Austin Winsberg interview: ‘Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas’ producer

After “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist”  was canceled by NBC last summer, showrunner Austin Winsberg was given a unique opportunity to offer closure to fans in the form of a Christmas movie on an entirely different network. The Roku Channel came to the show’s rescue and Winsberg was tasked with developing a holiday-themed movie that could work on its own while also continuing the storylines of Season 2, such as Max (Skylar Astin) suddenly developing Zoey’s (Jane Levy) musical powers. “It had to check a lot of boxes, and then on top of that, I didn’t want to treat it like two episodes of the show,” says Winsberg in an exclusive new interview for Gold Derby. “I wanted to treat it like an actual movie.”

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“Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas” centers on Zoey’s struggle to cope with her first Christmas without her father, Mitch (Peter Gallagher), who died at the end of Season 1 but whose legacy continues to leave an impact on her. Winsberg’s father was born on Christmas Day, and he recalls the first holiday season without him as a particularly strange feeling, a sensation that Zoey is also trying to navigate. “It’s a time of celebration, and you want to kind of honor the past but you need to look forward, and is it okay to celebrate, and what does that mean?” the writer notes. “That just felt kind of like a ripe area for emotion.”

Some of what we see in the movie would have been explored further in a hypothetical third season, particularly Max getting to explore his new powers. Winsberg reveals that there was potential to explore “what it’s like for two people to be in a relationship and know exactly what the other person is thinking or singing at all times. That felt like a funny romantic comedy idea.” We get a scene in the movie of Zoey and Max hearing each other’s “heart songs,” which communicate very different ideas for how to celebrate Christmas; Zoey desperately sings of how “We Need a Little Christmas” while Max would prefer it were “Just the Two of Us.” “That’s one of my favorite numbers in the whole show,” the writer recalls.

Despite the closure of the movie’s final moments, Winsberg and company are still hoping to revisit the world of “Zoey’s” in the future. The producer thinks there is potential for more in the form of other specials like “Zoey’s Extraordinary Vacation,” “Zoey’s Extraordinary Wedding” or even other holiday-centric movies. “It might be over, but for us, it still doesn’t quite feel like it’s over,” he admits. “We still have emotions and nostalgia and love for it, and we’d love to do more if that opportunity came.”

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UPLOADED Jul 12, 2022 2:00 pm