ZOEY'S EXTRAORDINARY CHRISTMAS: Skylar Astin Reflects on the 'Emotional,' Pivotal Max and Zoey Scene - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

ZOEY’S EXTRAORDINARY CHRISTMAS: Skylar Astin Reflects on the ‘Emotional,’ Pivotal Max and Zoey Scene

December 31, 2021 by  

Zoeys Extraordinary Christmas Skylar Astin

Jane Levy and Skylar Astin in ZOEY’S EXTRAORDINARY CHRISTMAS. Credit: Roku

For two seasons of ZOEY’S EXTRAORDINARY PLAYLIST, Max (Skylar Astin) and Zoey (Jane Levy) danced around their feelings for each other, but the Roku Original film ZOEY’S EXTRAORDINARY CHRISTMAS found the new in a new, uncharted place: Happy(ish) and together.

Helping matters was Max’s newfound abilities to hear heartsongs, the unexpected superpower that had followed Zoey throughout the duration of the series which allowed him to get insight into what people were feeling via music.

And while the couple ended the film as solid as ever, Max had a massive change in his life. Here, Astin talks about what Max went through…

What conversations did you have with ZOEY’S boss Austin Winsberg about Max losing his newfound power?
I think that if this were to continue on with the series format, pre-the movie, I think Max would have held onto the powers for a lot longer. Maybe Zoey would have even lost the powers for a minute and then had to kind of fight to get the back. There’s just a lot of story to tell there, so [Austin] would be silly to not play with all of that.

But him reformatting his mind and his script for a film, I think it was just the perfect way to do it. Because it was really used as a device to bring them even closer, and to have even more of an understanding as a couple in love. Austin knows how to write whatever he wants to see from his heart. So if that means that if we were to continue onward and Max gets the power again, or someone else gets the power…I think some of our best episodes were when the powers glitch. I love when the power darts around, or it’s doing its own thing, and we kind of have to chase it as an audience and as characters. So we’ll see what happens in the future. But I have complete faith in the storytelling process and I’m really happy with how the movie shaped out, from a plot point, with Max having the power and then, unfortunately, at the end, losing it.

What was it like actually filming the duet sequence where Max realized the powers were gone?
It was beautiful. It was actually cold out. That pier is always so cold—it must be because it’s on the water. But apart from it being windy, it was emotional. It was a beautiful feeling for Max and Zoey, and also Skylar and Jane, to be back at that bench, and having this deep conversation. And having more of an understanding of each other as characters, and even as actors playing these characters.

We broke it up into three pieces, so we can really focus on the scene, and then focus on all the big sweeping dance moves, and then the very end piece, when Max actually loses it, and we’re standing on the observation deck. It was heartbreaking. I know a lot of the crew, their heart kind of sank when Max says, “I think they’re gone.” But something that Richard [Shepard], our director, wanted to make sure that I kept in mind while playing the scene was when I do lose the powers, the first thing I do is hug her. And there’s even a bit of relief, or release, because he knows that he can actually be there for her and be her support system. And I think that he actually understands that the universe has a plan for him and for them and this power was just a way to bring them even closer together.

On a production level, you got to experience the franchise a bit differently as the only having the heart songs sung to Max versus being a participant. How was that flip for you?
I had a front row seat to incredible musical numbers performed by incredibly talented cast, so you don’t hear me complaining! I really do consider every song we’ve ever done on the show a duet, and that’s a testament to Jane and the performance that she brings, just as an active participant in every song. And I was excited to take that on as well, except seeing it through the point of view of Max, who might get a kick out of something that Zoey would be confused by. Or actually something that could sneak up on him, emotionally, that Zoey is more prepared for. So it was really fun to just kind of live in the moment and watch my cast members, that I absolutely adore, deliver.

I do love performing the sweeping, big musical numbers, of course, but I also do like being a dormant participant, when I am stuck in reality and someone’s doing a song around me. Like John Clarence Stewart did in “Jealous” or in the “Don’t Stop Me Now” marathon sequence, where I’m just kind of in a frozen position or just stretching while an entire flash mob is happening around me. Those are always kind of just fun to feel the energy. But to actually see it, be awake, and be able to look directly at the performers kind of takes care of my performance for me, in a way.

