Zoey's Playlist Boss on Premiere's Max vs. Simon Decision: 'It Was a Bolder Choice to Make the Choice'

Warning: The following contains spoilers for Tuesday’s Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist season premiere. Proceed at your own risk!

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist showrunner Austin Winsberg is well aware that some viewers are not fans of needlessly endless love triangles. So instead of drawing out the titular heroine’s Max vs. Simon conundrum, Tuesday’s Season 2 premiere found Zoey making a choice between the two handsome men. After watching a recorded video message from her late father, encouraging his family to continue on with their lives following his death, Zoey finally had a talk with Max. The past six weeks had given her plenty of time to think, and now it was time to “carry on”… by kissing Max!

Below, Winsberg explains why Zoey’s decision was a bold choice for the show and what it means for Simon, the fella who lost out on Zoey’s heart. The EP also talks about bringing back Peter Gallagher as Zoey’s beloved father and previews how Max and Mo’s new business venture will impact their friendship. (And for scoop on whether Lauren Graham’s Joan will be back, click here.)

TVLINE | Zoey, seemingly, makes a decision when it comes to Max. So what is their relationship status moving forward? Are they officially dating now?
Certainly seems as if they are going in that direction.

TVLINE | “Seems,” as in looks are deceiving?
[Laughs] No. I think that they are definitely making a go at trying to be together.

TVLINE | What made now the right time to pursue things with Max?
The messaging that she gets from her father in Episode 1, it’s just this idea of moving on and carrying on and having to make decisions in life, that you can’t just stay in neutral. I felt that’s kind of also true about our love triangle, in general. I felt like we had to make some choices in terms of the love triangle. I just feel like Zoey, herself, feels like, “I can’t keep being flip-floppy with both of these guys. I need to make the choice.” And so she makes the choice. And then we’ll deal with the consequences.

TVLINE | Was there a lot of debate in the writers’ room about it being too early in the season for her to make a choice, or about which guy she should pick?
When I was coming up with the pitch for the season, when we first started talking in the room, [we discussed] how much time did we want to go back and forth between, “Should it be this guy, or should it be that guy?” There were a lot of strong feelings in the room that Zoey is turning 30 this year on the show, and that a lot of that kind of behavior could feel very young. And also, just sort of reading the Twitter boards and all that, there’s definitely a faction of people out there that don’t like love triangles. [Laughs] I just felt like, at a certain point, what’s real, you know? If one person keeps stringing two people along for a long period of time, it could be one or both of those people, eventually, sort of being like, “You know what? I don’t want to do this anymore.” So I just felt like it was a bolder choice to make the choice than to keep living in the indecision.

TVLINE | Where does this choice leave Simon, who is still carrying a torch, if that Jet song number is any indication?
Simon has been doing a lot of his own self-growth and has gone through a lot of his own therapy. There was, unfortunately, a scene that we had to cut, where he talked a lot about this in Episode 1. Simon is very much trying to — and we hear this from him in Episode 3 — support Zoey in whatever Zoey wants to do. He knows what it’s like losing somebody, and he understands the challenges of that, and he doesn’t want to pressure her into something. So he just wants to be there to support her on her emotional journey. And so even though he might not be thrilled that Max is the one she picked, he is also trying to be respectful of what Zoey wants.

TVLINE | Will he be moving on, romantically? Might there be a new love interest for him?
That’s something we will definitely be exploring, moving forward.

TVLINE | I loved the way you were able to incorporate Peter Gallagher into the premiere. Are you finding other opportunities to bring him back occasionally?
Yeah. I was very reluctant to kind of go down the Dexter or Six Feet Under route… We already have a magical idea on the show with the musical numbers. I thought to add another big idea that she could sort of have these conversations with her dad all the time might’ve been like one magical idea too many. So it’s just about being creative in the ways in which we bring him back.

TVLINE | The way you staged the “Carry On” number, with some of the actors sort of freeze-framing, was very nice.
Thank you. That was definitely a tricky one for [choreographer] Mandy [Moore] and me to figure out. How do we keep everybody in the frame? And also, we just liked the symbolic idea that everybody’s sort of been frozen in time, in a moment, with what happened with Mitch… That song, “Carry On,” is very thematic of what we go through the whole season of the show, which is everybody’s stuck in different ways, everybody’s coping with death in different ways. But we have to all figure out ways to carry on, regardless of the tragedy that we’ve just been through. Once we kind of cracked that frozen idea, it definitely helped us create that number.

TVLINE | And how is Max and Mo’s new business venture going to work out for the two of them? Is mixing friendship and business a good idea?
It’s one of the major story points of this season that we will explore through all the episodes. I think you’re right — what is it like to work with friends who have two very different personalities? One is very right-brained, the other is very left-brained. How does that creative, artistic mind mesh with somebody who is very business, logic-oriented? We’re going to see a lot of growing pains between the two of them as they try to navigate starting this ambitious restaurant idea together.

Zoey’s Playlist fans, what did you think of the season premiere? Grade it below, then hit the comments. And stay tuned to TVLine for even more Zoey’s scoop!

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