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During its most recent season, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist had to deal with pandemic-prompted production tweaks just like every other series. But that did not mean that the NBC comedy pulled back on its sprawling musical numbers. The sophomore run actually crammed more songs and sequences into a single episode than it had since the pilot.
“Broadway shows get eight years before they go to Broadway,” creator and showrunner Austin Winsberg said during The Hollywood Reporter Presents Q&A powered by Vision Media. “We get eight days before we shoot an episode.”
The series, which follows empathetic Zoey (Jane Levy) as she navigates the world with a strange ability to read people through popular tracks, leaned on the songbooks of Boyz II Men, Kelly Clarkson, Queen, Lizzo, Jennifer Lopez and dozens more in its second season. And the ninth episode of the second season saw a dizzying nine songs.
“By the end of this season, we all look a little bit corpse-y,” said Levy, digitally reuniting with castmembers Skylar Astin, Alex Newell, John Clarence Stewart and Mary Steenburgen. “It’s totally worth it and fulfilling, but, yeah, it takes a lot of out you.”
The onus to keep the numbers lively, and her cast looking alive, is often on Mandy Moore. The choreographer and producer spoke a lot about how she avoids repetition on the show when burning through so many in a season. “We talk a lot about cracking the code on this show,” said. “Part of my job is to figure out how each one of these songs helps a character along or helps us understand an emotion, a location or a story point. Because each one of those is different, it tends to not be repetitive.”
Already in the can for some weeks, the season finale of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist airs Sunday on NBC. And while none were at liberty to say much about what plays out onscreen, Winsberg did promise a mix of closure and seed-planting for the potential third season: “Every character has some degree of resolution for something going on in their story — that we’ve either set up the last few episodes or the last two seasons — that pays off in the season finale and opens a door to new things in season three.”
A little more baiting, Levy added: “There’s a huge frickin’ cliffhanger.”
For more from the cast and crew of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist — including which artists have reacted to their performances, the behind-the-scenes dialogue about writing in the season’s arc on systemic racism and Steenbergen’s side gig as a songwriter — watch the full conversation in the video at the top of this story.
THR Presents Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, powered by Vision Media, is presented by NBC.
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