Speaking of Simon, Austin has mentioned he feels the triangle is over with. If the franchise continues, what would it mean to you to get to explore the Max and Simon friendship without the romantic rivalry at all in play?
It would mean everything to me. And I know I can speak for John to know that he would love that, too. We loved being in scenes together. We loved singing together. And we always knew that while there’s this kind of—I hate using the word “competition,” because Zoey is not a prize to be won…but we were both in love with the same girl. So that’s tricky. And we still tried to maintain a level of respect within that, as characters, and even an elevated or evolved sense of what it means to have this male friendship.

The fact that maybe we can move on from that and be golf buddies…I can help him out with his life and his aspirations. We now know from season 2 that Simon has such a greater purpose in this world as a businessman, and as someone who believes so much in social justice, especially at the workplace. There’s so much education that could be done from Simon to Max. There’s just such a brotherhood that can be really explored there. This show really explores the family dynamics, but also found family. And we see that at the end of the movie at Maximo. And I would love to just keep going with that with Mo and Max and Simon. With Tobin, Leif…just the entire crew.

On a light note, we did get a bit of Max acknowledging Hanukkah in the film. How did that come about?
That was always in the script. There was no conversation about it. I read it. I laughed. I felt lucky that I was able to represent in that way. Austin knows me, personally, and knows that I have great pride in being Jewish, and especially in a holiday film to be the character and the actor representing Hanukkah—I really appreciated the jokes. I also appreciated singing “Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah.” That’s a song that I sang every year, and still sing every year, especially on the first night of Hanukkah, after lighting the menorah.

Looking to the future, if the franchise does continue, would you prefer for it to be via a film series or more episodic television?
I’m down for whatever, honestly. And that’s not because I’m indecisive: I’ve now seen that it does work as a movie, and it also obviously works as a series. So maybe we do both? Maybe we do a third season and we would do a holiday movie every year. Or maybe it just is holiday movies and not specific to Christmas. There’s so many holidays out there. There’s so many backdrops, there’s so many vacations that one can take. I always like taking characters out of their environments, especially characters we’ve gotten to know for 25-plus episodes. So I think that this is a really special story. It’s a really special cast. And, of course, a really special creative team. And we have really special fans. So if there’s a way for it to continue, I know we’d be on board, and we’d be very grateful.

At this point, what are the biggest lingering Max questions you have?
I just want to know a little bit more about his family and a little bit of his unresolved past. I think that he’s finally coming together in his presence, and learning a lot about himself as a man, as a businessman, with his own aspirations. He’s clearly found love, and I think he’s very capable of that love. And so I would just like him to delve into some unresolved stuff with his siblings, and, more specifically, his parents.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about the movie?
I mean, Bernadette Peters. That’s all I can ever say. Being in her presence is such a gift. I feel its power all the time. I try to play it cool, but I have to always pull someone aside, whether it’s Jane or Austin, and say, “Can you believe the original Witch, the original Dot, my favorite Gypsy I ever saw, is right there? And is active and sweet and a joy to work with, a joy to watch perform?” I just like think absolute world of her. This show has given me so many gifts, but meeting a hero of mine like Bernadette Peters, and even working with her now in this movie is just like an extra special one.

It’s been incredible how it evolved from a season 1 guest spot to feeling like she’s part of the ZOEY’S family.
I mean, how could we not utilize her if she’s willing? So, yeah, she’s literally a part of the family. I mean, she’s at the dinner table now! So let’s keep her on. I mean, if this continues, I say Bernadette Peters gets thrown into the fold. She’s Maggie’s best friend.

They mentioned the trip for Valentine’s Day…
I think that that would only make sense. And it would only make sense, in our world, if somehow Max and Zoey planned the same trip. And we even found Mo there and some SPRQ Point people. We’ll see. Because I think that taking these people and putting them in the destination would not only be fun as actors to be on set in said sunny climates, but I think it’d be a really fun experience to see how these characters vacation. And all the mayhem and musical numbers that will ensue.



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