ZOEY'S EXTRAORDINARY PLAYLIST Post-Mortem: Austin Winsberg on the Rule-Breaking Number and What's to Come in Season 2 - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

ZOEY’S EXTRAORDINARY PLAYLIST Post-Mortem: Austin Winsberg on the Rule-Breaking Number and What’s to Come in Season 2

May 3, 2020 by  

Zoeys Extraordinary Playlist season 1 finale spoilers

ZOEY’S EXTRAORDINARY PLAYLIST — “Zoey’s Extraordinary Dad” Episode 112 — Pictured: (l-r) Jane Levy as Zoey Clarke, Skylar Astin as Max — (Photo by: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC)

[Warning: This post contains spoilers for the Sunday, May 3 finale of ZOEY’S EXTRAORDINARY PLAYLIST.]

ZOEY’S EXTRAORDINARY PLAYLIST ended its delightful first season with Zoey (Jane Levy) going through a heck of a lot of changes: work shakeups, a new romance, and an expected, yet heartbreaking, loss.

At work, Zoey got permission from Joan (Lauren Graham) to re-hire Max (Skylar Astin), but Max declined, pointing out this could be an opportunity for him to do his own thing. As for Joan, she got her own promotion…as the boss of SPRQPOINT.

With Max’s newfound confidence, he and Zoey finally took a romantic step forward—but the duo were derailed as Zoey found out her father was about to pass away.

The entire Clarke family gathered to say goodbye to Mitch, with Zoey sharing a dance with her father (in her mind), and David (Andrew Leeds) lamenting that his father wouldn’t be around for the birth of his child.

After Mitch (Peter Gallagher), everyone gathered at the family home for one big musical number—”American Pie.”

So what comes next in a potential season 2? Creator Austin Winsberg breaks down the finale and what’s to come…

When you and the writers were breaking down the episode, what discussions were had about how much you wanted to focus on the loss of Mitch versus the non-family story elements in the finale? 
A lot of this was trying to figure out the balance in episode 11 and episode 12. Originally, I had imagined an entire episode [about losing Mitch]. The day that my father passed away, a hospice worker came to our house at four in the afternoon, and said, “Your father’s going to die today.” And then left. We were kind of left to our own devices. It was traumatic and stark and like, “I’m sorry, what?”

The next eight hours, a lot of friends and family came over and people said their goodbyes. There was kind of this living vigil that was happening for my dad. I initially imagined an entire episode taking place at the vigil at the house.

As we started to break that story, it just started to feel really, really sad. It also started to feel very inactive and there wasn’t a lot for Zoey to do in the episode. And, also, I wanted to make sure that we wrapped up some of the Mo and Eddie stuff, as well. So we landed on this idea of maybe having the first half of the episode dealing with all the other stuff in the world, and then to get at the family stuff in the latter part of it.

It was really hard, even as we were trying to keep some of that other stuff alive once we got to the house; it just felt like once [Mitch] dying becomes the storyline, it’s really hard to go down any other roads. So what initially was a whole episode became Act 4 and 5 of the episode, which was just the family dealing with the impending death and saying goodbye—what does that look and feel like? And how do we do that in a way where we’re not just bludgeoning people with sadness the entire time?

Then, it was important for me to feel like there’s still some hope and optimism in the episode, too. It’s not a coincidence that the speech that Zoey gives her dad at his bedside is almost the exact speech that she gave her father in the pilot. It’s just in the pilot, she’s saying all of the negative things that are happening to her—she’s got this weird scary power that she doesn’t like, she’s got this guy at the office she’s got a crush on who has a fiancee; nothing’s going right for her. Then in episode 12, to show that she’s started to feel like her powers and abilities could actually be a good thing, that now the guy in the office likes her back, and she tells her father that she’s okay. And by telling him that she’s okay, it’s kind of giving him permission and the blessing to move on, knowing that his daughter’s all right. For me, it felt like that was enough time to be able to tell that aspect of the story in those two acts, and then to have the big finale set piece musical number.

Looking ahead for a second, do you anticipate season 2 picking up where we left off? Or would there be some kind of time jump?
I did pitch all of season 2 to the network a little over two weeks ago, so I have, at least in the broad strokes, the whole season pretty mapped out at this point. And, for me, I think if we were to come back right after [Mitch] passed away, that we would be…it might land in that category of feeling too emotional, too sad, too heavy. And I still want there to be some light and optimism. So I think probably some passage of time would be a good idea.

In that case, what can you say about how the show might be balancing the different elements in Zoey’s life in season 2? Will it be similar to this year, or given the changing circumstances, will it focus more on a particular element?
I always like it when the show is playing in all those different spaces. So, I like being able to tell work stories, to tell stories with her and Mo, to tell love triangle/romantic stories, and family dynamic stories, too. So I think those basic tenants will all be in place, and we will still explore the different aspects of Zoey’s life. But I think because of what happened, the office stories will feel different, the bullpen will be different, and we will explore what’s going on at work in a new way. The love triangle will get complicated in new ways. And all the family stories will be about how do we move on and how do we recover after what happened?

