Jane Levy, star of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, just wants her character to be able to make out with people when she wants to make out with people, you know?
One hundred musical numbers is, no matter how you slice it, a lot of musical numbers.
But 100 musical numbers is an especially large number for a show that’s only 21 episodes in and only halfway through its second season, like Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. The NBC dramedy hits that milestone in its next episode, as Zoey (Jane Levy) deals with yet another glitch in her musical superpowers.
We wish we had the ability to type out the sound of Levy’s lengthy, maniacal laughter when we asked if 100 musical numbers could be considered a lot of work.
“Yes. Sorry to giggle like a psycho,” she said after she recovered. “It’s a lot of work and a lot of really gratifying work, so when I think back, I’m just really proud of everybody involved. Like, what a triumph.”
For Levy, 100 musical numbers also came and went weeks ago, when this week’s episode was filmed. For her the number is more like 130. And yeah, she’s a little tired. But it’s so worth it.
In typical episodes of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, Zoey hears the thoughts and emotions of her friends and family through what are called “heart songs.” Time essentially stops as the people around her perform their feelings in the form of relevant well-known songs, and Zoey—a computer programmer who knows very little about feelings or popular music—mostly just gets to stand there and watch.
Sometimes, however, Zoey gets to play, too. That’s what happened the last time her powers glitched, but the glitch in “Zoey’s Extraordinary Mystery” is different. We’ll allow Levy to explain what she calls the “second annual glitch episode.”
“Last year, Zoey’s powers glitched and she sang all her heart songs out loud to everybody who usually just sang to her. This year, people are singing the wrong person’s heart songs,” Levy previews. “Zoey goes to see a medium with Mo [Alex Newell], and Zoey thinks maybe she’ll be able to connect with her dad. After that meeting, her powers go wonky.”
“Wonky” means that everyone’s heart songs have been switched, and people are singing the wrong songs.
“She goes into detective mode with Mo as her confidant,” Levy continues. “And they figure out whose heart song actually belongs to who throughout the episode.”
There’s a song for almost every single main character, though some are more meaningful than others. One performance in particular, featuring Zoey’s current crush Simon (John Clarence Stewart), is maybe one of the funniest things that has ever happened on the show. It involves a viral hit, a lot of hand gestures and some rolling on the floor, and it’s Levy’s favorite of the episode.
“I think I was so shocked, like I was in a true state of disbelief that I didn’t really have to do anything,” she says of her part in the song, which is mostly to stand there and look completely bewildered. “We shot that late at night after a really long day, and everybody was exhausted. And then that song happened, and everybody was in the best mood. And if anyone can pull that song off, it’s John Stewart apparently.”
The best part of the whole thing, Levy says, is that Stewart had never heard the song before.
“I think it has over a billion streams on YouTube,” Levy teases. “But John had no idea what it was, which is really funny.”
It’s also certainly not the song you’d expect to hear from Stewart in the episode after Simon’s intimate performance of “Into You” and his subsequent kiss with Zoey, though Levy says it’s not like the pair is about to settle down and be together forever.
“Love is messy and she’s a woman going through a messy time,” she explains. “A lot of people want to talk about what this means, and I’m like, well, I don’t know, let’s see!”
As the person playing Zoey, Levy says her focus is almost never on Zoey’s romantic life.
“I just think that her job and her family are her main points of interest, and then romance is sort of collateral damage. It’s like a result of her ambition and heartbreak,” Levy shares. “But after last week’s episode, people were really upset. I wasn’t expecting that reaction, I guess, because as Jane, I’m not sitting here like, ‘Zoey needs to make a decision.'”
The problem for some viewers, apparently, is that Zoey had just appeared to have chosen Max (Skylar Astin). They dated for a minute, but life and her sort of invasive powers got in the way. He has now reconnected with an old friend, and Zoey’s making out with Simon, as anyone probably would in her situation.
“I think that her connection with Simon is special in particular in that he’s the only person besides her family that really understands what she’s going through in terms of grief,” Levy says, though it’s not all about the shared grief. “Then, of course, they’re attracted to each other.”
Plus, you know, who wouldn’t want to kiss a guy like that after he sings you a song like that?
“I think Zoey would be very unsatisfied if she never saw that attraction through,” Levy says. “This is her finally getting to really experience the thing she’s fantasized about for a long time.”
As much as Levy is sort of tired of being asked about the continuing love triangle, it’s not all bad. It’s just not the point of the story.
“I was actually kind of moved in a way that people had such strong opinions because I’m like, that means they’re invested in Zoey and in Simon and in Max,” she explains. “But when do people, all of a sudden, make extremely mature, thought out, perfect decisions in terms of love? Like come on. That’s not what love is. We’ve been telling this story about this woman in this manic state trying to be normal, but she can’t, because she has this huge broken heart because someone just died.”
Zoey simply can’t be blamed for the choices she’s making for herself right now, and we’re not blaming her anyway. Who wouldn’t have been seduced by John Clarence Stewart singing that Ariana Grande song right into their ear on their 30th birthday? Show us someone who claims they wouldn’t and we’ll show you a liar.
Zoey and Simon’s post-kiss connection is interrupted somewhat by the song confusion, as Zoey’s sort of desperate to find out how everybody is actually feeling, Simon included. Somebody’s really hurting, but some other people are just horny for each other, and it’s pretty vital that Zoey figures out which is which. Luckily, she’s been listening to the heart songs of most of these people for two seasons and 100 songs now and she knows them all pretty well.
Hopefully, she knows them well enough to figure it out before somebody (maybe even Zoey herself) has a full breakdown
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist airs Sundays at 9 p.m.
(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)