Jane Levy, the San Anselmo native who stars in “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist,” doesn’t have a musical theater background. Nor is she a trained singer or dancer.

She’s not even a big Broadway nerd.

No matter. Levy is the leading lady of NBC’s offbeat new musical drama series and she’s having an absolute blast.

“Sometimes you feel like you are exactly where you’re supposed to be,” she says. “That’s how I feel right now with this show.”

Levy, 30, plays its title character, Zoey Clarke. She’s a smart and driven computer coder forging her way through the Bay Area’s tech industry. But after a weird experience during an MRI, she suddenly starts to hear the innermost thoughts, secrets and desires of the people around her — through popular songs and colorful musical numbers. That includes her co-worker (Skylar Astin), who sings about his love for her, and her boss (Lauren Graham) who croons about her marriage.

Think “Glee” on hallucinogens.

Initially, Zoey fears she’s going bonkers. But she soon realizes that this unwanted curse just might be some kind of amazing gift — one that could allow her to connect with her father Mitch (Peter Gallagher), who suffers from Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP). It’s a devastating neurological disease that renders him unable to communicate with his daughter, his wife Maggie (Mary Steenburgen) and everyone else around him.

Levy is no stranger to the stage or television. She was bitten by the acting bug as a youngster, performing in plays as a student at Brookside School and Drake High School. Her previous TV credits include “Shameless,” “Suburgatory” and “Castle Rock,” among others. Through it all, she has displayed impressive versatility via roles that range from comedic to highly dramatic.

But a whimsical, high-concept series that, like “Glee” and “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” is stuffed with toe-tapping tunes and show-stopping choreography? That’s completely new territory.

“I thought the script was lovely and that I had an opportunity to do something I’d never done before on television,” she says. “And it has blossomed into something so much bigger.”

“Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” debuted with a sneak preview in January. But the show’s season finally launched in earnest on Sunday. In the early episodes, including a pilot partially shot in San Francisco, Levy’s character mostly observes the musical performances happening around her. Eventually, though, she joins the fun.

In the eighth episode, in fact, she takes over with a command performance that had her leading seven song-and-dance numbers.

“I might have had a nervous breakdown in preparation for it, maybe,” she admits. “…I was terrified.”

But Levy, who trained with a vocal instructor for much of last summer, powered her way through it and she gives some of the credit to her days as a standout soccer player in high school.

“Learning to sing and dance is really fun. It’s also really humbling,” she says. “I’m very competitive. I come from a sports background and failing makes me feel like s — . And I failed many times, but I just keep persevering.”

And she did so with what “Zoey” creator Austin Winsberg calls a “tour de force” effort.

“She does everything (in Episode 8). She’s funny. She’s incredibly emotional,” he says. “This is not me selling it. The fact that this is not a person who sings and dances normally, it’s incredible. She really gives an unbelievable, I think, Emmy-winning performance.”

Winsberg insists that he had no qualms casting someone with limited singing-and-dancing experience. He told Entertainment Weekly that there wasn’t even an audition process for the lead role.

“We offered it to Jane,” he said. “This part was going to require a wide range of comedy and drama and singing and dancing. I also needed somebody who felt a little quirky and was someone that could belong in that computer coding world, someone who was really smart as well. To have that razor-sharp comedic timing to be as expressive as she is for all the musical numbers, Jane was the first person we thought of that checked all those boxes.”

The show, which mixes upbeat tunes with plenty of touching, emotional moments, is inspired by Winsberg’s own experiences. His father died in 2011 after suffering from PSP.

“For the last six months he was alive, he was very much in the state that Peter is in the show,” he says. “We didn’t know what he was processing, how much he was processing. He would show us moments, and we felt like the brain was still working, but the body was betraying him. … This whole idea generated from me thinking, ‘What if we could see what was going on in my dad’s head during this time?’

“And because I have a little bit of a musical background, it all was about that idea of ‘What if he could see the world as a musical?’ … It came from wanting to see my dad sing, and see my parents dance again.”

Asked why much of TV has a musical bent these days, Winsberg says it’s “because people are looking for joy and hope in the world right now. And I think that musicals can touch upon deep emotions and can bring about stuff that’s sometimes hard to say in words.”

That’s something Levy has definitely discovered since taking on the role of Zoey.

“It’s the magic of musicals,” she says. “It’s a different tool. It’s a different way of storytelling. … Plus, it’s just a real joy to be on a set where, every day, people break out into song.”


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