All we want for Christmas is more Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist!
Following a shocking season two twist, NBC cancelled the fan favorite series was before audiences could learn why Max (Skylar Astin) suddenly had the same powers as best friend turned girlfriend Zoey (Jane Levy), plus and what her late father (Peter Gallagher) had to do with it. But thanks to spin-off special Zoey's Extraordinary Christmas, a feature-length Roku Channel holiday movie premiering today, Dec. 1, fans will finally get some answers.
"I think that Max has a different approach to his understanding of music and his initial understanding of the power," Astin exclusively told E! News on Nov. 30. "I think it's something he's always wanted to balance out his relationship with Zoey, and when he gets what he wanted, it's a field day, it's a picnic. [But] he doesn't really understand his responsibility within it."
Astin added, "I don't think he realizes that in order to really support her—and really support her within her special ability—he has to understand the gravity and the depth of it. I think that really takes him by surprise."
Regarding surprises, the Zoey's cast was pleasantly shocked to learn that their beloved musical series was getting a second (or third?) chance thanks to Roku.
"I know that when Lionsgate and the producers were trying to figure out a way to make it work on our old network, a holiday movie was brought up to kind of transition us to their streaming service [Peacock]," Astin explained. "It was something that was completely born after the cancellation, but then once we were shopping it around and seeing if it could work as a third season or how we could kind of continue with these characters, the holiday movie idea came up again and Roku got really excited about it."
Lead star Levy, who plays the titular Zoey, admitted that the whole process of landing the Christmas special was "very surprising" news after the "shock" of not getting renewed for a third season.
"There was a lot of different information in a very short amount of time," Levy explained. "We were all pretty convinced that our show was going to be picked up for season three. There was no reason that it wouldn't. We have great fans, critical acclaim. I personally think the show is pretty fun. And so we all left Vancouver in April thinking we would be back in a couple of months."
Levy joked, "We were resurrected basically from the dead but we were only dead for a week. That being said, I was thrilled we had more opportunities to sing and dance and tell this story because we all love making it together. Also it was just really heartwarming to hear the reaction from the fans and the support from them, because without them, I don't think this would have happened."
In just four days, the whole returning cast—Levy, Astin, Gallagher, Alex Newell, John Clarence Stewart, Andrew Leeds, Alice Lee, Michael Thomas Grant, Kapil Talwalkar, Mary Steenburgen and Bernadette Peters—had to prep musical numbers, choreography and a set deck before starting production.
"It was a little bit more of a sprint than the usual marathon," Astin quipped. "The fact that we got to sit down and make one long story and know that there was an end made it very manageable psychically for us, especially Jane who is in every single number. She's just the busiest person on the planet when shooting this show, so I know for her, shooting a movie was in a weird way easier."
For Golden Globe-nominated star Levy, stepping back into the character of Zoey was "seamless." And for real-life pals Levy and Astin, returning to set meant more fun moments together.
"I had this really great day with Jane on a Saturday. We both went to the famous Max and Zoey park and we rehearsed one of our musical numbers together, just the two of us—no choreographer or director or producers in sight," Astin shared. "We brought our own little phone and our own little speaker and did a whole dance number in front of a bunch of Vancouver locals who must have been very confused. We went out and got some dinner and hung out. It was just a really great bonding experience."
He continued, "Jane and I have grown so close over these couple years but to be able to do the movie where her and I are in every scene together, and really exploring Max and Zoey's relationship, it even brought Jane and me closer."
New emotional covers of "Bad Blood," "Wish You Were Here" and a mash-up of "Just the Two of Us" and "We Need a Little Christmas" added to the holiday special. Levy especially loved the duet to "Time After Time" with Astin. "I learned that partner dancing is really hard, but it was also really beautiful," Levy admitted. "What a great song to be able to dance together to."
Overall, Zoey's Extraordinary Christmas mirrors exactly what Levy believes the holiday season is all about.
"I just love the smell of the Christmas tree and lighting the candles on Hannukah. I just love the ambiance," she reflected. "I think that the background of Christmas for Zoey's really worked because we too have a sparkly ambiance and it's warm and cozy. Of course it's going to be stressful and people are going to mess up and people are going to cry a little too hard, à la Zoey, but I thought it was just such a great backdrop for the way that we tell a story that's about family, love and togetherness."
Zoey's Extraordinary Christmas is now streaming on the Roku Channel.
(E!, NBC and Peacock are all part of the NBCUniversal family.)