As much as it pains me to admit this, I dismissed Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist leading up to its January 7th debut on NBC. The brief commercials gave me the impression that it was just a light, fluffy musical comedy and I assumed that wasn’t for me right now. However, once I finally did begin my Zoey binge, I very quickly realized that the show goes well beyond that ad-friendly descriptor.
Jane Levy leads the series as the title character, a young woman trying to work her way up the corporate ladder as an extremely talented programmer. In addition to vying for a big promotion at the office, she’s also trying to manage the crush she’s got on one of her colleagues, Simon (John Clarence Stewart), while trying to process the fact that her long time friend, Max (Skylar Astin), has feelings for her. While these threads and then some play very well over the course of Season 1, the core of the show is undoubtedly Zoey’s relationship with her father, Mitch (Peter Gallagher), who’s been diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy and is slowly dying throughout the season.
I recently had the pleasure of catching up with Levy for an episode of Collider Connected and we discussed a little bit of everything from early inspirations to Shameless, Suburgatory, Evil Dead and more, but the spotlight was primarily on the next-level work delivered on Zoey. During our chat, I asked Levy to weigh in on those early first impressions of the show and here’s what she said:
“I was confident that when you’d watch the show, the show will speak for itself. And the first trailers that came out for the show, I did notice that they didn’t involve what I think is the core of the show, which is the relationship between Zoey and her father, which is very emotional most of the time because he is suffering from a neurological condition and he is slowly dying throughout the whole first season.”
On the one hand, I can’t blame the folks responsible for the show’s advertising campaign. The hook or high concept is certainly Zoey’s ability to tap into other’s feelings through song and dance. However, not dipping into what’s happening between Zoey and her father to sell the material can certainly give the impression that Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is far more comedy than drama when, in reality, that’s not the case at all. Levy continued:
“I guess the biggest misconception would be that this is another Glee, and our show is nothing like Glee except for that it’s a musical. And Glee was radical and [an] amazing show in its own right, but the music was about watching these incredible singers perform songs really well and our musical element is not about just great performers performing really well; it’s a tool of storytelling about this young woman learning about the connectedness of humanity, about the musicality metaphorically in life and how to let go, and about how we can communicate with music things that we can’t communicate with words. And I think that the best thing about our show is how full of heart it is, and that’s a testament to Austin Winsberg and then Mandy Moore, our choreographer, and, in turn, I really poured my heart into this project. So I would say that the misconception about the show is that it’s another Glee or that it’s a musical comedy. Because it’s much more than that. I guess if you want to say it in the simplest terms, it’s a dramedy, but for me it’s really an exploration in grief and connectedness and shared humanity.”
If you’re looking for even more from Levy on Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, we’ve got you covered big time in this new installment of Collider Connected! Give the video at the top of this article a watch to hear about the challenges of making one of the most unforgettable episodes of the show, “Zoey’s Extraordinary Glitch,” and also to hear all about Levy’s very internal journey to show business, what it was like stepping on to the set of Shameless so early on in her career, the Zoey cast member she wishes was getting more Emmy love, and so much more!