Plus, creator Austin Winsberg reveals how much Lauren Graham and Peter Gallagher will be in the rest of season 2.

By Sydney Bucksbaum
January 05, 2021 at 09:00 PM EST
Credit: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC
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Warning: This story contains spoilers for the season 2 premiere of Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist.

Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist creator Austin Winsberg promised that Zoey (Jane Levy) would make a decision one way or another about her love triangle in the season 2 premiere. And he definitely delivered!

At the very end of "Zoey's Extraordinary Return," Zoey was feeling inspired by the video her late father Mitch (season 1 star Peter Gallagher, returning in new footage) left for the family on how they should move on with their lives after his death. So she took his advice to heart ... and kissed her BFF Max (Skylar Astin), officially choosing him over Simon (John Clarence Stewart).

That's right: Zoey picked Max! After a full season of will-they-won't-they as Zoey was torn between Max and Simon, she's finally made a decision about who she wants to be with. But what does that mean for Simon? And is this new relationship going to last?

Below, EW got Winsberg to break down what that kiss means for Zoey's love triangle. Plus he revealed how much Gallagher and Lauren Graham will appear in season 2, the musical performances we'll see this season, and more.

Credit: NBC

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: We have to talk about Zoey and Max. That kiss! Does this mean she has officially chosen Max at this point? What does that mean for her and Simon?
AUSTIN WINSBERG: Yes, that is the direction that Zoey's choosing to go down. In episode 2, we do an entire act of the episode that is just Max and Zoey in a bedroom together. We have multiple songs in that act. And we rehearsed it for two weeks like a one-act play. I'm very proud of that act 5 of episode 2. I will also say that Zoey's romantic relationships are complicated, and that despite whatever best intentions happen going in, Zoey is still grieving and still going through the loss of her dad. And because of that, that's going to create challenges no matter what relationship she's in. Simon, who has dealt with his own grief, understands that with him being in his own relationship during the time he was going through his own grieving, so these relationships just continue to evolve and get more complicated even when Zoey does make decisions or tries to go one direction or the other.

Seeing all those Mitch videos in the premiere was amazing because, first of all, I just miss seeing Peter Gallagher on the show, and because those Clarke family moments were so emotional and heartbreaking and inspiring all at once. Are you going to be finding ways to incorporate Peter in the show like that in every episode moving forward?
He is going to be back. It is not in every episode. I debated for a while, do I have Zoey seeing visions of him and him talking to her in scenes a la Dexter or Six Feet Under, and I just felt like Zoey already has a magical power. So to add another magical power on top of it would be what we call bananas on bananas. In the same way that we're always trying to figure out creative ways to get Zoey to sing or to be inventive with our musical numbers, I wanted to be inventive with the ways in which we bring Mitch back. So you will see him sporadically throughout the season but maybe not in the ways that you expect.

And while it was great to see Lauren Graham in the premiere, by the end of the episode Joan tells Zoey that she's leaving for a job opportunity in Singapore. Will she return for more appearances in season 2?
Joan leaving was unfortunately purely a victim of scheduling. Lauren had signed on to do Mighty Ducks in February or March, and the intention was to shoot that season and then be done in time to be back for season 2 of Zoey's. And we'd actually written Lauren into several episodes of the show. And then, because of COVID, the entire Mighty Ducks schedule got changed and they ended up shooting at the exact same time as us. So we had to go back and scrap a lot of our Joan plans, pretty far along in the process, just because we couldn't make the dates work. That was a bummer for us because we love Lauren and would love to have her back but we just couldn't make it work with the schedules. We're going to continue to try to find ways to bring Lauren back but right now, she's just in the first episode.

Credit: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC

In Joan's absence, Zoey is now the boss of the fourth floor at SPRQ Point which is a huge promotion for her. How will she handle taking on this new leadership position at work, especially given all that she's going through in her personal life?
It's hard. The more complications we can give Zoey and the more challenges that we give Zoey, the better for the show and story. By making Zoey the boss of the fourth floor, it forces her to take on different roles that she wouldn't have been able to take if she was just in the bullpen. It forces her to interact with different departments, forces her to be more of the leader, and without that mentor there by her side to help her through it, she definitely faces some difficult boss-type things. Especially in episode 2, there's a crisis at SPRQ Point, in episode 4, there's another big problem with SPRQ Point that she has to deal with as boss, and then a big thing happens in episode 6, so she's constantly being forced into uncomfortable leadership positions and boss-like roles that don't fit naturally for her.

It seems like she's already starting to adjust well to being the boss given how she handled new employee George's (Harvey Guillén) issues in the premiere.
You'll learn a little bit more about George, and George will be the one that Zoey has to deal with in a major way as boss in episode 4. Having to be boss myself and deal with difficult challenges sometimes, I was interested in exploring a complicated dynamic that ends up happening between her and George.

What season 2 musical numbers are you excited for fans to see?
We have a variety of genres and time periods, everything from current day hits all the way to songs from the 1950s, maybe even earlier. Rap is still the hardest one for us because of rights and clearances. Normally rap songs sample other songs so you usually have to pay for two or three songs instead of one. And then there's usually a lot of writers and producers on it so it's hard to get clearances, and then the lyrics are so specific that it sometimes doesn't work storywise. So rap is still one of the ones that I wish we could do more of than we do. But we have some amazing big hits from the last five years and we also have big classic songs too, so we've been really fortunate in season 2. I don't think we've had anybody say no to us so far with our asks. We've got some Harry Styles, some Ariana Grande, some Sam Smith, we've got Nicki Minaj, we've got Queen, Mary J. Blige, JLo, Selena Gomez. We got Britney Spears!

What do you think is going to surprise fans about where season 2 goes from here?
It's important to me that we always take big creative swings and risks in the show. In the same way in season 1 we did a whole storyline with Mo [Alex Newell] and his relationship to the church and we did a whole death storyline, we do a deep dive into systemic racism in the workspace in Silicon Valley and especially in SPRQ Point in episode 6. I'm very proud of that episode and proud of the issues that we address in it. There's two or three numbers in that episode alone that are some of my favorite we've ever done. We also have another glitch episode coming up this season but Zoey's powers glitch in a new and unexpected way that creates major complications.

Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist season 2 airs Tuesdays on NBC.

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