'Zoey's Playlist': Skylar Astin on Why Zoey & Max's Romance Will Last

Are Zoey and Max in over their heads on Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist?

The BFFs are testing the romantic waters, but on Tuesday’s episode, their newish relationship may be taking a hit in the form of a recurring bad dream Zoey continues to have in the evenings. But why is she having them in the first place? As it begins to affect her romance with Max and seep into other parts of her life, Zoey is forced to make a choice. For now, it’s all things go for Zoey and Max in the romance department.

“From Max’s lens, he’s waited long enough and he’s been very patient with Zoey, so I was happy to see it happen,” Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist star Skylar Astin tells ET. “I thought it was really thrilling and beautiful… I thought it was definitely time. I believe in Max and Zoey, so I support it.” As creator Austin Winsberg told ET at the start of season 2, “it was a bigger and bolder swing to make a choice, and then see the ramifications of the choice.”

We’ll definitely see the consequences of Zoey’s choice, and sooner than you’d think. Ahead of a brand new episode, Astin discusses filming last week’s standout bedroom medley, if Zoey and Max are made to last in a long-term relationship, Max’s app venture with Mo, the arrival of his father and much, much more. 

ET: Before we preview this next episode, we have to talk about the medley from last week’s because it was one of my favorite performances of the show.

Skylar Astin: I appreciate it. I actually saw what you tweeted and I really appreciate you saying all that.

It was so awkward, but also charming and endearing, and sexy. What were your initial thoughts when you read it in the script?

It was a gift from the writers. Anytime you see that as an actor, it’s so thrilling and exciting. They devoted an entire act to that sequence, and it really felt like a one-act play to be honest. It read really well at the table read, but then when you start to put it on its seat, you start to realize that sometimes you got to play against the song you’re singing. So it was kind of a tough puzzle to crack for Team Dance and Austin and myself and Jane, but we cut our way through it. We fudged some dialogue just to fit the narrative even more and be more specific. It was really exciting. I will say, right off the bat, anytime Austin and I spoke about it, he kept saying, “This is so fun. This is so fun.”

Even the complex and sometimes difficult conversations, and even the bumps were fun because it’s just like, “We’ve got to figure this out” because when we did, it was so thrilling with [choreographer] Mandy [Moore] getting it up on its feet. I know a lot of the initial choreography really revolved around the bed and then we got to actually take it away from the bed and go over to the desk, and then when I’m stripping, it’s not sexy. It’s exasperating stripping. Also we had the job of distinguishing it from episode 12 [in season 1], the one where I did the John Legend-Pitbull sequence to not make it feel like that same kind of situation. To redefine a new performance anxiety as far as being in a bedroom is concerned because who has ever had to deal with a situation like this? It was really fun to make those rules and live in that world.

It was the most delightful musical sequence so far this season.

Believe me, I could already speak for the seven episodes we’ve shot, there’s a lot more to come — not just my character, but different genres, different sequences and there are a lot of really special moments coming your way.

One thing that surprised me was how quickly the love triangle resolved itself, at least for now, with Zoey making the choice to move forward romantically with Max. Did that surprise you at all?

From Max’s lens, he’s waited long enough and he’s been very patient with Zoey, so I was happy to see it happen. I was happy to see it happening the way it did. I thought it was really thrilling and beautiful. I was so happy that it wasn’t just one scene and it was actually done through song as on our show was really operating on every level and it was just crafty the way that it was all handled. I thought it was definitely time. I believe in Max and Zoey, so I support it.

Friends to lovers often produce some of the strongest relationships out there. Is that something you personally believe in and why they’re groomed for long-term success?

I agree. I just think it has to be felt on both sides. Friends starting into something more can sometimes really complicate a relationship, it can ruin a friendship at times. So it’s a delicate chain, but I’ve definitely seen successful situations and stories in my personal life where that makes for such an amazing partnership, especially if they were growing towards each other romantically at the same pace at the same time, and met in the middle. Then yeah, because you really should be best friends with your partner. You should be able to feel comfortable to tell them everything. With Zoey and Max on top of being best friends, we’ll be seeing their physical attraction for each other. They’re also former coworkers, so they really understand what each other does. And I kind of like that they don’t work together presently because maybe that would be a little bit too much and create more conflict in their relationship. Like, they can never not take their work home with them. Now, Max can come home to Zoey and vent about his new business venture and she could then vent about what she’s got going on at work and that’s something that he could relate to because he has worked there and knows how it operates. I think everything’s working in their benefit.

Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist

You mentioned Max’s new restaurant app venture with Mo. What are you looking forward to exploring with them as they get deeper into their partnership?

