INTERVIEW: Days of our Lives' Olivia Rose Keegan on her High School Musical series role and saying goodbye to Claire

Posted Monday, May 10, 2021 12:38:22 PM
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Olivia Rose Keegan opens up about taking on the role of a somewhat sweet villain in the second season of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series and gives her honest opinion about the character of Claire Brady being recast after she left Days of our Lives.

Actress Olivia Rose Keegan is so good at playing a villain, she won a Daytime Emmy Award last year for taking Days of our Lives' Claire Brady to the dark side. The actress is once again showing off her signature bad girl acting skills, this time in season two of Disney's High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, which begins streaming this Friday on Disney+.

The musical drama follows the lives of theater-obsessed high school students, and creator/writer/executive producer Tim Federle teases that Keegan "brings such brilliant, juicy, villainous chops" to the recurring role of Lily, a new girl at East High whose energy and sweetness masks her insecurity and highly competitive nature.

Season two will see the ferocious Lily butting heads with many of the characters from season one as the students put on a production of Beauty and the Beast. But rumor has it Lily will also be part of an upcoming love triangle with lead characters Ricky (Joshua Bassett) and Nini (Olivia Rodrigo), who are facing a long-distance relationship due to Nini being accepted to a performing arts boarding school in another city.

It all sounds very soapy, so, naturally, Soap Central couldn't resist catching up with Keegan to get her take on playing yet another mean girl and if there is anything she learned during her time as a baddie in Salem that she has taken to High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.

Soap Central: The last we spoke, you had just been nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for your work as DAYS' Claire, and then you ended up winning! How does it feel to be an Emmy-winning actress?

Olivia Rose Keegan: It still feels unreal! Especially in such a strange year. I think that was just a crazy little cherry on top. If I want it to sink in, it still takes a full five minutes to process and think about, and I just cannot be more grateful for the whole experience at Days of our Lives and everything about it and everything that it taught me and gave me the opportunity to try and do as far as acting. I'm just so grateful.

Soap Central: I'm really excited that you found post-daytime success, and now you're in this really fun Disney series. There's music, there's high school stories, it's Disney-related -- what's not to love?!

Keegan: I'm having the time of my life! I could not be luckier. Just walking into it for season two, it can be an intimidating situation on paper, you know, walking in as a new person on season two and everyone has bonded and already knows each other through season one, but every single human in the cast and the crew could not have been more welcoming and kind, so I've just had nothing but a complete blast. And just moving from the soap opera world to filming a show like High School Musical, it's obviously two completely different animals. So, I've had a lot of fun readjusting to a different way of filming. It's been so fun.

Soap Central: The official character description of Lily says that she's super sweet, which masks insecurities and a highly competitive nature. From the teaser clips we've seen, though, Lily doesn't seem sweet or insecure -- just competitive! How would you describe her?

Keegan: That's a great takeaway! [Laughs] I absolutely agree with what you said, and I agree with the description of her, the breakdown. I feel like everybody has everything inside them; we are all so many different types of people and have different types of personalities all within us, and different parts of them come out. Some come out as a fašade or a coping mechanism or something. So, Lily's competitive streak definitely comes from a deeper place of wanting to be the best because she is an insecure girl. And all girls who are mean are just a little insecure and just want to be loved. [Laughs] So, there are a lot of twists and turns to Lily. She's not a surface-level, superficial mean girl, because nobody is really like that at the end of the day. All the feelings and fašades and walls you put up come from somewhere, and hopefully people get to see some different sides of her through the show, which I'm really excited about.

Soap Central: How would you say your competitive nature compares to Lily's in terms of advancing your career?

Keegan: Oh, man! [Laughs] I am pretty competitive about some things, but I like to be competitive with myself. I'm usually pretty good at just being competitive with myself, because at the end of the day, that's all that matters; once you start comparing yourself to other people, you are done for. [Laughs] It is an endless black hole that all of us could go down for the rest of eternity. I admire Lily's determination. She's a very determined girl, and she doesn't know how to control it. You can get the things you want without being manipulative and scary, and that's a lesson that maybe she hasn't learned yet.

Soap Central: It seems very soapy, actually, her personality. Plus, there's rumor that Lily will be in a love triangle with the show's main characters, Ricky and Nini, which also seems quite soapy! Do you feel like this series is a high school soap opera, in a way?

Keegan: That's an interesting question. I think that at the end of the day, it's just life. And soap operas are just a very heightened version of life. All of those storylines and all of those love triangles and squares and octagons -- I don't know if there's ever been a love octagon [laughs] -- but all of those stories that are happening are kind of just a heightened version of things that do happen in real life. So, I think this is just a younger version of that, maybe, of representing what younger people face and are going through, and hopefully people can relate and see themselves in these characters. So, yeah, it all kind of blends together, but that's a really interesting point that you brought up.

Soap Central: How do you look back on your own high school experience? Is that something that you think of fondly, or...?

Keegan: [Laughs] There were definitely fond moments, and I think that everything happens for a reason. No matter what you go through in high school, you grow from it and learn from it. I am grateful for my high school experience, but it was kind of a choppy, weird one. I was homeschooled for a couple of years, and then I went to a very small, sort of half-high school, and then I was working on DAYS... so, everyone in the world got to see my awkwardness and the horrible phases that I went through, because they were all nationally broadcast and out there! [Laughs]

Soap Central: Oh, man. I can't even imagine!

