Class Is in Session: The Truth About Jamie Lynn Spears' Shocking Exit and More Zoey 101 Secrets

Zoey 101, the Nickelodeon show that made Jamie Lynn Spears a household name, premiered 17 years ago

By Natalie Finn Jan 09, 2022 2:00 PMTags

The kids are all grown up, but it's the perfect time to go back to school.

Zoey 101 premiered on Nickelodeon 17 years ago, turning a certain pop star's little sister, Jamie Lynn Spears, into a sitcom darling and serving as an early stepping stone for all sorts of future famous names who had bit parts, including Ashley Benson, Harry Shum Jr., Janel Parrish, Miranda Cosgrove, Jennette McCurdyBrandi CyrusKeegan Allen, Jessica Stroup and Kevin McHale.

Though the series lasted for only four seasons, the nostalgia runs deep with this one, and fans were overjoyed when the cast reunited to shoot a sketch for the reboot of All That and then gathered in 2020 to make a video for a new recording of the show's theme song, "Follow Me (Zoey 101)."

"This has been a long time coming!" Spears told E! News of the All That project, the first time many of them had seen each other in years. "I'm so excited to be able to reunite the cast and be able to recreate so many amazing memories, but I'm most excited about what's to come in the future."

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Zoey 101 Cast, Then and Now

The now 30-year-old mother of two has let it be known she's open to a Zoey 101 reboot or series that picked up with Zoey and Dustin Brooks, Chase Matthews, Dana Cruz and more as adults, and it's been heartening to see that the cast has remained friends.

Watch: Inside Jamie Lynn Spears' Private World

But the timing would have to be just right to get all the actors together, and talks would actually have to involve the actors themselves.

"Yo, @nickelodeon have your people call my people," Spears captioned a photo of a headline reading that she was "in talks" for a reboot in July 2019.

"It has to be them as young adults," she explained on the Chicks in the Office podcast in 2020. "It needs to relate to our fans now just like it related to our fans then."

She may be ready to roll now after taking considerable time off from acting to focus on her family, but while we wait, here's some Zoey 101 trivia in honor of the show's 17th anniversary:

1. Shot entirely on location in Malibu, Zoey 101 was Nickelodeon's most expensive production yet when it premiered on Jan. 9, 2005.

2. Malibu's Pepperdine University, idyllically nestled next to the Pacific Ocean, stood in for the kids' high-brow high school, Pacific Coast Academy, so no wonder Spears' favorite part of the whole job was getting to shoot outside all day. PCA was also quite the enviable institution, complete with coffee carts and mini-fridges in the dorms. 

3. Spears slipped seamlessly into the character of Zoey Brooks, a member of the first co-ed class of the formerly all-boys Pacific Coast Academy. "We like the same clothes and we kinda like to do the same stuff," the then 14-year-old actress said in a behind-the-scenes video.

4. For whatever reason, the teen was pressed for time while shooting the season three episode "The Curse of PCA," so the writers came up with the idea of Zoey getting a bucket stuck on her head—so they could have a stand-in for Spears film the scenes where her face is obscured. 

5. Sean Flynn, who played Zoey's BFF turned eventual love interest Chase Matthews, said he was clumsy and made friends easily in real life—much like Chase, whose first encounter with Zoey includes riding headlong into a pole. "I hang out on the computer, talking to my friends online, play video games, play guitar. I always have my guitar—always," he said in an interview. "In fact, sometimes I get in trouble because I play guitar a little too much and the director's, like, 'Put it away!'"

6. Flynn—a grandson of golden-era screen legend Errol Flynn who appeared in the 2013 biopic The Last Robin Hood—left the show after three seasons (to explain his absence, Chase was said to be studying in London) but returned for the season four (and series) finale, "Chasing Zoey," to seal their sweet romance with a kiss. Sporting short hair by then, Flynn had to wear a wig to replicate Chase's signature curly mop top.

7. In case you forgot, that young blond fellow is Austin Butler as Zoey's ex-boyfriend James, who joined the cast in season four to make things a little more confusing for her while Chase was away. Currently Butler has the biggest career of all the Zoey 101 alums, having played Tex Watson in Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood and scoring the role of Elvis Presley in Baz Luhrmann's upcoming biopic.

Approached by TMZ in July 2019, Chris Massey, who played Michael, said it would of course be cool if Butler was able to join any reboot or reunion show, should they have one, and that he'd actually hung out with his former co-star and Butler's then-girlfriend Vanessa Hudgens at Coachella a few months prior.

