Austin Winsberg Interview: ‘Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist’ showrunner
For showrunner Austin Winsberg, bringing NBC’s musical comedy “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” to life was like “baring my soul every week,” he reveals. “When all is said and done I’m happy with the work that we did. It felt vulnerable at times.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Winsberg above.
In “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist,” after a freak accident Zoey Clarke (Jane Levy) can see and hear strangers, friends and family unknowingly sing about their intimate feelings to her through pop music. It’s an emotional roller coaster that wears its heart on its sleeve particularly when it explores themes like empathy, love and loss so poignantly through song and dance.
“The idea of empathy and the idea of connecting with your fellow man and listening and not judging a book by its cover and realizing that there might be stuff going on underneath the surface or everybody, those are certainly ideas that resonate right now and things that people can relate to,” Winsberg explains. “But I still try to undercut all of that with comedy and satire and pop culture references. Sometimes the emotion is stronger when you can undercut it with comedy or when comedy and emotion can co-exist in the same scene.”
Arguably the highlight of the strong first season was the season finale in which co-star Peter Gallagher who plays Jane’s father Mitch sadly passes away after suffering from progressive supranuclear palsy, a rare and degenerative condition that paralyzes him. The character was modeled on Winsberg’s late father who also suffered from the debilitating disease.
“There were times on set where Peter Gallagher channeled my father and looked kind of like my dad,” Winsberg recalls. “There would be some times when I’d be able to compartmentalize it and say it’s just a TV show and there would be other moments when he would just give a look or do a gesture that would be exactly like my dad and it would take my breath away and I would start to tear up and would have to leave the set.”