More music between the two of them because I just love singing with Alex [Newell] and I love listening to him sing. I love being a part of scenes with Alex. Alex is showing up the script this year in such a wonderful way. I just feel like Mo is evolving so much and I like seeing both Max and Mo apart from Zoey because oftentimes we are the opener to her story and we are there as equals to her. But when you take these other extensions of Zoey and put them in a room together, they have a completely separate symbiotic relationship. It’s going to be interesting to see their bumps along the way with their business venture and even in their personal relationship and how that could even strengthen their bond.

What obstacles will they face? 

Anytime you get into business with a friend, it can compromise the relationship and it can strengthen the relationship, but it can definitely deepen it. You learn more about them as individuals in a different context. How would Max know that Mo was going to be hesitant when it came to signing the contract for his own reasons? There will be more of that kind of stuff, but there will be obstacles that they will face as new entrepreneurs. We all know how hard it is as millennials to get on our feet and to start something new. I’ve been at it from the writing perspective; when you really like your idea and you’re wondering if anyone else will care. It’s tough to talk about it without giving anything away, but I can promise a lot of story with Max and Mo and their new venture.

The restaurant app is genius, too. 

It is really smart. Apparently, before we even started filming, the writers were saying that they were already thinking they were giving someone a multibillion-dollar idea and that they’re totally fine with it. They just want to make sure that they can go to this place, and at least enjoy the fruits of their labor as writers. I really believe in the concept and it makes it really easy to believe in it as Max as well, because it is a good idea. It’s really refreshing in today’s pandemic world to think of a world where a place like this could exist where you could have the delivery app and all go to the same place and everyone enjoys the different kinds of diets that they all have. There’s even more stuff coming along and certain ways it’s presented that our audience doesn’t know yet about that new venture, and I think you’re going to like it even more.

There was also more insight into Max and David’s fun dynamic, which we haven’t seen a lot of.

I always love Max at the Clarkes. I remember in episode 2 of season 1 when I came over with the butterscotch pudding, I got to have my moment with Peter [Gallagher]. I’ve gotten to have really nice moments with Maggie and now here I have a comedic moment with David. I just love Andrew Leeds. He’s such a funny improviser, and we came up with that missed high-five moment. The problem with the two of us is we’ll never stop. We would’ve probably done that fake high-five seven separate times had they not called that at some point. I hope to have more stuff with him down the line.

We’re also going to start meeting members of Max’s family, especially his dad. Can you say anything about their relationship?

Chip Zien, a theater legend, plays my father, Alan Richman, and he is a dentist. As I have mentioned on the show, in episode 2 of season 1, I don’t have such a great relationship with my father, which is why Mitch was always a source of comfort for me. You kind of get to see that realized and you get a little bit more backstory, a little bit more into the dynamics once he comes to town. You get to see how they interact with each other. You get a little bit more of a window into that world. Even in this last episode, when I was doing “Two Truths and a Lie” with Mo, I mentioned that my father never once told me he was proud. We’re definitely setting up that dynamic. It’s not the scariest relationship, but I think it’s a very human relationship, and it’s something that a lot of people will relate to.

Is there a favorite musical number that you have coming down the pike?

Yeah, I do. You’ve already seen “Are You Going to Be My Girl,” the big [bedroom] sequence and now “Say Something.” I really like “Say Something,” but there is a song in episode 5 with my dad actually that I just really like from a global perspective. But also Mandy Moore really pushed me in that one. It’s one of those numbers where we do a “oner” with no cuts, so that’s fun because you really get to feel like, OK, there was no escape there. That’s really him doing his thing. It’s really live. 

Is there an upcoming scene you’re excited about?

I really, really like episode 7. The characters really get meshed [together]. I like when all of our series regulars are at play and there’s crossover, where Mo and Max are getting to interact a lot more, Simon and Max getting to interact a lot more in episode 1 and in episode 7. So I kind of just like that. I like being there for each other. Our show has a lot of earnestness, but it also has a lot of compassion. I think like a lot of these characters, even someone like Tobin, who masks it really well, has a lot of compassion.

Were you able to make a a personal song request that got into the show this season or one you’re still fighting for?

No, I hung up my suggestion because there’s just so much that goes into it. The lyrics have to be literal and it has to work in the narrative of the show, but I always throw out Taylor Swift, always Justin Bieber. I’ll always keep fighting the good fight there. I also like Calum Scott’s [cover of] “Dancing on My Own.” That’s such a great song. I feel like there could and would maybe be a moment down the line for Max and maybe Simon to be dancing on their own, you know?

One of my personal favorites from last season was *NSYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye.”

You might be very lucky to know that, I don’t know this yet, but there might be another boy band song coming down the line.

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on NBC. For more on the series, watch below.

‘Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist’ Star Jane Levy on If She’d Want Zoey’s Musical Ability IRL

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