Jane Levy and Skylar Astin promise Zoey's Extraordinary Christmas delivers the romance fans want
'Tis the season for romance, and Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist is giving a gift to fans by delivering on the long-awaited relationship between Zoey and Max in the upcoming holiday movie Zoey's Extraordinary Christmas.
When NBC canceled the beloved musical series after two seasons, it seemed like we'd never get the payoff of watching Zoey (Jane Levy) and Max (Skylar Astin) go through their will-they-won't-they ups and downs, as the star-crossed BFFs finally got together in the season 2 finale. But thanks to the Roku Channel saving the series with a holiday movie, we will indeed get to see what it looks like when Zoey and Max are together — for real.
"I loved it," Levy tells EW. "It's a perfect fusion, Christmas and Zoey's. It actually works so well, and I was heartened by the script. What I really love about this movie is that we get to finally see Zoey happy and feeling safe in a relationship with Max."
Zoey and Max's two-season arc from BFFs to unrequited feelings to dating at the wrong time to breaking up and finally coming back together has been "quite a journey," Astin says with a laugh. And that's why the holiday movie is "really rewarding" for that couple — and for the fans.
"We never really got to see Max and Zoey truly be best friends and on top of that, now the full-on relationship," Astin adds. "Their relationship is based on friendship so the dynamic that Jane and I have is romantic and also based on a lot of history and a lot of friendship with no inhibitions now. She's not trying to suppress her feelings for me or figure it out with Mo [Alex Newell], she was able to truly live in the moment and put her hand on my back when it felt right."
"I just had so much fun with Skylar," Levy says of finally getting to lean into their onscreen relationship. "We did all of our scenes together and he made me laugh so hard and he would give me a ride home every day and give me a ride to work and we just hung out, hard. It was really lovely to be able to play the happy in our relationship because there's been so much struggle for Zoey for the past few years."
Adding to the romance in the movie is the fact that Max now has Zoey's powers to hear people's innermost thoughts and desires through heart songs. "We ended season 2 with Max getting the powers so you're going to see some conflict and comedy involving that new dynamic," Levy teases. "You get to see people have dueling heart songs, which is a first. It makes things hard and it also makes things easier. In many ways it causes problems and then ultimately, it brings them closer together."
And having Max share the powers with Zoey finally gives their relationship a sense of balance. "It's something that he has been struggling with for a really long time, that Zoey can hear his innermost thoughts and he can't; he sees it as solely an advantage of hers," Astin says. "Something that he learns throughout the movie is that with this power comes responsibility and it's not always happy songs. It's not always songs where you get to just kind of enjoy a concert. There's a purpose to this and that gives him a newfound appreciation for her and it makes him more capable of being a true support system for Zoey."
That's right, prepare to see Zoey and Max as a real team as they tackle solving people's problems via heart songs together. "There are no secrets. They can really have honest conversations with each other now," Astin says. "He understands what it all actually feels like now. Max has known since season 1 that Zoey has this unique ability, but you can't ever fully understand it until you actually experience it firsthand. The fact that he gets to do that means that they're just able to get to know each other on a deeper basis and are able to really be there for each other. That's why my favorite dynamic of this film was just that partnership between Max and Zoey."
And that means that fans can rest easy knowing that no matter what comes Zoey and Max's way, it won't threaten their relationship. At least, not anymore. "There's a lot of mileage in seeing them together," Astin says. "It doesn't feel like a finish line to me. It actually feels like the start of an actual relationship and if the story were to continue, whether it's with more seasons or more movies, it would be disrespectful to the characters and the audience to break them up again and have another love interest. There's a lot of areas to explore with that relationship with them being boyfriend and girlfriend. There's a whole new story to tell."
It's a story that the stars never thought they'd get the chance to explore, making it all the more special in the movie. "It was a wild ride, let me tell you. None of this was expected," Levy says with a laugh. "I'm really happy it turned out this way and if it weren't for the fan support, there's no way we would have this movie. So thank you to everybody who rallied and voiced your love of the show."
Astin admits it "was a little weird" coming back to the Vancouver set to film the movie after NBC had pulled the plug on the series. "It was surreal more than anything," he says. "Just a few months ago, we thought we would never do this again and that our time was cut short. And then it was strange how normal everything was. It just felt kind of like this exciting double episode of Zoey's."
Walking back on set, "it felt like I had never left," Levy says. "But we were told that we were picked up, then we were told that we were canceled, then we were told we were making this movie in such a short amount of time that there wasn't even that much space for processing. [Creator] Austin [Winsberg] wrote this movie in three weeks, I had four days to prep in Vancouver — I learned all the musical numbers, I recorded the songs, everything in four days. It was a whirlwind."
But she made sure never to take it for granted during filming. "What a wonderful gift that we get to do this again," Levy adds. "We were all filled with a lot of gratitude and there was such a sense of joy and love and nostalgia because when we finished season 2, we were all convinced we were coming back for season 3. So this time, knowing pretty certainly that this was the end — there's talk about other seasons or other movies, but for the most part, this is the end. At least for now. Knowing that, there was a bit of bittersweetness to the process."
Zoey's Extraordinary Christmas premieres Dec. 1 on the Roku Channel.
Sign up for Entertainment Weekly's free daily newsletter to get breaking TV news, exclusive first looks, recaps, reviews, interviews with your favorite stars, and more.