John Clarence Stewart Teases Simon & Zoey’s ‘Extraordinary Playlist’ Relationship
NBC’s fresh musical comedy Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist turned up the heat last week when Zoey (Jane Levy) found herself in a precarious position with coworker and friend Simon (John Clarence Stewart).
Despite his engaged status, Zoey’s continued to crush on Simon, and it appears he may feel the same for her after the support she’s shown over his grief for the suicide of his father and their “dad stuff.” Zoey’s ability to hear people’s inner thoughts in the form of songs saw her listening to Simon belt out “Should I Stay or Should I Go,” leaving her to take initiative and block the exit of her apartment door.
The question is, what will happen next? Will Simon’s fiancée Jessica (India de Beaufort) learn about their late-night rendezvous? Will it lead to something more than just a platonic friendship? Stewart is offering some perspective on what’s to come below.
Fans were left with a major cliffhanger between your character Simon and Zoey. What can you tease about their relationship moving forward?
John Clarence Stewart: The rest of the season you’ll see them grow closer and you’ll see them wrestle with what that means. I think you’ll see the intimacy in the relationship that they have grows and evolves and it won’t be until much, much later in the season. The word satisfied comes to mind when you’ll get an understanding for where they both are at the same moment. I think right now they’re always on different pages and you never quite know where each of them are and later on you’ll get an understanding.
One thing they’ve bonded over is grief and their fathers. Do you think their friendship has brought Simon to a better place and improved attitude towards his own grief?
I think that he is in a better place as in acknowledging that there is something going on — something that he’s going through. But also the process of healing is like tearing the scab off of a wound and letting it breathe and getting in there and that process sometimes gets more messy. I think there are going to be moments where Simon allows himself to feel happiness, like in the episode where [Zoey] encourages him to dance and be joyful, even though he feels like he’s betraying his father. There’s more moments like that when he’s going to be happy and there’s also going to be moments where he is going to give himself — because of Zoey — the permission to feel whatever is going on.
Simon’s not the only man in Zoey’s life and Max (Skylar Astin) just got out of a relationship. Is it too early to count him out of the race for Zoey’s heart, considering he’s the available one?
No, I don’t think you can count anyone out. Honestly. Right when you think you know where the show is going to go, you’re going to realize that you have no clue and the more solid you feel about a relationship, it’s almost like the rug can be pulled out from under you at any moment. So I wouldn’t count out Max. I wouldn’t count out Simon. I wouldn’t count out Jessica. I wouldn’t count out anyone right now. I think they’re all just figuring it out. I think that’s the beautiful thing, that’s something that I love about this show itself is that nobody is perfect. Nobody is without their faults in this thing they’re navigating.
Grief isn’t always addressed onscreen, but your storyline tackles it head on. Why do you think it’s so important to portray that onscreen?
I think it makes us feel less alone and makes us feel seen. It gives us permission to also seek help, and when we see someone go through something that we’re going through, making decisions and living their lives, we see the decisions that we could make. The ramifications and how that can affect people that we love and care about just informs us and makes us more compassionate to ourselves. It’s incredibly valuable, I think. Grief’s the elephant in many rooms. We’re all navigating finding a new normal and having relationships in our lives where we’re able to not put up a face like everything is cool.
You’ve sung an array of tunes throughout the series from “Mad World” to “Should I Stay or Should I Go.” Has there been a personal favorite and are there any performances you’re looking forward to fans seeing?
I will tease. I will say that there may be a duet at some point. I’ll leave that there. As far as the future, I’m very excited about [it]. And also my favorite song so far — I really love “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” because I felt like it was exciting, it was fun. Creating was incredible because [choreographer] Mandy [Moore] and the team, they have this way of making the actor or the performer feel incredibly comfortable and supported. And so I felt free to explore and try things and do my version of whatever it is. Also, I don’t always get to dance around and do sexy stuff. I don’t always get to do that in my life. It doesn’t always happen so it’s really great to do that in work.
You’ve worked with Jane Levy in the past on Netflix’s What/If. What has it been like getting to explore these roles together?
I have the utmost respect for her talent and professionalism. She’s a brilliant actor and leader and seeing her carry this thing, it’s been pretty awe-inspiring for me. That’s why just all the respect, it just deepened and widened. And wherever, whoever Jane is working with, she is open, ready to go there and find the truth wherever that is, be it a moment that’s light, pure and fun or be it a moment that is raw.
And when you’re performing on set, do they play the background music when you sing or is it added in afterwards?
No, we play the music while we’re performing songs on set.
I bet it’d be kind of awkward otherwise.
Yeah, one of the things that they were so specific about was the transition between speaking and singing because in that moment the audience is either with us or they’re not. It has to be believable and part of the vocabulary that we’ve established in the world. Sometimes it feels almost tedious the way that the way that the speaking has to segue seamlessly, but I mean we’ll be speaking, we’ll be doing a scene and they’ll cue up the music to start up right where it needs to as we’re doing the scene. In a way we’re riding the wave the whole way through.
If you have time to watch TV, what’s something you’re watching and loving right now?
I’m watching Altered Carbon right now. I’m watching Castlevania and I’m watching Love Is Blind.
Into the Netflix binge — that’s quite an array of genres.
Yeah [Laughs]. Obviously I have some time.
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, Sundays, 9/8c, NBC