Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies Stars Explain Their Characters and the Pressures of Living Up to the Grease Name

Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies debuts on Paramount+ this month, and it tells the story of how the first generation of Pink Ladies went on to "rule the school" at Rydell High. The prequel series takes place five years before the events of Grease and follows a group of lovable new teens as they navigate the trials and tribulations of fitting in and standing out while showing off their musical skills. In honor of the new series, had the chance to chat with some of the show's stars, who opened up about their characters and the pressures of entering the iconic world of Rydell High.

"Overwhelming at most times," Marisa Davila (Jane) shared when asked what it was like to play the very first Pink Lady. "Crazy excitement. I wake up and I still go, 'Do I still get to do? This is incredible.' I'm glad I'm not alone, though. I got to say there's so much during this new chapter of our lives and I'm so glad I have the other Pinks with me." 

Jason Schmidt, who plays the popular jock, Buddy, added, "There's some nerves to go along with it, especially a character that has a lot of misogynistic elements. But I read the script and the following scripts and I just felt really taken care of because Buddy's a beautiful character and he has some tougher elements, but he has all these intricacies and he has this beautiful depth. So I felt like it was all there for me."

"Yeah, it's definitely part of it," Nicholas McDonough, who plays Gil the T-Bird, said of the pressure of joining Grease. "We all have our stories that we hold near and dear and certain stories and characters are like a warm hug. When I watch Lord of the Rings or The Office, it's like I know these people and I'm very protective of these stories, so when someone tries to touch them and do something, it's like I get prickly. But we were... Hopefully, when we first read the script, we were like, 'Wow, this is really great.' We hope that everyone goes into it with an open mind. I think when they see the music and the scale of it, and the heart that we put in that they'll appreciate it and like it, too."

You won't see Shanel Bailey showing up as newcomer Hazel until the third episode, so we asked her about entering the project late and how that felt as an actor in addition to what it meant for her character. 

"So in the story, what I think is so brilliant, it's probably one of my favorite things that I always forget about it, is that episode one and episode three were cross-boarded," Bailey explained. "So they were shot sometimes at the same time. And so what they did was, it was really cool to experience Rydell and go through the first day of school in episode one and then go through it again from another perspective. And I think that that's constantly Hazel's experiences, like this is how things are. And then she's like, 'Actually, this is how things are over here.'"

Bailey continued, "So that was really cool. And the same thing happened for me shooting it. The cast had been up there working their tails off for over a month and then I came in and I was like, 'Hi.' I really did feel like the new kid on the block. And so it wasn't really hard to act. I was genuinely super scared. I was super nervous, but I was walked into the best environment and hopefully Hazel will feel the same warmth that I felt."

We also spoke with Madison Thompson, who plays popular cheerleader Susan and enemy of the Pink Ladies, who teased that there's more to her character than meets the eye. 

"I think that you are really going to enjoy what you get to see with Susan's arc," Thompson shared. "I think that something that's so fun about the series is nothing is what meets the eye. It's Grease, but also it's a different take on it and it's a love letter to Grease, but it's something new for new audiences and Susan is the same way. When you first meet her, she is popular little Miss Queen Bee, she's on top of the food chain but as the story starts to unravel, we get the Pink Ladies, they're causing a lot of change. I think you start to see the cracks in Susan and see who she is behind that 'oh so perfect' surface and maybe why she's been acting a certain way this entire time. I think there's a lot more to her story for audiences to enjoy."

Stay tuned for more from our interviews with the cast of Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies, which debuts on April 6th.