Peter Gallagher on Researching for His 'Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist' Role

Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist - Season Pilot
Q&A
Sergei Bachlakov/NBC

In the music-packed hour-long comedy/drama Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, Jane Levy (Suburgatory) stars as Zoey, a young coder in San Francisco, whose life challenges include dealing with drama at work, trying to find romance, and coping with her father’s illness. Her dad, Mitch, played by Peter Gallagher (Grace and Frankie; The O.C.) has been diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), a degenerative disease, which makes their relationship challenging.

After Jane experiences a mishap, she emerges with an ability to hear people’s true feelings through music. Viewers are getting a sneak preview of the show Tuesday, January 7 on NBC at 10/9c, before the program settles into its regular day/time slot next month on Sunday, February 16 at 9/8c.

Jane Levy as Zoey, Peter Gallagher as Mitch (Sergei Bachlakov/NBC)

TV Insider caught up with Gallagher to talk about his role on the show, which Grace and Frankie costar may have had a hand in his casting, being a pop culture reference on an episode of Will & Grace, and if he’d be open to a revival of The O.C.. Read on for the scoop!

Can you set up your role as Zoey’s dad, Mitch, in this series?

Peter Gallagher: Yes. I play Zoey’s dad. He has progressive supranuclear palsy so, Zoey and Mitch can’t communicate well ... Zoey is stressing over her romantic life and her work place is competitive. She’s having anxiety. She goes in for an examination and she comes out and can hear people’s real feelings through popular songs. She hears singing and everyone starts dancing and then, they’ll disperse. She thinks she’s losing her mind!

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Is it a curse or gift when a young woman begins to hear people's innermost thoughts through songs?

Zoey realizes her new ability can help her communicate with Mitch. She grows wiser and more compassionate. The show is funny, but also very moving.

Do you know why Mitch was written as having this particular condition?

I know that [executive producer] Austin Winsberg’s father had progressive supranuclear palsy.

Peter Gallagher as Mitch (Sergei Bachlakov/NBC)

What are the challenges in playing this character?

It reminds me of when my mother had Alzheimer’s. Mitch’s condition is more of a Parkinsonian thing.

What research did you do to prepare for this role?

I talked to medical professionals and did some reading online. I watched some films. We had a technical advisor on the set to make sure I wasn’t doing anything way off-base.

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What’s it like working with Mary again?

I adore her. We met on Grace and Frankie. She played by business partner and my ex-wife on that show. One day, she was talking about this great new show on which she’d been cast. I thought, 'Gee, I wonder why I haven’t gotten a call [to audition for it]?' Two days later, I’m playing her husband!

Mary Steenburgen as Maggie (Sergei Bachlakov/NBC)

What else is keeping you busy?

I did the first episode of Law & Order: SVU this season, but I had to bow out as Deputy Chief William Dodds. I also did a picture with Andy Samberg (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) called Palm Springs. It’s Groundhog Day meets.. I don’t know what, but it’s smart and fun. I’m a fan of Andy’s.

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In Season 2 of Will & Grace, Will (Eric McCormack) recounted to Grace (Debra Messing) a disastrous meeting with his former boyfriend despite detailed preparation for it — “I plucked my eyebrows so I wouldn't have that scary Peter Gallagher thing going on!”

[Laughs] Oh, I heard about that! But I never saw it. That must have come from [director James] Burrows. He’s a pal!

Last summer’s Fox series BH90210 had the gang from Beverly Hills, 90210 playing themselves trying to get the show (within the show) renewed. Their competition was a revival of.. The O.C. Are you up for a reunion series?

No. That’d be a challenge. No one’s talk about it, but I’m in touch with the cast! Almost all of us got together about a month ago.

The O.C. cast in 2003 (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, Series Premiere, Tuesday, January 7, 10/9c, NBC