Keegan: But you know, that's what I signed up for, and I am so grateful that that job came along when it did. I'm still just so grateful for everything about that opportunity. DAYS was a big part of my high school experience, which was, frankly, the best part of my high school experience, because that's what I wanted to be doing. So, for a lot of my high school time, I was living my dream, and it was wonderful. It's hard to balance that with a social life and with school and homework -- it definitely got a little tricky -- but you know, that's one thing that I love about soap operas; it's a sink or swim world, and you somehow learn to thrive under that pressure, and I'm very grateful to have honed in that skill a little bit, hopefully.

Soap Central: That perfectly leads me to my next question, which is if there is anything from your DAYS experience that you've carried over to High School Musical and this role?

Keegan: I think so much of what I know now comes from DAYS. I owe so much of what I know to that experience. Like, what I was just saying, the thriving under pressure thing. That's really nice to have, because I knew what I was capable of. You're pushed to these new limits, and you don't know what you're capable of until you're in that moment, and you have to thrive under pressure. So, to have that confidence and know what you're capable of and be able to bring that into new projects is really nice. And yeah, just technical stuff and being on set, in general. Like, "know your lighting" and "make sure you're not upstaging blah blah blah," all of that stuff was obviously amazing to learn. And there are just so many differences between DAYS and High School Musical, of course, which has been a whole whirlwind, and it's been so exciting to readjust to a different world.

Soap Central: Has anyone from DAYS reached out to you to congratulate you on landing High School Musical: The Musical: The Series or followed your career in any way?

Keegan: Yeah! I keep in touch with a lot of people from DAYS because I consider them my family. Me and Victoria [Konefal, Ciara Brady] are obviously still close, and she's always been the most supportive and incredible human. I am so grateful for that. Just being able to work with her and call that a job?! It did not feel fair or right; it was like, "What?!" [Laughs] So, yeah, I'm super lucky.

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Soap Central: I feel like High School Musical: The Musical: The Series is such a perfect fit for you. I know you love to sing, and you've released music before, so what is it like to be able to incorporate a different passion that you have into the acting world?

Keegan: It's incredible. I feel so lucky, because I had that on DAYS, too. For my last two big acting jobs, I got to incorporate my other love. I never dreamed that I would be so lucky to be able do that again, and just to be around the people that are in this cast, everyone is so musically talented -- and so talented in so many ways -- it's the most inspiring environment I ever could have imagined.

Soap Central: Do you have a dream musical show and role that you would absolutely love to perform in at some point in your future?

Keegan: Oh, man! See, I wish I was a theater kid. I kind of was -- I started in musical theater -- but so many other people in the show have so much of a broader, better knowledge of theater than I do. It's a great question. They're doing Beauty and the Beast obviously, for the show, and that has always been one of my favorites and has always been a dream of mine, so, we'll see what happens with that! [Laughs] I may get to live out my dream. But also Sandy in Grease! That would be really fun! I did it when I was really young, and I was Sandy, but I'd love to give it another try and do it again.

Soap Central: Is doing theater something that you see for yourself in the future, or do you think you'd rather stick to television and film at this point?

Keegan: Never say never! I love theater, and I miss so many things about theater -- there's nothing like it. And High School Musical: The Musical: The Series is kind of the closest thing in television that you can get to theater, so again, we're combining so many passions and loves of mine. But yes, one day, I would absolutely love to get back into theater, because I just had so much fun doing it when I was really young.

Soap Central: Jacob Young, who is an actor from All My Children and The Bold and the Beautiful and General Hospital, and also performed as Lumiere in the Broadway version of Beauty and the Beast, teased that he was doing something involved with High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. Were you able to work with him?

Keegan: Unfortunately, I did not, but I would love to! What a small world -- oh, my gosh.

Soap Central: I know your life is going great right now, but was there a small part of you that was heartbroken when DAYS recast the role of Claire, just because it kind of limits your opportunities to return?

Keegan: No, I was not heartbroken. I was very, very excited and happy for [my replacement, Isabel Durant] and have truly nothing but genuine happiness and good wishes. That was a decision that I knew I had to make, and I made the decision that I wanted to make, so no regrets at all. I truly do wish her all the best, and I think she's killing it.

Soap Central: If you had the opportunity to go back to daytime, is that something that you would consider?

Keegan: Absolutely -- I'm not cutting anything out. But, you know, you see where life takes you, and right now, I'm having a blast, and we'll just see where that goes. But I still look back on my memories there so fondly. So, yeah, absolutely. Never say never.

Soap Central: Is there anything else about your High School Musical character or the series that I didn't ask you about that you'd like to add?

Keegan: I'm just really excited for people to get a peek at season two. I really think there is something in there for everyone, and that's a really special thing to be a part of. \

What do you think about our interview with Olivia Rose Keegan? How do you feel about the actress taking on the role of a competitive villain in High School Musical: The Musical: The Series? How much do you miss seeing her as DAYS' Claire? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.

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