Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist has charmed TV viewers this winter for being a quirky, offbeat musical-comedy with a tremendous amount of heart. The center of that heart is Zoey, played by Jane Levy, a tech wiz who finds herself with a superpower that allows her to hear people's most intimate thoughts through song.
While Levy didn't have formal training in music and dance as an adult, she has jumped headfirst into tackling the show's musical numbers. In Sunday's episode, "Zoey's Extraordinary Glitch," she performs six numbers as her superpower encounters a bit of trouble and turns the whole story on its head.
With such a heavy load to take on, the production shut down to accommodate the needed rehearsals with choreographer, Mandy Moore.
"I've known about this episode for a year. It was the source of a lot of stress and panic and terror because practicing six numbers like this takes a lot of time," Levy explained to Dance Dish. "With a TV schedule, especially as an actor who's in almost every single scene of the series, there wasn't any prep time. I really wanted it to be good. We ended up taking three days off of production, so that I could learn all these numbers."
Moore, her assistant choreographers, Jillian Meyers and Jeff Mortensen, and Levy hunkered down for three days for 10-to-12 hours in a rehearsal studio to drill the numbers. It allowed the actress to discover new layers of Zoey through movement.
"Mandy and Jillian and Jeff crafted this term early on. It's a really important framework for the series, which was... there's Zoe-ality and there's reality because all of our musical numbers are through the perspective of Zoey," she explained. "That was really helpful in terms of building my character. It was a term that we use together and it was a term that she used with directors and the writers and with other cast members. What are we seeing in this moment — Zoe-ality or reality?"
The work Levy has done with Moore and her team has also brought a lot of joy to her life outside of the Zoey set. It's something she plans on taking with her to other projects in the future.
"Dancing makes me really happy. I've learned that I have this issue when I sing, where I am self-critical and tense. I feel like my voice can't even come out in those moments," Levy revealed. "The number one thing is to sound good; you have to be relaxed and it's really hard for me to do that. But with dance, I don't know what it is about it, but I feel like I care less about looking good. I just am interested in moving in an organic way that is storytelling. Exploring movement and dance while storytelling as this character has been informative and I think will be involved in every character I create moving forward."
With Sunday's eighth episode involving so many numbers, there was one particular piece that stuck with Levy the most because she was able to use her physical comedy skills.
"While they all resonated with me and were fun to do, "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus"... because of the physical comedy, slapstick. It's also dance and it's like a Jim Carey-esque performance," she laughed. "That one is such a wacky number and one of those things that you just don't often get an opportunity to do as a performer. I love the weirdness of it."
TV viewers have also seen a glimpse of "Crazy" in the show's weekly teaser video and Levy shared that it was a "magical experience" to film.
"It was one of those times on set where everything works together. It is mostly one shot and it's a Steadicam shot by our camera operator Bradley [Crosbie], who works closely with Mandy. Mandy had no time to prep with however many hundreds of people that were in it. It all worked so beautifully and that day we all got misty-eyed because we were like, 'F**k yeah, this is what we come here to do!' "
Levy is also taking her on-set dance lessons home with her during this period of self-isolation. Her next style of dance to conquer is tap.
"Before we were all quarantined, Jillian was going to teach me tap dancing and she's sent me some videos for me to do at home, which I have done," she said enthusiastically. "I am interested in taking a lot more dance classes moving forward. I love dance so much."
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist airs Sundays at 9/8c on NBC.
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