Interview: Andrew Barth Feldman & Olivia Rose Keegan Talk High School Musical: The Musical: The Series

The pair join the cast of the Disney Plus series as rival performers from North High.

By: Jun. 25, 2021
Interview: Andrew Barth Feldman & Olivia Rose Keegan Talk High School Musical: The Musical: The Series

Last week on "High School Musical: The Musical: The Series," the world was introduced to Antoine and Lily, the talented high school performers taking on the East High cast in dueling productions of "Beauty and the Beast."

Andrew Barth Feldman (Broadway's "Dear Evan Hansen") plays French exchange student "Antoine." He teams up with Olivia Rose Keegan's ("Days of Our Lives") "Lily," an energetic student whose sweetness masks her highly competitive nature.

After winning the 2018 National High School Musical Theatre Award (aka the Jimmy Award) as a high school sophomore, Barth Feldman made his Broadway debut a year later as the title character in the Tony Award-winning musical "Dear Evan Hansen." Barth Feldman, who will attend Harvard University next year, also runs a theatre company that he founded at age twelve, Zneefrock Productions. Zneefrock Productions partners theatre with advocacy, raising funds for several charitable causes.

Keegan was recently awarded a Daytime Emmy Award for her role of Claire Brady on long-running soap opera, "Days of our Lives." She has been singing and acting since the tender age of seven and is also known for her leading role in family film "Salvation Street" and guest starring roles in Disney Channel's "A.N.T. Farm," Nickeloedeon's "Sam & Cat" and "The Thundermans" and feature film "Decoding Annie Parker," alongside Helen Hunt, Aaron Paul, Samantha Morton and Rashida Jones.

BroadwayWorld had the pleasure of speaking to Andrew and Olivia about their new roles, "that" viral video, and what it means to work on such an exciting series in the middle of a pandemic.

Read the full interview below!

Andrew, you've played two French guys in a row now with "Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical" and "High School Musical: The Musical: The Series," so I'd love to hear what you think is going on there, and if you could just tell me a little about this exciting time in your career!

Andrew: Yeah! Some weird, cosmic thing - I think maybe I was French in a past life or something. I don't know! It's very weird. I didn't have to do a French accent for Linguine. This is obviously a step in the right direction as far as French-speaking is concerned. But Ratatouille was a crazy whirlwind of a time, and this is a crazy whirlwind of a time.

I'm very not French. But I'm glad that the world thinks I can be.

For you, Olivia - you're coming to this show from the world of soaps. Can you tell me a little about Lily, and what's different about this project from your previous work, and what's exciting about this chance you have now?

Olivia: Sure! Of course, they're two entirely different animals - soap operas and anything else. I think the biggest difference that I've really loved is just having the luxury of time. I remember my first day on set, we had an hour and a half long conversation about my hair, and what to do with my hair, and what would be most in character. And I had just never - it had been so long since I've been able to think about details like that, and actually really dig my nails into that sort of stuff, so that's been a huge luxury.

On soap operas - or at least on [Days of Our Lives] - you pretty much got one shot! You're running through perhaps 40 pages of dialogue per day. So, number one priority sometimes is making sure you are able to memorize the lines, of course. And with "High School Musical," it's been so wonderful to have time to of course go into the little, nitty-gritty details about the character. And the whole script, and character background, and you come up with your own fun theories. You just have so much more time to really get into it, which I've really loved.

Could you tell me a little about shooting during the pandemic, and working on something so major while something else major was happening outside?

Andrew: It was the most lovely respite ever. It was so wonderful to have some kind of sense of normalcy - not to mention the fever dream of the first people I was seeing without masked on were, like, the cast of "HSMTMTS," in character, doing these scenes. And especially being such a super fan of the first season, it was very, very surreal in every sense.

And in terms of the COVID restrictions, this is my first thing on TV, so I have nothing to really compare it to. I loved every second. I didn't really consider the restrictions or the boundaries - I didn't feel inhibited at all, personally. I know a lot of people were frustrated - rightfully so, because what a frustrating time it all was. But I loved every second of it.

Olivia: I can piggyback off what he said and try not to piggyback too much, because I completely agree with everything. And also, it's just amazing that the arts is something that's considered to be one of those necessary things. And we had the ability to shoot during this incredible time. I just feel so lucky and grateful that we were able to, and that the arts is considered one of the necessary things.

It is necessary! I think during this whole pandemic, we've all really benefitted from having things like Netflix and Disney Plus to enjoy during this time. I've been so grateful.

In that same line of thought, you mentioned you were a fan, Andrew. Can you both tell me a little about your relationship to "High School Musical" and "HSMTMTS?" What's the most exciting part of being part of this project for you?

Andrew: Every inch of it. Playing a character like Antoine is such a comfortable space for me, because I'm just here to be silly and shake things up in the story that I love so much. I don't feel, like, the enormous responsibility that I'm sure the people leading the show do, like Josh [Bassett] and Olivia [Rodrigo], but I just get to have fun with those incredible performers, and people I adore outside of the show. So every second getting to live in this world was dream come true - as a "High School Musical" super fan, a Disney super fan, just a huge nerd. I loved it so much.

What about you, Olivia? When did "High School Musical" come into your life?

