LOS ANGELES, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- In NBC's musical Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist, Zoey (Jane Levy) can hear her friends and loved ones singing their innermost thoughts. The show uses this device to feature musical numbers, but Levy said it also gives her character a complicated secret that affects all her relationships.
"It gets complicated for someone to have such an intimate relationship with others," Levy told UPI in an interview.
The supporting characters are unaware that they are singing to Zoey and don't know that she's hearing their thoughts.
"That is the drama of our story," Levy said. "People are telling Zoey their secrets, but they don't know that."
Supporting characters perform "Help!" or "I Think I Love You" to express what they are feeling, but only Zoey can hear them. They are unaware that Zoey has this insider knowledge.
The premiere episode, released digitally Jan. 7, established the premise. Levy said subsequent episodes will focus on her friend Mo (Alex Newell), boss Joan (Lauren Graham) and others.
"Each character will have an episode in which they are highlighted and their heart song will run the main storyline," Levy said. "[Episode] three is about Joan, four is about Mo, and you're going to see a complicated journey with Zoey and her relationship with her power."
One episode focuses on Zoey, too.
"There is an episode later in the season in which I sing and dance every single number," Levy said.
The musical power also allows Zoey's father, Mitch (Peter Gallagher), to sing to her. This is significant because Mitch suffers from progressive supranuclear palsy, which renders him paralyzed and unable to speak.
"That is the best part of the show to me," Levy said. "I think it's the heart and the core of our story."
Gallagher sits frozen in most of his scenes. The challenge of the performance, Gallagher said, was controlling his eyes.
"I just kind of thought about my musculature and my eyes because they can't really drop below the horizon," Gallagher told UPI in a separate interview. "PSP affects everybody differently, so I had some leeway. Our creator's dad had it."
Zoey's platonic friend, Max (Skylar Astin), sang "I Think I Love You." Zoey does not reciprocate his feelings, and Max does not know that he's confessed to her. They will have a "will they/won't they?" relationship throughout the show, like classic TV romances involving Ross and Rachel on Friends or David and Maddie on Moonlighting.
"Austin Winsberg, our creator, loves romantic comedies, and he wrote a romantic comedy musical [First Date] for Broadway," Levy said. "He told me that that's one of his strengths. In every great TV show, there's a will they or won't they? That is the relationship between Zoey and Max."
Levy said the singing and choreography are new for her. She appreciates the power of music, but Extraordinary Playlist is teaching her about performing music.
"I have always found music healing," Levy said. "There's music I listen to for all sorts of moments in my life. When I'm feeling nostalgic, I'll listen to a particular song. When I want to feel excited and 'pumped up' I listen to certain music. I don't know anything about musicals. I am constantly learning from the rest of my cast."
So is Gallagher. Since the show uses pop music to express its characters' feelings, Gallagher is learning more about current artists.
"Some songs I didn't know I now love," Gallagher said. "Now the only ones in my head are the ones I have to sing next week."
Choreographer Mandy Moore designs Zoey's dance numbers. Levy is discovering how dance can tell a story just as well as dialogue.
"It's really amazing to express yourself not only through acting and using your voice, but through choreography," Levy said. "Mandy Moore is a storyteller first and foremost. She really uses dance as a way to develop a character. I've been learning so much from her and being part of that."
Mitch can only move when he's singing to Zoey and dancing to Moore's choreography. Gallagher defers to her to design his character's expression.
"That's all choreographed and we develop it together as an expression of what the song is about," Gallagher said.
Catch Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist Sundays at 9 p.m. on NBC.