‘Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist’ Star Harvey Guillén on His Big Britney Moment & Critics Choice Nomination

Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist Harvey Guillen George
Spoiler Alert
Sergei Bachlakov/NBC

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, Season 2, Episode 4, “Zoey’s Extraordinary Employee.”]

Most TV viewers know Harvey Guillén as Guillermo on FX’s hilarious vampire comedy What We Do in the Shadows, but he’s been stealing the show as George on NBC’s Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist.

In the show’s latest episode, “Zoey’s Extraordinary Employee,” George was going through a lot as he mourns the loss of his abuelita, and Zoey (Jane Levy) is put in a difficult position when SPRQ Point calls for mass lay-offs. Needless to say, George gets the boot, but not without delivering one powerful musical performance. Below, Guillén opens up about George’s fate, hopes for his future on the show, his recent Critics Choice Award nomination, and What We Do in the Shadows Season 3.

Sadly, George was let go from working at SPRQ Point in this episode. Do you think that’s what’s ultimately best for him?

Harvey Guillén: I do think it’s the right thing for him because sometimes you think you want something so bad because of what you’ve created in your own head about it, whether it’s a work relationship or what not. In a way, this is good for him. He’s not the perfect fit for SPRQ Point. He might’ve fibbed on his application a little bit, which a lot of people do, to get a job, because he wanted it so bad. Sometimes you want something so bad, but the universe is like, “No, trust me. It’s not for you.”

The way I can connect to that personally, as Harvey, [was in the past, wanting] a role so bad, you audition for something, and then you don’t get it, and you’re upset. Then you look back and it’s like, “Oh, thank God I didn’t do that role… The universe was really looking out for me.” So, the universe is always looking after you, you just have to listen and sometimes, dealing with George, I think this was the best exit for now.

Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist Harvey Guillen

(Credit: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC/Lionsgate)

He was actually supposed to come back in a later episode, but unfortunately the schedule did not allow. And I know that [showrunner] Austin [Winsberg said] “I can’t wait to get George back in there.” And Zoey is so wonderful that they’re still friends. I mean, he sees her as his sister, so they have a connection that I feel, even when you have to let go of a friend as an employee, true friendship will prevail. So, it’s always a welcome opportunity for George to come back.

You answered my next question about George’s chances for reappearing in the show later on. So, if Zoey’s is renewed for Season 3, what do you hope George will be up to?

I think it would be great to see him thrive. I was talking to Austin about this, and he’s excited to bring him back eventually. Hopefully for [a possible] Season 3 going forward. But it’d be great to see him thrive and find his real calling and his true purpose, because it was definitely not at SPRQ Point.

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Your exit performance of Britney Spears’ “Stronger” is phenomenal — how much work goes into prepping a scene like that?

Mandy Moore’s our choreographer, and she’s just brilliant; working with her was such a treat. I was looking forward to shooting, rehearsing, and choreographing a Britney Spears song because it’s such a statement piece, you know? He just got let go, not once, but twice in 24 hours. And the second one is on Zoey. The first one was hard enough, but then they fired him again, which is a heartbreaking moment.

And that’s when the moment it turns. There’s a snap in him where he’s like, “You know what? F this. I may not be good at what I’m doing here, but I’m a good person, and I’m a hard worker and I don’t need this.” He literally leaves stronger than when he came in. So, I think we achieved that goal with the choreography. He goes over to the desk and picks up the pieces that he had just unpacked from his box, [including the] photo of his dead abuelita.

Harvey Guillen Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist

(Credit: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC)

As a character, George is very different from Guillermo on What We Do in the Shadows. Is that something you look for when going after new roles?

I do tend to try and look for roles that challenge me and that I haven’t played before. So, I do pride myself in doing that. As an actor, that’s our job. I think it’s weird when you see one actor just play the same thing over and over because it’s complacent. And I look up to the greats, like Meryl Streep, who’s always a chameleon. That’s the job of an actor. A thespian has to bring life into a character.

So, it’s nice to play that with George, because it took more energy. He’s energetic, but Guillermo takes the same energy as well. He’s so controlled that it’s more of an effort with him to push and keep him grounded, as opposed to letting him float away. And with George, you can let him float, but [you have to] hold on to the strings of the balloon. He’s big and bubbly, and loud, you know?

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Speaking of Shadows, congratulations on your recent Critics Choice Awards nomination. How did you find out and did you get to celebrate the news?

I’m actually quarantining in Toronto. So, I was in quarantine when I got the news; I got a text from my friend and she said, “Congratulations!” And I didn’t know what she was talking about. We got on the phone, and she said, “You got nominated.” I was like, “Oh, the show got nominated! That’s so awesome.” She was like, “Yes, and you got nominated.” And I was like, what? It was such a shock I think I screamed.

It’s a huge thing. And to be recognized is always so nice; it’s such an honor. I did a tell-everybody thing thing with my friends through Zoom. We all had a toast, because you’ve got to celebrate those things. We always get together, celebrate even the smallest or biggest accomplishments. It doesn’t matter.

What We Do in the Shadows Harvey Guillen

(Credit: Russ Martin/FX)

You’re back to work on Shadows for Season 3. Is there anything you can tease about Guillermo’s upcoming storylines?

If you haven’t seen the Season 2 finale, you should definitely watch it. It’s a cliffhanger. And we pick up right where we left off, and continue that story. And I can tell you that you’ll see some recurring characters that were seen in the past come back. Also the new sets are amazing. I got some of the pictures yesterday. The fans are going to love it. It’s going to be great.

Awesome! Season 2 definitely brought the laughter at a time when viewers needed it most.

I think it’s so funny, because when Season 2 came out, in a weird way, the show is about a group of people living to get quarantined together. So, it was kind of too meta. People have to stay and live in their bubbles. This is a group of beings who have to live in their bubble, because if they don’t, they’re in danger, just like us humans.

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And while Shadows was a quarantine binge for many, are there any shows you’ve been enjoying lately?

There’s a lot of things. Obviously, I watched Bridgerton. I was hooked on that, and I made a joke of it. I was like, “I love this new reboot of Gossip Girl.”

It’s totally like a regency-era Gossip Girl.

I just loved Gossip Girl, and it felt very much like Pride and Prejudice meets Gossip Girl. I watched that on a scripted day. I go back and forth. I do a scripted series, and I step onto a reality show. I’ve become a Housewives junkie. I just can’t stop. I have to catch up with all the ladies from Atlanta and New York. So I go from well-written dramas to reality shows.

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, Season 2, Tuesdays, 8/7c, NBC