8. They did leave school sometimes. In the one-hour 2006 special Zoey 101: Spring Break-Up, the kids visit the oceanfront mansion of a rich classmate, where a boys vs. girls reality show is being shot.

9. Zoey 101 was nominated for Choice TV Breakout Show in 2005, and Spears won for Favorite Television Actress in 2006.

10. Chase's best friend Quinn Pensky didn't exist in the pilot, but Erin Sanders had done such a good job while auditioning for another role, they created the character for her.

11. For season three, the crew packed up and moved to a Santa Clarita soundstage, where set designer Harry Matheu recreated the interiors of Pacific Coast Academy. Less ocean, but way closer to Six Flags' Magic Mountain.

And sure, the beach had been nice, but Spears says that wasn't where the magic really happened. "When we were in a room just being kids, that was when I think the funniest and the best memories were made," she told E! News in September 2020.

12. Fans were bowled over when on Sept. 18, 2015, the 10th anniversary of the season two episode "Time Capsule," Nickelodeon aired a five-minute short called "What Did Zoey Say?" that featured present-day Chase proposing to his girlfriend, Alyssa—until Michael runs in holding a DVD and a note Zoey wrote 10 years prior revealing her true feelings (and confusion over how Chase really felt).

Poor Alyssa.

It ended with a "to be continued..." and Chase-Zoey shippers are still waiting.

13. Despite the popular belief that Zoey 101 ended after four seasons because its star got pregnant at 16, Jamie Lynn insists she had already left the show and returned to Louisiana with an eye on doing movies and finishing high school—the latter of which she also did at 16, earning her GED in February 2008 before daughter Maddie was born that June 19.

Filming had already wrapped when she revealed in December 2007 that she was going to be a mom and the series finale aired May 2, 2008.

"Truthfully, I did not get pregnant when I was still under contract with Zoey," she told People TV in 2016. "We had finished shooting, but the episodes hadn't aired yet." Afterward she reluctantly auditioned for Twilight ("I remember just thinking like, 'Y'all are insane. I'm not playing a vampire. That is so stupid. Why would I do that?'" she recalled to Nylon) and didn't realize that she felt sick that day because she was pregnant.

14. "When I became pregnant, the world that I knew came crashing down," Spears acknowledged on the 2016 TLC special Jamie Lynn Spears: When the Lights Go Out. "I knew I had a lot of young girls who looked up to me and I felt that responsibility; but, at the end of the day, I knew I had to make a decision as a young girl myself to do something I knew I could sleep with every night."

She credited big sister Britney with serving as a guide to dealing with public scrutiny. "We've had many conversations about it," she recalled to People TV in 2016, "but I think the main thing is really just, you know, to trust yourself and kind of really keep that your core value. And, you know, keep your family close. The people around you are really important on who you are, and I think that's kind of the biggest thing I've taken away from just being around all of the chaos in general."

15. They're still friends! All of the principal cast—minus Spears, who was working in Atlanta and slept through their attempt to FaceTime with her—reunited for dinner in Los Angeles in 2019. "It was a lot of fun," Victoria Justice, who went on to star in her own Nickelodeon series Victorious after Zoey 101 ended, told Life & Style. "It was great getting back together. It really just brought back old times and so many great memories. I just remember sitting there and looking at everyone's faces and just feeling like no one had really changed. Like, things had obviously changed but we were still like at our core the same people and it just felt so comfortable and so familiar, so that was a really nice feeling. It was really fun."

And count Justice in for the hypothetical reboot.

16. However, Spears made sure not to miss the big Zoom reunion when the cast virtually gathered to chat with E! News in 2020—after they had reunited in person on All That and to shoot a music video for a remix of the show's theme song, "Follow Me (Zoey 101)." Asked what their favorite part had been so far, Sanders said, "Realizing that this connection we have stands the test of time, that even though many years had passed, it's like no time had passed. I seriously dropped to my knees and started getting really emotional when I saw everybody. I think we all had really similar reactions."

17. Spears confirmed that she also thinks Chase and Zoey's story isn't finished, but that resuming it in scripted fashion would require a lot of moving pieces to come together, including finding the right home to tell the tale. "I think there's a lot to still be said and we'll figure out where they are and how that all goes into play," she explained, "but I definitely think that there's more to that."

Who doesn't want that bacon back in their lives now? Here's to Nickelodeon's people calling Jamie Lynn Spears' people in 2022!