Jane Levy gets a little emotional every time the subject of how much Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, and particularly, her character’s journey, have helped people going through all kinds of grief, particularly in a world that seems to be trying to get over a collective amount of it because of the pandemic. But it’s all in the best way possible.
We talked to Levy about the new Zoey’s Christmas movies, and what it means to see it come together, particularly as the movie owes its entire existence to fans. One of the first things she told us, following up on the earlier idea, was that Zoey’s has been “the most rewarding artistic experience of my life.” And an unexpected one, to boot, considering they “made this show and when it came out there was a pandemic, so most people were grieving” in some way, which means that, even the people who at other times might not have found catharsis in Zoey’s journey of grief, suddenly did.
And that’s how we got here, to a movie that almost feels like a miracle. Not just because we didn’t almost get it, but because the actors had to jump through every imaginable hoop to even get it done.
“We made this movie very quickly,” Levy confessed. “Austin wrote it in a couple of weeks, I had four days to prepare,” which means “I learned all the choreography, recorded all the songs, had my fittings, all of it in four days …and then I went to camera.” And that was a month ago, and now the movie’s coming out.
“It was very quick, and it was because of the fans and the unwavering support and I’m so grateful to you out there,” she continued, because there’s nothing but gratitude and love while talking about this show, and about the messages. And, in Jane’s eyes, that’s what makes a holiday movie …well, a perfect place for this show to transition.
“The holidays are all about family, and so is our show. It’s about family, and about love and about coming together …so it’s actually a great fit for Zoey’s to have a Christmas movie.”
And it’s not just about that, though it is. For Zoey and the Clarke family it’s also about navigating that first Christmas after loss, about finding new ways of making traditions, of getting into the Christmas spirit. For Levy, it was interesting because to her “Zoey has grown, and her grief has gone through many stages.” She told us. “We’ve seen her lose her mind and we’ve seen her be so scared and completely heartbroken, and what I like about the movie is that we see her make a step towards moving on in her life.”
Well, sort of.
“At the beginning she doesn’t at all, of course, she makes a bunch of mistakes, but that’s why we love her…”
It truly is. Zoey Clarke has always been, through her ups and downs, one of the most relatable characters we’ve ever seen. And, for Levy, who has been in the journey with her, and for us, it’s been incredibly rewarding to see her growth. “It’s much more endearing and even relatable to watch someone who is flawed and tries – that’s what I think it’s so great about Zoey, at least she’s trying. She really wants to do the right thing and then she’ll like, slip on a banana peel.” But she’s trying. She’s trying so damn hard, all the time.
“I’m so proud of her, and I’m rooting for her,” Levy shared. And so are we. Particularly as Zoey faces a moment, I, personally, have gone through, and would never wish on someone else – that first holiday season without a loved one.
Jane thought a lot about the subject, and about Zoey’s reaction. “There was this quote I thought about a lot when we were making the movie: grief is love with no place to go,” she told us. And we’re at a point in the journey where Zoey “has realized that she has all this love in her, and Max is now going to be the recipient of it,” which is a natural and beautiful thing, to allow more people in, to let your family get bigger, in a way.
“And there’s a moment at the end where she says, maybe the universe was just trying to tell me to look up, and I think that’s a beautiful gesture to be able to say to Max, maybe I got all these musical powers so I could find you.”
We both had to take a moment to swoon after this. And then, we had to move on to the future. To what she would want to see, what she would want to do. We had to bring in the hope that this isn’t even close to the last we see of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, because we don’t want it to be.
Jane, who by design got to sing and dance a lot less than her costars, loved what she had to do, but if there’d one thing she’d like to see in the future, it’s perhaps a different side of Zoey. “I always had this fantasy that we would see Zoey,” she started, before backtracking to explain. “Because she’s so neurotic we tend to put ourselves and other people in boxes, but there can be a side to Zoey that’s just completely confident, she just hides that.”
“So, I would love to see Zoey do some balls out Ariana Grande confident number, and then be mortified that she revealed her confident side.”
Can you imagine? I absolutely can. Bring it on.
Finally, we discussed what Jane would have liked to have more of in this Christmas movie, and the answer was easy and simple: more Mo and Zoey! “I just love Alex so much, and during this Christmas movie we didn’t get to work together as much, so as much as Zoey and Mo can be together,” that something she’d want more of.
And though this is a Christmas special, the issue of some other specials also came up in our conversation with Jane, because of course it did. And though creator Austin Winsberg had many ideas, Jane had one favorite one: Halloween, he favorite holiday. In fact, she even has a perfect costume for Zoey: Agent Dana Scully. Max can join her as Fox Mulder, and all will be well with this fictional universe.