She was one of the show’s most popular stars, but fans are lamenting why Olivia Rodrigo left HSMTMTS.

Rodrigo starred as Nini Salazar-Roberts in three seasons of Disney Plus’ High School Musical: The Musical The Series, a TV spinoff of the 2006 Disney Channel original movie, High School Musical, and its two sequels.

She was a series regular for the first two seasons of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series before stepping down in a recurring role for its third season. News of her reduced role came after a whirlwind year for Rodrigo, whose first album, Sour, debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart in May 2021.

Olivia Rodrigo, Taylor Swift

Olivia Rodrigo

The album also included Billboard Hot 100 top 10 hits like “Deja Vu” and “Traitor,” as well as “Drivers License” and “Good 4 U,” both of which peaked at number one. Rodrigo also won three Grammys at the 64th annual Grammy Awards, including Best New Artist, Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Pop Solo Performance. She also embarked on her sold-out Sour Tour in April 2022. As the fourth and final season hit Disney+ on August 9, 2023, fans are lamenting Nini’s absence. Here’s why Olivia Rodrigo left HSMTMTS.

Why did Olivia Rodrigo leave HSMTMTS?

Why did Olivia Rodrigo leave HSMTMTS? Season three was her final season, mostly because the logistics of balancing her exploding music career was becoming too much of a juggle.

Series creator Tim Federle told Variety on the day of season four’s debut that, “I felt really confident about that ending and Olivia is so busy with her songwriting career. At this point, we are introducing so many new people, the OG characters and we wanted to bring back other really important characters. I kind of felt like, with only eight episodes, it just becomes cameos as opposed to real stories,” he said. “The offer was extended to her insomuch as Olivia knowing from me that she can always come back. But it was never really seriously discussed because there were new relationships we had to write for.”

Olivia Rodrigo. Photo: Eric McCandless / ©Disney+ / courtesy Everett Collection

After the conclusion of season three, Federle teased to Entertainment Weekly that it would’ve been “impossible” to bring her back for another season, certainly in the same capacity as she’d been for the first and second seasons. Her success in the music industry was a big reason she was simply getting too busy.

“Well, the reality was, she had this album that did pretty well. Not sure if you’ve heard of it, it’s called Sour. [Laughs] And the world was clamoring for [her] tour. From a pure logistical standpoint, the idea of Olivia doing the entire season and doing her tour was immediately looking impossible,” he said. “But she was and is such an important part of the DNA of the show that it also didn’t feel right to not give an explanation for where the character of Nini went. That was thing one: how do you make both things work, schedule-wise?”

He continued: “And then thing two is, Olivia is amazing, but I really think this whole cast is amazing. Sofia Wylie holds the center of the frame and the center of so many stories with so much wit and wisdom and just wicked talent that we were all really excited to elevate her and allow her to take that central role — with everything that comes with that, the drama, the comedy, the songs, the dancing, the things that only Sofia can do. I guess it’s a little bit like a wedding where it’s like, ‘We’re not losing a daughter, we’re gaining a leading lady.’ That’s how this season felt.”

Federle also confirmed that his plan for High School Musical: The Musical: The Series also changed dramatically after Rodrigo became a massive pop star. “It’s like, season one, we were making a completely different show, but that’s OK. Any show that’s about the power of music — it’s so corny to say this, but this is me — and the way that making music with people you love can change your life and change the world, for this to have occurred, for Olivia, all I can do is sit back and be like, ‘If the worst thing that ever happened to me is that the star of my show became the biggest pop star in the world and had to chase that, then that’s a pretty damn good bad thing to happen to me,’” he said.

“I’m so proud of her. I joked when I first pitched the series to Disney that I had many, many seasons in my head and I did, and I still do. In the streaming era, when friends of mine with amazing shows get canceled after one or two seasons, the honest, honest answer is that everything is gravy at this point.”

Olivia Rodrigo. Photo: Eric McCandless / ©Disney+ / courtesy Everett Collection

As for what Rodrigo has said, she told The Guardian in 2021 that she planned to commit to High School Musical: The Musical: The Series at the time for at least two more years. She also discussed the struggle of balancing acting and music. “I think it’s really hard to split time between the two and there are very few artists who do that efficiently because acting is based on being a good liar and presenting a version of yourself that’s believable, and being a songwriter is the complete opposite. It’s like, here are all of my deepest, darkest secrets and I want you to know me so personally,” she said.

In an interview with GQ in 2021, Rodrigo revealed that she told a music producer not to watch High School Musical: The Musical: The Series because she wanted to be taken “seriously” as an artist.“ I’ve always just wanted to be taken seriously as a singer-songwriter — not that being an actor takes away from that at all. I wanted him to know me for me and not the side character that I was playing. I also just get really self-conscious about stuff like that, on a human level. I hate it when my friends listen to my songs or watch anything related,” Rodrigo said.

High School Musical: The Musical The Series is available to stream on Disney Plus. Here’s how to watch it for free.

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