.”
Even with the resume that she already has under her belt, at 15, Wylie is still the youngest of the cast, and the starlet has set goals of having hard work, humility, and openness as her hallmarks through this process.
“Being the youngest of the cast I was a little worried that I was going to not fit in, but everybody was so accepting and so nice… No matter how many experiences you’ve had or opportunities or jobs that you’ve booked, to always be humble is the number one priority, and my parents have always instilled that quality within me and my sister. Also seeing it lived out in all of my cast-mates’ lives …I know I’m going to learn so much from them too because they just have so many years of work and dedication that they’ve put into this, and I can’t wait to hopefully grow up to be like them,” says Wylie.
Given the attitude that Wylie is going into this process with, it might be hard to believe that her character, Gina, is opposite in many ways. She is described as very entitled and confident in herself, but Wylie says she’s looking to pull from personal experiences to make her a relatable character.
“Like any human being ever, there’s always a reason behind why you are the way you are, so I always have to remember that with Gina,” says Wylie. “The writers and producers of the show have been so great with communicating with me and helping me understand Gina because she is a new character that I’m now going to be living with in a sense, so I need to understand her in the fullest… I know that Gina will definitely evolve so much, even from how I see her now. If you talk to me in a week I’ll probably see her differently.”
Even this Sharpay-esque role means big shoes to fill for Wylie and her cast-mates as vocalists, actors, and dancer. As iconic as the songs are, you can’t sing them without seeing in your head the equally transcendent dance numbers that go along with them. From “Get’cha Head in the Game” to “Bet On It” to “Can I Have This Dance” in the first, second, and third movies, respectively, the franchise proves that the best numbers need equally memorable choreography to reach pop culture staple status. The show will feature classics from the films as well as originals, and although we don’t know which ones made the cut, Wylie assures EW that she, and the rest of the cast, are up to the task.
“I’m definitely able to dance a lot in the show, and everybody will be able to see Gina right out of the gate just going for it,” laughs Wylie. “I can’t give any details right now but there are certain parts of the series in which I really get to showcase that part of my life. There really are so many iconic moments in High School Musical, and we’re doing it with a new cast and a new storyline, but I feel like there are going to be so many more of those iconic moments in this series as well in such a different way, and I can’t wait for everyone to see them.”
The series was developed by executive producer Tim Federle alongside showrunner and fellow EP Oliver Goldstick. Filming started on Friday in Salt Lake City, Utah for the 10-episode series set to be streamed exclusively on Disney+, which is set to launch in late 2019.