This week on Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, the tables have turned.
In “Zoey’s Extraordinary Glitch,” Zoey’s powers of hearing inner thoughts through song sort of backfire as she finds herself struggling to deal with her own emotions, and ends up uncontrollably singing them all out. Normally when there’s singing on this show, only Zoey can hear it. This time, everyone can hear all of Zoey’s heart songs, and it’s just as mortifying as you might imagine.
But it’s also not as mortifying as it could be, which is part of the point: you’ll be better off if you express your emotions than if you just bottle them up inside…even if it blows up a few things along the way.
It’s an exhausting roller coaster ride for both Zoey and her portrayer, Jane Levy.
“The anticipatory stress of this episode was colossal,” she tells E! News. “I didn’t know how we were going to pull it off.”
While Zoey got to sing early on in the season, this is Levy’s first real opportunity to get to sing and dance like all her costars, and she’s doing it the entire episode. She was nervous, but she was excited about partly because of the energy a musical number brings to the set.
“It’s the funnest part of the day because when a musical number happens, the energy in the room shifts, the crew gets happy,” she says. “We’re all singing the song collectively for the next 24 hours. And I was envious and I really wanted to partake, and so getting the opportunity to dance and sing myself was ultimately extremely gratifying and joyful and fulfilling.”
Levy is in nearly every scene of the entire series, and in particular this episode as it follows her dealing with an issue with her dad by simply not dealing with it, which results in musical numbers she has literally no control over. And not just one—six. The show ended up having to take three days off of production just to give Levy time to learn the songs and the choreography, and she was still working on the songs when she had just an hour off.
Along with the songs comes some real emotionally difficult stuff for Zoey, and therefore for Jane, who had already had a bit of an identity crisis over the course of filming the series.
“There was many times during the shooting of the show where I feel like I lost my mind,” she says. “And I remember saying out loud, I am Zoey. What’s the difference? I play Zoey 16 hours a day. Every day I play Zoey more than I play myself. I don’t know the differences anymore. Like who is Jane? I never see my friends. I don’t live in my city. My boyfriend’s back in LA, I sleep in a foreign bed like, I think I’m Zoey forever. So there was a lot of like parallel process going on where sometimes I couldn’t tell whether what I was going through is what I was going through or whether it was actually what Zoey was going through. But either way, it’s all the same, like when you play someone for so many hours for so long.”
This week’s episode brings all of that to a head.
“This episode was just a culmination of what I’ve been crafting all season, which is that, you know, Zoey is grappling with the potential loss of the most important person in her life,” she says. “And at the root of this whole story is the relationship between her and her father and this glitch happens because of stressful news regarding her father’s illness. And all day she’s avoiding confronting her what she’s actually feeling which is, I don’t think I’m going to make it if you if I lose you, and is so heartbreaking and so universal, I think that everyone can relate to that feeling in some, some way.”
On top of the health issues with her father, Zoey’s also got two other men in her life who were already making her life complicated even before she finds herself uncontrollably singing her emotions. Some particular musical numbers in this episode result in some awkward conversations with engaged coworker Simon and BFF Max, continuing this rocky romantic journey Jane’s been on all season, though Levy thinks they’re both being a little unfair.
“She will continue to go down both roads, and you know, they are different roads, and one I think is messier than the other,” she says. “In my opinion, I’m kind of like, give Zoey a break. Why does she have to choose anything? She never promised anything to these people, she hasn’t broken any promises. She’s like dealing with extremely stressful and painful moments in her life and like these men need to give her a goddamn break.”
It doesn’t sound like they will be giving her a break anytime soon, but Levy did tease a finale number between Zoey and Max that is “sweet, funny, sexy” and the audience is going to lose their minds over it.
Max also features in a scene from tonight’s episode, which you can watch above, in which Zoey sings “Crazy” thinking she’s surrounded by backup dancers, only to then realize there are no backup dancers, and everyone can hear her. Levy cited it as her favorite number, partly because it really boosted everyone’s mood.
“‘Crazy’ was kind of a magical day on set where everything just clicked and we felt I could tell every department was happy with it,” she says. “Like often we’ll finish a take and they’ll and the cinematographer will be like, her hand was cut out of frame, and everyone’s like well it’s the only take, and there’s always a negotiation, but with ‘Crazy,’ something clicked. We all f**kin’ nailed it, if I do say so myself. It was one of those days just like afterwards, we all collectively were like, how did we do that? We are so proud. That was so cool…That was a really great day where I feel like we all felt like moved and triumphant and our spirits were lifted.”
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on NBC.
E! and NBC are both part of the NBC Universal family.