[Warning: The following contains spoilers for Zoey's Extraordinary Christmas. Read at your own risk!]
Things might have looked a little blue after the summer cancellation of Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist, but Jane Levy's holidays are looking extra shiny this year, with a maybe/maybe not concluding chapter of her gone-too-early series and a plethora of her very own Heart Songs to sing and dance to this time around.
In Zoey's Extraordinary Christmas, Levy returns to the role that captured fans' hearts and prompted critical raves throughout its two-season run on NBC before the network announced its surprise decision to end the beloved series. Following a swelling of outcry from devoted viewers, Roku Channel rescued the show from gone-too-soon obscurity with a holiday-themed installment designed to both resolve some lingering plot threads from the Season 2 finale and open the door for even more follow-ups.
Now that fans have had a chance to take in the seasonal splendors of Zoey's emotional holiday journey, Levy joins TV Guide to reflect on her intense ride, crestfallen after cancellation one moment, kicking up her heels and knocking out Christmas standards the next; and she shares her thoughts on whether she'd re-up for another outing, or two, or three.
Here you are at the end of a pretty incredible ride, from cancellation to Christmas movie. Tell me about the trip.
Jane Levy: Wow. Yeah, it was definitely a roller coaster of emotion. So we wrapped Season 2 in March or April. I think I got back April 1, and we were all very convinced that we were going to have a Season 3. We have such great support, a huge fan base, critical acclaim, awards, award nominations. We were just like, "Duh, it's in the bag. We're going to make a Season 3."
So I put all my stuff in storage in Canada — I collected a lot of appliances: I was there for eight months straight during the pandemic; I had my cappuccino maker and my Dyson air purifier for the wildfire smoke…Okay too much information! — I put it all in storage, we all said, "Bye! See you soon." And then because of the pandemic, it wasn't a normal year with pickups, so we had to wait an extra-long time, but the rumors were, "You're going to get picked up." Then I was basically told that we were picked up. And then two days later, I was told, "Oh, no." I was told that we were going to Peacock — we were canceled, but we were going to go to Peacock. Then I was told, "Actually, you're not going to Peacock. You're just canceled." And I was like, "Oh, what?"
Then I sort of started to process that and accept it. And then three weeks later, I got a call, and it was like, "We're going back to Canada in six weeks and we're shooting a Christmas movie with Roku!" And then [series creator] Austin [Winsberg] wrote the movie in three weeks. I had four days to prep the movie before I went on camera, which was nothing. We [had] two weeks before Season 1. I had four days to learn all these musical numbers, record the songs, have my fittings, get my wig tested, all of that, in four days, went to camera. Then we finished last month and now the movie's coming out. So it was pretty wild, and I'm really impressed by what we pulled off in such a short amount of time, and proud of the work and grateful that we had such support from the fans that we were even able to come back for a TV movie in the first place.
And at some point during that crazy process you just described, you got to stop, breathe and tell this story with your castmates, who've become, I'm sure, like family to you. Tell me about that moment when you did get to take it all in and be able to say, "Okay, we're back – we're back together. We're doing it."
Levy: I'm not even sure there was that moment! I think it was like an ongoing reconciliation while it was happening — like, whoa. There were times where I was like, "I can't believe I'm back." And even now when I'm doing press for this, I'm like, "I can't believe I was in Canada just a month ago doing this." It all really happened quite quickly, but luckily we have so much experience playing these characters and working with each other and knowing how each other worked that it wasn't very hard to get back in the saddle.
I expect the Christmas backdrop of the story probably added a layer of both fun and emotion into what you guys were doing. Tell me about telling a new story within that holiday setting.
Levy: It actually turned out that Christmas is a perfect backdrop to Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist. It is about family coming together, magic, warmth, heart-forward. The holidays are both really lovely and very stressful. I think we all can relate to the feeling of stress during the holidays. And for sure, Zoey has that when we see her at the beginning of this. And then ultimately, we see her surrounded by her community of people that love her. And it was really nice to shoot that and then to watch it.
Tell me about, especially after ending Season 2 on such a cliffhanger, being able to move the story of Zoey and Max forward — especially with Max having gained that same Heart Song-detecting ability — and to move into a little bit more of a definitive place with those two, with no more "Will they, won't they?" element.
Levy: Yeah, that was a really lovely thing to be able to play, because I think it also shows Zoey's growth, and it showed what the effects of having this superpower are. And I think that that's what we want to feel during the holidays is safety, warmth, love. And Zoey and Max definitely have that in this episode.
With the musical numbers that you get to tackle, you get some holiday songs, you get some great pop songs. What did you love about the music that you got to play with this time around?
Levy: I mean, I basically just loved that I got to sing and dance in the first place! Because although I'm the lead of the show, I don't often partake in the musical numbers, and I love to. So I was really happy that Zoey got to sing Heart Songs.
