Julia Lester Says ‘Wondering’ Helped Set the Tone For ‘HSMTMTS’
When High School Musical: The Musical: The Series was announced, it was hard to know what to expect, especially with the recent influx of reboots and revivals. But it did not disappoint and it wasn’t a rehashing of the original High School Musical franchise by any stretch of the imagination. That’s in big part because it had some fantastic original songs. One of those was “Wondering,” which was sung by Julia Lester and Olivia Rodrigo.
It was one of the first big hits of the season, but definitely not the only one. It went on to have major success, and Lester talked to Showbiz CheatSheet about how it felt to have such a powerful song on the show and how it was also the first thing she worked on for the series.
Julia Lester and Olivia Rodrigo recorded ‘Wondering’ before seeing the script for ‘High School Musical: The Musical: The Series’
Lester’s Ashlyn Moon Caswell is a star student, so it’s not a surprise that she was cast as Ms. Darbus in their production of High School Musical and given the solo of “Wondering.” In the movie, Ms. Darbus doesn’t have a solo, but Miss Jenn assigns one for Ashlyn to write in their stage production for a nice spotlight moment. And what a moment it is.
Lester and Rodrigo sing the song on only the second episode and the power ballad — there really is no better word for it — tells the perspective of someone not taking their full shot at something and forever wondering if they missed their chance at something great.
She shared that it was “the very first song that was ever recorded or rehearsed for the entire series.” This was Lester’s first musical show and her first single-camera style series after doing multi-cam sitcoms. So to jump right into this recording three weeks before moving to Utah to film the Disney+ series was a very new experience for Lester.
“I hadn’t read a script yet. I hadn’t met the cast, I hadn’t done anything for the show,” Lester says. “And immediately they were like, we’re putting you in rehearsal for this song that you’re going to eventually sing in the show that I didn’t know much about.”
But she of course felt honored and “blown away” by the chance to record “Wondering.” It was the first professionally recorded song she’d ever done as well.
‘Wondering’ set the tone for the entire ‘High School Musical: The Musical: The Series’
After they did record it and started performing it live for the show, when they filmed it, the success of the song was something that the showrunner, Tim Federle, could already sense.
“He was kind of like telling Olivia and I that we had sort of set the precedent for how they want to shoot the rest of the music videos for the series and how they want the show to look and sound and feel,” Lester shares. “That was really so amazing that I was able to help him find that place that he wanted to get to do for the show.”
Lester shares that she and Rodrigo “got to live with it alone for a year” before it even came out to the world, but then it, of course, blew up.
“Then it was released and now it gets to live on. And like you said, it has 50 million streams, which is like the I can’t even have any words,” she says. “It’s really special to me.”
Will we see another song like ‘Wondering’ in season 2?
As for if fans can expect another standout moment for Lester, as Ashlyn, in another “Wondering” type of song in the second season, Lester says that they’re just going to have to wait and see.
“I think it’ll be… it’s up to interpretation, but they’re going to hear something,” she says about hearing something similar to “Wondering.”
Lester did share that more characters are going to have standout moments, so fans have that to look out for as well.
High School Musical: The Musical: The Series was a lot of firsts for Lester. As stated before, she experienced a lot of television firsts while working on the first season along with recording her first big song. And “Wondering,” especially, was something she creatively hadn’t done before. And through HSMTMTS she was able to “incorporate theatre” into her job, which she really enjoyed.
“The show has definitely very different than anything I’ve done,” she says, but of course, that’s what made it so fun.
High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, Season 2 premieres on Disney+ on May 14.