EXCLUSIVE: Stars of Disney’s The Lodge talk the new British High School Musical, love triangles and the impact of social media
Ten years ago, High School Musical swept up a international storm. Suddenly it was (almost) cool to break the status quo, quit sport for drama or belt out an emotional number in the middle of a crowded school corridor.
Exciting new Disney offering The Lodge now hopes to do the same for a new generation, except with an exciting difference – it’s entirely British. That means no cheerleaders, no letterman jackets and no basketball (score).
The Lodge is the inspirational story of Skye (Sophie Simnett), a fifteen-year-old girl searching for her identity and a place to belong as she packs up life in the city to move to her family’s country lodge. Once there, she takes control of the success of the ailing business – making powerful friendships, life affirming choices and surprising discoveries. Even better, she achieves all this with the aid of an phenomenally catchy soundtrack that will be stuck in viewers’ heads long after the credits go up.
We spoke to Sophie and co-stars Thomas Doherty and Luke Newton, who play best friends (and love rivals) Sean and Ben on the brightest new television musical of the age.
There’s never been a British High School Musical or Glee or anything like that. Did you find it daunting to star in a musical television show?
Sophie: I think it’s just so exciting. There’s no time to be daunted by it!
Thomas: It’s never been done before so it’s an amazing opportunity for us to create something new and something of our own.
How would you say it’s different to those shows?
Sophie: High School Musical is a film and this is a TV show obviously, but we have different elements of the show. We have a huge mystery plot line, which isn’t relevant to High School Musical. While they share similar Disney songs and they will attract a similar audience, [The Lodge is] much more heavily drama based.
Luke: A lot of their music is based around creating a musical, whereas ours is essentially bursting into song.
Sophie: Exactly. It just shows the character’s subtext in the show, because there’s so many complex relationships and characters. Having the chance to see into them through song is great for the audience.
What was it you liked about the script when you first read it? What drew you to The Lodge?
Luke: I just fell for Ben straight away and could sympathise with him. I know we were both swapping around [nods to Thomas] at one point.
Thomas: Yeah, I was going for Ben, and you were going for Sean.
Sophie: [surprised] You were going for Ben?
Luke: There was this one reading, where funnily enough it was when me and Thomas were reading together, where we both came out and said that’s it. That’s what we want, they’re definitely the roles we need.
There’s a lot of outdoor activities in The Lodge, such as rock climbing and mountain biking. How did you find filming all that?
Thomas: It was amazing. I know myself and Luke had never done mountain biking before. It was really exciting, we got taken out for a couple of weeks just outside London to tracks with the best of coaches in Britain.
Luke: We did a lot of work in Northern Ireland as well, on some of the best tracks in the country. That’s where we actually filmed a lot of the biking sequences. Working with that team was amazing. There were so many other aspects of outdoor activity too. We did rock climbing, which myself and Sophie trained for in London.
Sophie: Yeah… [grimaces, then laughs]
Luke: We trained on an indoor wall, which was really fun,wasn’t it?
Sophie: Yeah, it was, it was great.
Luke: And then when we went to film it…
Sophie: They were like, you’re climbing that [points towards imaginary massive hill].. okay.
Luke: It’s outside. It’s a lot more challenging and daunting.
Sophie: Yeah but actually it was really fun, and I enjoyed doing it outdoors in the end. Apart from the cold wind, but you know.
Luke: I got to go right to the top of these cliffs and the views from there in Northern Ireland were just incredible. I love being outdoors. I really enjoyed all of the outdoor aspects.
Sophie: The outdoor aspects are something else that makes The Lodge really unique. With a lot of kids shows now you’re stuck in a studio and you can’t be as creative. A lot of stuff [on The Lodge] was improvised or worked around outdoor. We could just work with the landscape. It’s so beautiful, you just want to work out there.
Thomas: And hopefully it will inspire kids to get outside.
Sophie: Stop watching TV!
Luke: Yeah, stop watching us – go outside!
Skye, Sean and Ben are the focus of a love triangle in The Lodge. What can you tease about it and how will it affect Sean and Ben’s relationship as best friends?
Sophie: When Skye first arrives, everything’s new to her. She’s still young, she’s only fifteen, she hasn’t really had that many experiences with boys. She’s dealing with a lot: the loss of her mum, leaving her friends behind and moving to this new place. She meets Sean, who is this new exciting boy who is kind of interested in her, so she takes a liking to him. But then also there’s Ben, who she meets and obviously he’s not so keen on her in the beginning. She has to make this quite mature decision as to whether to follow what she thinks is right or what she thinks is more exciting. And you see her grow up so much throughout this series and develop as a character.
Luke: I think what’s really interesting is how close Ben and Sean’s relationship is. I don’t often see love triangles where there’s a new character coming in – the girl between two guys – where [the guys] have such a strong bond from when they were kids. It’s been really interesting to go into as we’ve been filming this process to see how it affects their relationship – if it does.
Skye invites a reality TV show to film in the lodge in the first episode, and she very quickly begins to see some negatives to this. Does the show explore some of the downsides of reality television?
Sophie: What’s really great about The Lodge is there’s a heavy focus on social media and reality TV shows and it also shows the positive and the negative impacts. It shows how it can damage relationships and also damage your perspective of reality.
Luke: And it shows the positives in [Skye’s] storyline with Josh and how easily they can stay in contact. Friendship can continue even though they live miles and miles apart. It’s nice to see the positives of social media and technology.
One of the things I really liked about this show is the music. Do you have a favourite song at all?
Thomas: “Believe That”, for me.
Sophie: Yeah, it’s a great group number. And also there’s so many different versions. There’s nine songs, and there’s two songs per episode, so you get different remixes and “Believe That” has got the extremes. It’s got the really upbeat number you see in episode two when they’re remaking the lodge, then throughout the series you see some more acoustic versions. You really get to understand the lyrics of that song and what it means to different people.
Luke: My favourite is probably “Tell It Like It Is”, which is sung a few times. Myself and Thomas have a duet of that number and Mr. Dom Harrison sings it as his character and he rocks out on stage to that. It’s just such an epic.