“At this point, I’m interested in ‘what else?’ I’m interested in just trying to continue to grow creatively,” admits Lauren Graham about what attracts her to roles like her latest on NBC’s musical comedy “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist.” “I just really don’t believe in stereotypes. I don’t think it’s interesting to watch or play,” she says. Watch our exclusive video interview with Graham above.
In “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist,” after a freak accident Zoey Clarke (Jane Levy) can see and hear the inner thoughts of strangers, friends and family, who unknowingly sing about their intimate feelings to her through pop music. It’s an emotional roller coaster of a show that has become a hit with audiences. It wears its heart on its sleeve, especially when characters break out into the emotional song and dance numbers that punctuate each episode.
Graham plays Zoe’s boss Joan, the head of a San Francisco tech firm that specializes in smart devices and apps. While Joan initially appears a little prickly and demanding, she ends up being a supporter and friend to Jane as we learn more about her and see her more vulnerable side play out through the show’s first season. For Graham, it was important to establish what drives this successful businesswoman in order to find her vulnerability. “Let’s find a way to turn the ‘bitchy boss’ into something more complex and interesting and grounded,” she explains about how the character evolved.
“I’m always interested in the difference between what people say and how they’re really feeling,” Graham declares. “Especially in the case of Joan, it was finding what her tempo is,” she explains, clicking her fingers to demonstrate Joan’s charged and fast-paced demeanor and her outwardly clenched appearance. “Then, what was the counter to that,” she asks, adding that “the counter in her case is marriage crumbling, money doesn’t mean anything, it didn’t buy her happiness, her company is potentially in jeopardy, she doesn’t understand why she doesn’t have more friends. That’s what I live for as an actor, those little pieces of behavior because that tells us everything about and it’s both. Yes she’s the boss but also she feels vulnerable.”
The show is unabashedly earnest in how it empathizes with each characters’ inner feelings through elaborate musical numbers. For Graham, that meant belting out the Miley Cyrus hit “Wrecking Ball” in one episode and then dancing on a bar while singing Kesha‘s “Tik Tok” in another. “It was an important song for her because she’s breaking out and celebrating freedom,” the actress explains, recalling that when choreographer Mandy Moore suggested she climb up onto a bar while dancing and singing her heart out, she was initially apprehensive but ultimately enjoyed the experience. “I’m like ‘I’m sorry, what excuse me?'” she laughs. “On the day, you just have to commit so I just had to flip a switch so maybe I don’t identify as sassy or sexy but I do today! And then I became like obnoxiously unstoppable and I was slithering down poles and stuff,” Graham says.
“It reminded me, because I had a few years of more writing and really feeling frustrated at the material I would get sent and maybe losing some of the things I liked to somebody else and it was such a funny, transitional time. So I felt so thankful and inspired again. I just couldn’t find something that sparked joy and this did.”
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