Grease: Rise of The Pink Ladies' Thompson, Schmidt & Bailey Interview

INTERVIEW: Madison Thompson & Jason Schmidt & Shanel Bailey Preview GREASE: RISE OF THE PINK LADIES

NOTE: This Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies interview has been edited for clarity.

Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies boasts the largest, most developed ensemble of characters to date in the larger Grease universe. The Paramount+ series takes great care to make even its “dumb jock”/”mean girl”/”nerd” characters more three-dimensional than those superficial archetypal descriptors.

Shanel Bailey plays Hazel, a highly intelligent new girl who is shy and reserved as she navigates the tumultuous social waters of Rydell High. Jason Schmidt portrays Buddy, the popular quarterback on the football. Buddy is also the initial love-interest of series protagonist Jane, before he takes a disappointingly unresponsive turn in response to misogynistic rumours about her. Madison Thompson plays Susan, Buddy’s popular ex-girlfriend and campaign manager for his run in student politics.

LadyJenevia: Shanel, Hazel is a very interesting character cause she’s super shy and reserved but she does have these moments of really being able to speak her mind. What insight can you offer into why she felt comfortable enough to call Wally out for his very poor choice in friends and his propensity for conformity?

Shanel: Thank you! I think that Hazel is really really smart and she’s super observant. She’s kind of sussing her way through the school at all times. She’s testing out the waters all the time and seeing what situations feel safe, and I think in a situation like that she found a common ground of, ‘This is another person of colour at this school, one of the only ones, he must know something that I don’t’ so that conversation was actually really important for her to have. It was a really cool moment for her to be like, ‘Oh but you think you know it all but you don’t.’ Not in a sassy way but for her to turn the tables back on him because he’s trying to school her and tell her he knows the ropes and she’s like, ‘Do you?’ I think it’s really cool.

LadyJenevia: Jason, how did you approach empathising with Buddy as a character even when he’s conforming to a very harmful status quo?

Jason: Yeah, I think for me, meeting with the writers, meeting with our show-runner Annabel, the thing that they hammered into me was that Buddy has a big heart. ‘No matter what, always play the big heart. He cares.’ The hard part is that if you read the script, you might not see that. Despite the fact that he keeps making these poor decisions, I think he does care. I just don’t think he’s figured out how to make decisions for himself and to stand up for what he actually believes in but if you keep watching, maybe he will, I don’t know…

LadyJenevia: Similarly for you Madison, what work did you do as an actor internally to make Susan three-dimensional and nuanced in your mind so that you can play from her truth and perspective, even when she’s being very unkind to the people around her?

Madison: Absolutely. I had a really great conversation with our show-runner Annabel at the beginning about making sure that Susan wasn’t just the blonde mean girl. This is something we explore as the season goes on. I wanted to make sure that in my character work for Susan, everything that is coming out of her mouth, every decision she makes, every snide look or disapproval that she makes comes out of reasoning and truth that she thinks is either the best for her or her friends, and that’s what she’s looking out for at the end of the day. I think that if you go back after seeing the entire series, you might see Susan in a different light and actually realise that maybe the comments aren’t as mean as you think and there’s actually a lot more to Susan than meets the eye. I think that’s representative of the series as a whole. We’re Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies, we’re obviously a prequel series to Grease, we’re a love-letter to Grease, but there is also so much more than the Grease name to our show.

Watch Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies on April 6 on Paramount+.

Watch the full interviews with the cast/crew of Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies here:

Grease: Rise of The Pink Ladies premieres on April 6 exclusively on Paramount+