Alex Newell teases Mo's new love interest on Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist: 'It's a beautiful thing'
When the NBC musical dramedy returns this Sunday in its new time slot, Mo and Max (Skylar Astin) finally launch their restaurant venture Maximo, bringing someone new into Mo's life who's going to change everything in big ways. "It's nice to truly play this side of myself that I don't often get to all the time," Newell tells EW. "Like, I get to play like a piece of it, but it's nice to be in this role that is so unabashedly honest. With this new love interest that's coming, there's some trials and tribulations with that and what it is to be honest in a relationship."
Watching Mo and Perry (David St. Louis) meet in this episode and exploring how their relationship progresses is what Newell is most excited for in the back half of season 2. "This love interest and what this new love and relationship look like and how it is so different yet familiar at the same time is amazing," Newell says. "It's so big to show this relationship that's just as normal as any other relationship."
Below, Newell opens up further about what's ahead for Mo when Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist returns for the rest of season 2.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Mo and Max's restaurant is finally opening in the midseason premiere, so how is Mo feeling about everything?
ALEX NEWELL: There's always stress with all of that, and Mo really is feeling it. Because this is Mo growing up and venturing into something different than the normal that Mo has been doing. We see Mo and Max arguing of what work is and who's doing what. Creating a business, someone has to be front of house and someone has to be back of house, and they're figuring out what that means for both of them.
Mo is just so perfectly made for the front of house role.
Exactly. [Laughs] Whenever you walk in, you just see Mo with the décor.
Tell us more about this new character Mo meets — it's clear from their very first interaction that sparks are flying.
Perry is kind of the older version of Mo, in a different light. They have the same ideologies, and I love seeing how they bounce off of each other. This character is so strong and Mo is also so strong, and to see these two strong entities come together, and whether it be in their own stubbornness or when they get in their own way, I think it's a beautiful thing to watch.
We've seen Mo in romantic relationships before on the show, but what does this new dynamic explore for Mo that he's never had before?
This is the first time that we're going to see true, utter Black love on this show, and what that means and the dynamic of that, of just two strong Black people being in love with each other and trying to figure that out and navigate it. That comes with its own trials and tribulations at the end of the day. I treat it as if I would in my own relationship. [Laughs] It's nice to have this breath of fresh air. There's a familiarity about it all and a comfortability with it.
This episode also shows Zoey [Jane Levy] feeling like she's been a burden on her friends and tries to not lean on Mo even when she needs him most. What was it like exploring that in this episode?
It's not a new kind of relationship for them. It's not anything that's brand-new, I think it's just a different gaze on the friendship and really seeing the dynamic shift in a way. It dawns on Zoey that it's not about being a burden, it's about truly reading the room, and knowing that you're not the only one that goes through things. You're not the only one that can sit here and have a bad day. I stop what I'm doing, I stop my day to help, and you don't do the same for me. That is the dynamic shift that most friendships should have to go through in life. You can only give yourself attention so much in a friendship until the other person starts to suffer. You can only pour so much water into stuff until it overflows. The friendship between Zoey and Mo, there's a lot to figure out there.
What can you tell us about the musical performance we get to see from you in this episode? "Let's Get Loud" might be one of the best of the season so far.
It's great and super-fun. I've always been a fan of that number. It was a time to just really have fun and let our hair down and not do a heart song that is so wrapped up in seriousness or about something that was dramatic. It was one of my first numbers that was just about being excited about something, which was a breath of fresh air. And there's a lot of fun songs coming up, there's some duets that people are going to look forward to.
Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist returns Sunday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.