I loved singing "We Need a Little Christmas" — I love any chance that I get to be cuckoo-bananas, and she's definitely really into Christmas at that moment. And being able to do a waltz to "Time After Time" was really fun. It's very hard to learn, physically. The choreography was hard. And that's a classic, and I got to express all different kinds of emotions through song, love, commitment, heartbreak, anger, temper tantrum. But ultimately what Heart Songs are — they're just need, human need. And it's fun to be able to reveal Zoey on that base level, because I've spent two seasons not really singing Heart Songs.
That segment that you got to do with "We Need a Little Christmas" had to be incredibly fun and challenging at the same time – you were asked to do a lot in that particular number. Tell me about stepping up to the plate for it.
Levy: Well, like I said at the beginning of this conversation, I had four days to learn all of that. Not just "We Need a Little Christmas" but also the waltz from "Time After Time," and also "Bad Blood," and also the choreography for the Pink Floyd "Wish You Were Here." I had to learn it quite quickly.
Yes, "We Need a Little Christmas" is very complex, but Mandy Moore, our choreographer is very good at knowing exactly the line of our abilities, where it's, like, right there. Like, any more would be too hard, and any less she would not stand for. So if Mandy knows that I can do it, then I know I can do it. And she said "This is what we're doing," and then I just said "Okay."
You got to have yet another deeply powerful scene with Peter Gallagher. What is it about what the two of you share as actors? Those scenes are always so very special when the two of you are together like that.
Levy: I think we just really respect each other and trust each other, and for me, that has been the core of the show, Zoey's relationship with her dad. And it's so universal: even if we don't have a parent or we've lost a parent, I think there isn't anybody who doesn't know what the need for protection from a paternal or maternal character or a paternal or maternal person. We need that love and that guidance. And it's just so human, and I am so grateful that Peter is my scene partner. He is naturally very nurturing. And he's very funny. He doesn't take things too seriously, but then he takes them seriously when he needs to. And I think we just work really well together.
This show holds a really special place in the hearts of the fans. Throughout all of your Zoey's experience, what has it meant to you to hear that back from the viewers, to know that this isn't just another TV show: this is something that they hold in a really special place.
Levy: It means everything to me, truly. It's like the whole reason I am an actor and it's just so gratifying. And damn — I'm humbled, and I'm moved and I am just so validated that this kind of art matters. It affects people, and it's very cool.
How has the experience with this show changed you or affected you? Has it altered your life in a special way?
Levy: Yeah, it has. I mean, in ways that I probably couldn't even eloquently explain, but it was a very formative experience for me as a person, as an artist, as an actor, as a professional, as a scene partner. I've learned so much. And I feel like I gave so much to Zoey and she gave so much to me. And I felt I had very parallel experiences with her about the lessons I was learning. And if this is it for the show, I'm just so grateful that it happened
You're in a good place to wrap it all up, but there's also the opportunity, potentially, to do a little bit more. Creatively, what do you think about that, and what might be exciting to you to either return every so often with movies or possibly pick it back episodically?
Levy: I mean, I'm like, "Austin, that's your job!" [Laughs] I will show up, and I will do it. I'll take it seriously and I'll commit and I will have fun. But when it comes to the creative, I have ideas, but I also feel like I've been so lucky with Zoey. I've really gotten to do so much: I've gotten to do all different kinds of comedy, so much drama, singing, dancing, different genres of music, different types of dance. I feel pretty spoiled, so I don't know if I leave this experience like wanting more. I leave this experience feeling very ... My cup is filled.
Do you feel empowered for everything else that's going to come along in your career? Do you feel like, "I rose to this challenge — I've got it. Throw whatever at me?"
Levy: I do. And I also feel for the first time in my life...I'm someone with an exorbitant amount of energy. I can't sit still. I love doing it, but I have noticed I'm tired. I mean, I think we're all tired. I mean, we're still in this pandemic. It's like such a f---ing weird time — excuse my language — but I have noticed that I really need this holiday season to re-charge, because I've been playing Zoey... I've calculated at some point how many hours of the past three years, but I'm enjoying this time off right now.
As you got to the end of production on this one, did you guys take a little extra time with your goodbyes and your appreciation of each other before you wrapped?
Levy: Yeah, there was an immense amount of nostalgia throughout the whole process, and I feel bonded with all these people for life. We've gone through so much together. And I don't know, it somehow doesn't feel like goodbye. I don't feel like Zoey just dies. She's in me. These people and my experiences with them are in me forever. And even if it's over, like we don't go on camera with these people, it doesn't feel like it's over, if that makes any sense. It was meaningful, I guess, is what I'm trying to get to!
Zoey's Extraordinary Christmas is now streaming on Roku Channel.