Olivia: For me, I don't remember a particular moment where it came into my life. It was just always there. It was always in the culture at that point. It was such a big part of everybody's life, and it always had a presence.

And if anyone doubts whether Andrew is telling the truth or not, literally there are trivia videos of him online where we played, and he can recite, line by line, every single moment of the show, and the movie series. But it's incredible to watch that. He is not lying.

Andrew: Without even thinking, I was quoting people's lines at them. Poor Kate Reinders. I was just quoting things they said on the show that they might not have even remembered saying. But I've seen every episode probably more than ten times. I would watch it in the morning before coming to set. I was and am obsessed, and I think that this season is topping everything I loved about the first season, which is big word from me!

Olivia: Absolutely!

Can you give me your theatre kid credits? What were you doing in high school, and how does that help you to relate to your characters now?

Andrew: This is gonna be rougher for Keegan! Keegan was never really a theatre kid like the rest of us dweebs. But I know for me, I would be doing five shows at a time at different theatre companies, trying to just soak up every second in a theater that I could, and even doing crew and lighting and writing, things like that. If you can't tell, I'm someone who dips my toe into trivia, so I was kind of like the resident historian of theatre things growing up. I've always been the theatriest of theatre kids, so this is just the perfect world for me and the perfect character to be playing.

Olivia: Andrew and many other people in the cast - I feel like they are much more eligible to answer that question, but I love learning about it! And Andrew's taught me a great deal about the beautiful history of theatre. I did start - when I was a wee child, I started in musical theatre, and I did a couple of shows just in the local community theater. And that's actually how I caught the "acting bug."

There's nothing like it. And I think this show is the closest thing that comes to theatre, because you have dance offs, and it's "High School Musical: The MUSICAL: The Series!" So it's the closest thing in primetime television and streaming - the closest thing to theatre. So I think that's just amazing.

Andrew: And it really does feel like that. Like, I can vouch that Olivia Keegan now has the full high school theatre experience. Just from being part of the show, and the kinds of zany, wonderful things we got to do.

Olivia: The bar is high! I'm starting with THIS!

I know about this episode coming out, with this viral video y'all created within the show. Tell me about shooting that!

Andrew: Yeah! I got to wear that crazy costume! I got to wear this - both of us got so lucky, that we got to wear these incredibly gorgeous costumes that the wardrobe team assembled for us. It was heavy, I'll say! The candle hands. But, oh my God, the fact that it lights up? We were just having way too much fun that day, I think. And you can't see my shoes in the show, I don't think, but I have these snakeskin shoes. It was the best, most glamorous, most ridiculous day of Olivia Keegan and I just looking at each other every five seconds being like, "What are we doing? This is our job!"

Olivia: That was exactly the day! I can't count how many times we just looked at each other and we were like, "This is work? I can't believe this is work."

Andrew: We really did!

Olivia: It was incredible. The Belle costume that I had on was heavy as well! And I just have so much respect for any woman alive in the 1800s, any time around then. Because, woo! It's heavy! And I hear about actresses who turn down roles because they don't want to be in a corset for nine months, and it was so worth it. I don't know if that costume was as constricting as some of the others, even, but it helped me get into character. It was the most magical day of my life. And then to look over at Andrew and see him all dressed up - I was so excited for everyone to see it. The costumes are brilliant.

Getting a little bit into the "Beauty and the Beast" of it all, did you grow up with that movie? What was it like to be part of something like that in the show-within-a-show?

Andrew: For me, "Beauty and the Beast" was actually the first Broadway show I ever saw. I was three years old! I saw "Beauty and the Beast" on Broadway, and it changed everything for me. And then Le Fou in "Beauty and the Beast" was actually the first named role that I ever played. It was very, very weirdly, extremely full circle to be part of this specific story, in the same way that "High School Musical" when it first came out had, and how that changed my life and made me want to pursue theatre. So it was kind of all these things coming together so beautifully - not to mention that Lumière has always been a dream role, so to now sort of play my version, and what my world of Lumière is. Just to kind of wear the costume is all I need.

Olivia: Antoine-Lumière is priceless. Wonderful.

But yeah! I had the Belle dress, and I would put it on when I was a baby or a toddler often and make my cousin do photo shoots with me. And it's just like with the "High School Musical" series and movies, where it was just always there, and I always had it on repeat and would watch it again and again growing up. It made such an imprint in my life. And it's just such a crazy, full-circle moment.

What are other exciting projects you have coming up that we can look for?

Andrew: I have some music coming out, actually! It's not officially announced yet, there's no date yet, but it's extremely soon. And I'm really excited about that. I'm doing some concerts here in New York, sort of related to that, at 54 Below. And then, besides that, some more stuff that's super unannounced and super secret that I'm really excited about. That's what I've got!

Olivia: Nothing too crazy for me! I'm just going to be keeping myself updated with Andrew's exciting stuff. That's on my agenda. But nothing too crazy from me! Just auditioning, and working on the craft, and loving all of it.

You can watch new episodes of "High School Musical: The Musical: The Series" on Disney Plus every Friday. Watch a clip from last week's "Beauty and the Beast" dance battle here:

Photo Credit: Disney Plus/Fred Hayes

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