Don't expect a rom-com meet cute for this star-crossed couple's first meeting.

By Sydney Bucksbaum
May 07, 2021 at 10:00 AM EDT
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  • NBC

It definitely wasn't love at first sight for Max and Zoey on Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist. In fact, when they met on their first day at SPRQ Point, they actually kind of hated each other.

That may be hard to believe now, but when NBC's musical drama turns the clock back five years in a special flashback episode this Sunday, the complicated couple serves up less rom-com meet-cute and more "meet bad," according to series star Skylar Astin. "To see that Zoey and Max had a meet-bad instead of a meet-cute was a little surprising," the actor tells EW. "I always just assumed that they met, they were really good friends, they got along, and they started making fun of other people and would gossip together, kind of like how we found them in the pilot. But to see that they just completely were oil and water, and they were an opposites attract situation, that was really clever."

Astin loved getting to explore this younger version of Max and seeing how his relationship with Zoey (Jane Levy) began because it further proves how "their friendship has never been a straight line, even when they met. There was growth, even during that first day. And it goes from bitter rivals to friends to even potentially something more, right from the get-go."

Below, EW got Astin to reveal what fans can expect from this week's flashback episode, tease next week's season 2 finale, and more.

Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist
Skylar Astin and Jane Levy on 'Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist'
| Credit: NBC

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was your reaction when you found out about this flashback episode?

SKYLAR ASTIN: I was so excited. As an actor, you always want these kind of backstories and context to inform what you're currently doing, but to be able to play it out is such a gift. Also, to be able to play a slightly younger, even more immature, less focused version of your character is awesome because I didn't know exactly what to expect.

How does seeing the way Max and Zoey met give fans a better understanding of their relationship?

It always wasn't perfect, and Zoey and Max have arguably been in love with each other for a while, but they also know how to fight with each other. They know each other so well that they know how to hurt the other one or what would hurt the other one, but they could also be there for each other in times of need because they do know each other very well. It's obviously why Zoey opened up to Max about her powers because she trusts him, and she knows that her secret is safe with him and that he will take care of her. I think that any fight that they've had has been due to their complications but not due to the fact that they have such a mutual admiration for each other.

So what is this flashback version of Max like?

He's more jovial. When we met him in the start of the series, even in the pilot, he said he's not management material. He had no aspirations to be that. He's happy to be coasting, so to dial that back even five years before that, he'd be coasting even more. [Laughs] He probably wouldn't even care [about the SPRQ Point interview] and would see this just as like a fun day. You do get to see a little bit more underneath that in this episode but he's got this vibe like the whole world's in his hands.

What did you enjoy most about getting to play this younger version of Max?

I enjoyed being back at SPRQ Point and seeing him interact with all of these characters, even for the first time. I just really love all of those relationships.

I didn't realize just how much I was missing Max in SPRQ Point until this flashback episode came about.

Yeah, you and [showrunner] Austin [Winsberg] both. [Laughs] There was a lot of talk of when everyone saw me being all clean-shaven and back in SPRQ Point looking like season 1. Everyone was like, "Man, we really miss you here!" And I loved being back there. I really love that set. I told Austin not to get too many ideas, though, because for Max specifically, I would want Maximo to work out. I wouldn't want him to have to dial it back further if Maximo went belly up and then he had to go back to SPRQ Point. I think that would be a digression for him.

What were some challenges you faced in bringing this flashback version of Max to life?

The challenge was just the facial hair, and just trying to make sure I can grow it back for the finale, and for the later scenes, it was just a scheduling nightmare. [Laughs] But I embraced it fully. I was so excited to do it from the second I heard about it. And I was excited to see Peter [Gallagher] again.

What was it like having him back for this episode and getting to share a pivotal Max/Mitch scene after all this time?

I absolutely love Peter Gallagher. I love working with him and it was one of the first times I've gotten to really work with him and have his character be lucid and making meaningful eye contact and having his full capabilities. It was really fun to see Mitch alive and well through Peter's eyes, and even though our encounter is brief in the episode, it was very meaningful.

How does the episode incorporate music into the story since the flashbacks are from before Zoey got her powers?

It was a bit of a challenge for the writers to figure out how they can squeeze certain songs or any singing at all into a flashback episode where Zoey doesn't have the power yet. And they managed to do it really well; there's a bunch of really fun performances that are really creative.

This episode comes at a crucial moment for Max since he's considering moving to New York with Rose (Katie Findlay). What can you tease about how that decision will shake out the rest of this season?

As we know, we're in a bit of a New York state of mind right now. Max is thinking about his business. He's not going to New York just for Rose or for a girl or for anything in particular. It's a combination of everything. He might need a little bit of space from Zoey and definitely has feelings for Rose, but I think at this point, it's really a testament to Rose that she just wants the best for Max, and this is just born out of an actual opportunity to make a pop-up of Maximo in New York.

How's Max feeling about this decision heading into next week's finale?

It's hard for him to leave certain things behind. I don't think he's going to go permanently. But if he wants to be a restauranteur and wants to actually franchise this concept, he's going to have to travel, and he's going to have to get comfortable with sacrificing certain things in his life. He's as prepared as anyone would be for a major change like that.

What can you tease about how the season ends for Max and Zoey?

I don't think it'll ever be the end of Zoey and Max, as far as any sort of friendship or relationship is concerned. They deeply care about each other, so if they have to support each other with another relationship or in another business venture or even another town, I know they're going to find a way. There's a lot of movement in the finale; there's a lot of ground that needs to get covered and does really well. I was really happy with how it turned out when I read the script. I know it felt really good to shoot. I'm excited to see it. I think fans will be very pleased. Where we leave the finale will have fans clamoring for more. We feel a real deep connection with our fans and supporters of the show. We want the show to come back as much as anyone else, and we feel really confident that we've done the work creatively to garner that third season because there's a lot more story to tell.

Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.

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Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist

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