It’s Personal for the Creator of ‘Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist’

By BERNICE FOX

Special to Circling the News

Austin Winsberg is the creator of “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist.” Photo: Facebook

Nothing would make the creator of “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” more pleased than for Mary Steenburgen to write a song for the show.

Along with acting, Steenburgen, who lives in Pacific Palisades, is a songwriter. She plays Zoey’s mom in the series. The character of Zoey sometimes sees people’s thoughts expressed in song and dance.

While the show’s creator, Brentwood resident Austin Winsberg, says “nothing would make me happier than if Mary wrote a song,” the songs he’s used for the first season are songs viewers probably know, or know of.

“I want to make sure that season one, all of the songs that we were doing, and part of the conceit of the show was that these were songs that were put in (Zoey’s) head that were radio hits.”

That’s for season one. Winsberg and the cast and crew expect to find out in the next couple of weeks if NBC will go ahead with a second season.

Winsberg, who attended Brentwood School, says “I think … people are looking for joy and hope in the world right now. And I think that musicals can touch upon deep emotions and can bring about stuff that’s sometimes hard to say in words.

“I think people are just drawn to stuff that feels escapist and that feels hopeful and fun. And I think music is a great way to make that happen,” Winsberg said a few weeks before coronavirus overwhelmed the world.

One of the storylines in “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” is personal for Winsberg and it’s a focus of the season finale, Sunday, May 3, on NBC.

In the series, Zoey’s dad, played by Peter Gallagher, has a degenerative condition known as PSP, which stands for progressive supranuclear palsy.

Winsberg’s father Richard, who was a local architectural designer, had PSP and died in 2011 at age 68.

Gallagher’s character is unable to talk and can barely move without help. Winsberg says “every single thing that Peter goes through over the course of the season are things that happened in my house. Every single thing that he is experiencing, I could not put it out there more clearly of just what our own experience was.”

There is one huge difference. As with other people in her “Extraordinary Playlist” world, Zoey reads her father’s thoughts and emotions. She sees him reveal them by singing – and sometimes dancing with Steenburgen, who plays her mom.

Winsberg explains he created the show in the first place because he asked himself “What if we could see what was going on in my dad’s head during this time? What if he could see the world as a musical?”

So Winsberg says “it just came from wanting to see my dad sing and dance and see my parents dance again.”

He’s accomplished his mission.

Mary Steenburgen and Peter Gallagher star in ‘Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist.”
Photo: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC 

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