To follow up on that, Joan got her promotion, which, in theory, could take her away from the office. Will Lauren Graham be a regular presence in ZOEY’S season 2?
Lauren Graham also is doing the MIGHTY DUCKS TV show. When we were talking about scheduling stuff months ago, she was going to be done with MIGHTY DUCKS by the time we were going to be in production. Now, because of corona, it’s unclear exactly how all the scheduling stuff will work out. But it’s absolutely my intention to bring Lauren back, and to have her in as many episodes as makes sense for everybody.

And what about Peter Gallagher? The series obviously has fantastical sequences, but they’re generally rooted in what Zoey is physically seeing in front of her…
Yes. Any ways or opportunities to bring Peter back would be great.

As for the love triangle, Zoey and Max seem to be taking a step forward. What does this mean for the triangle in the future?
It was always important to make them feel, to me, like worthy rivals, and to not go so far into one camp or one team, that it made the other person not viable.

I think that Simon had a lot of his own baggage that he needed to overcome, and that the timing wasn’t right for them for a lot of reasons in season 1. Going into season 2, Simon, for the first time, is looking forward instead of looking backward and ready to do the work on himself to become the kind of person that he needs to be, to be present and available in a relationship. And I think that for Max, too, he went from being the best friend and kind of the puppy dog who really put himself out there for Zoey when he did the whole flash mob for her in episode 7 and confessed his love to her, to a guy that maybe needed to learn to stand on his own two feet more and have his own confidence and his own strength and not just be there for Zoey.

I think what Zoey finds attractive about [Max] in episode 12 is that he’s finding that confidence and strength and he is looking forward. And that’s very attractive to her. So she’s starting to see him in a new light, too. And I just like the idea that going into season 2 that both these guys are worthy contenders. Where I think Simon has a leg up is that he absolutely understands grief in a way that that Max doesn’t. And I think where Max has a leg up is in his connection to her and the family. And I think she just connects with both of them in different ways. So I think exploring that…also, I think her mindset is going to change now that her dad is gone. And I think that is going to inform her views on both of those relationships going forward.

Looking back to the final number of the episode, what was the process like in getting that done?
It was definitely something that we worked on for like a two-week stretch; I’m pretty sure we took an entire hiatus day just to work on that number. So in terms of the amount of time that went into it, it was probably the most I can think of anything all season. There were so many elements that needed to come together for that number to work.

Not only was it first this idea that we’re going to do an entire act that’s all a song, then it was figuring out what was the right song for that. It just so happened that “American Pie” was my dad’s favorite song, and there was something very poetic about “the day the music died”; that felt very resonant for Zoey. Same with Zoey singing in episode 2, “I’ve got the music in me,” now “it’s the day the music died.” It felt like a very clear kind of arc for her and lyrically what that did.

I loved the idea of just having a big finale number where everybody’s in the same space. Once we designated the parts of who would be singing what, then a lot of it fell on [choreographer] Mandy [Moore]’s shoulders to figure out what the movement around the space would look like, and how the baton would be passed from one performance to another. Then it was figuring out with our director Jon Turteltaub and tweaking and fine tuning it; and adding various nuances to it or whatever. Then we have to bring in Brad Crosbie, our steadicam operator, because he’s an absolute partner in the dance of it and getting the framing and the timing of all of that right.

Then it was incorporating the real cast members in and extras. And then, on top of that, there’s several other departments all have to be firing on all cylinders too, because it takes place over time, that number, several hours. So the lighting all had to be figured as the lighting changed. It starts off with 75 extras in the house and, by the end, there’s only four of them. So the AD is working on getting all the extras out of the house. We had to work with the set dressers and production designers to have food on the tables and then not on the tables. So the whole thing really became a very elaborate dance between all the different crew members and different departments of the show and when we were filming it, it really was almost like doing a piece of live theater, because of all the different elements that needed to work together at one time.

Of course, it also ended with Zoey singing. Was that meant to be Zoey’s heartsong or was that her choosing to sing out loud in that moment?
I think that number, in general, kind of breaks the rules of the show. I have very specific rules about our ways in and out of Zoality, what we call it, and how all the things that need to happen in a musical number. And we never really do passage of time in a number. The numbers themselves, typically, the lyrics all really match up with what’s going on in the moment. And for me, I wanted that the entire thing to feel a little bit more like a tone poem, because it was the end of the season. I wanted it all to feel a little different, for people to kind of make of it and interpret of it what they will—are they really singing to her in that moment? Or is that just what she’s feeling, collectively, by everybody being at the house? Or is it more for the audience to kind of take into their experience of what this wake kind of feels like? I think there’s a lot of interpretations for what that number could be and what it represents.

For the end of it, I just felt like we’ve seen Zoey sing before. And, to me, this was just the ultimate external expression of her internal feeling at the time. And for her to be singing that last sort of grace note of the day the music died, and then pulling away from the family on the couch with that empty space in the couch where dad used to be, just kind of creating the question of like, “What now and where do we go from here?” I wanted it to be a more visceral emotional idea than kind of the more heady idea of the rules of it.



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