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Alex Newell on Bringing Interracial Queer Love to Network TV

Alex Newell

On Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist, Newell finally saw "my kind of love on television."


The first season of Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist was extraordinary for many reasons. For one, it brought a musical format back to network television, using songs to process complex emotions like grief in the lives of its characters.

Mo -- the flamboyant neighbor of Zoey (Jane Levy), who gains the supernatural power to hear the "heart songs" of those in her life -- could easily have fallen into trope territory. But Alex Newell helped give life to a gender-fluid character, who was groundbreaking for his handling of issues like queer acceptance in a religious community as well as for his budding relationship with Eddie (Patrick Ortiz).

"It's strange. I don't ever get to see my kind of love on television, the love that I go through on a day-to-day in any facet of relationship," Newell told The Advocate. To have this opportunity to show that, what a person like me would go through in a relationship, the insecurities of it, the normalcies of it, the intricacies of it, is wonderful, and I'm happy that we can tell that story."

Above: Alex Newell and Mary Steenburgen discuss Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist.

In addition to bringing love to the screen that he could relate to, Newell also found a space to explore his own relationship to faith through Mo. "Faith is something that is greater than you are," he said. "I think you choose what faith you want to pursue as long as you can have something that you can release into, that brings you joy and peace in life. My relationship with my faith after that episode, if not got stronger, because it was something that I could be wholly myself in and still explore and release into this space."

Through Mo and his story, viewers across America also have the chance to learn empathy for members of the LGBTQ+ community. It's a role that the Glee alumnus has taken on before in his career, also through the power of his stunning voice.

"Music has been the center of communication for so long," he said. "And if we can agree on a really good song, we can agree on a whole bunch of other things as well."

In addition to acceptance, viewers from all backgrounds can benefit from the lessons imparted by Zoey -- particularly of the need for connection and community in distanced and divided times.

"Zoey's whole power is to get to know another person and to reach out to that person and to know that a lot of stuff isn't just about you, and we can all come together for common ground, which we actually need more of during this time and this entire year," he said. "Wearing your mask is not just about you getting sick. It's about everybody around you getting sick and doing something for the greater good."

Season 2 of Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist premieres Tuesday at 8 p.m. Eastern. Watch the trailer below.

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Daniel Reynolds

Daniel Reynolds is the editor of social media for The Advocate. A native of New Jersey, he writes about entertainment, health, and politics.
Daniel Reynolds is the editor of social media for The Advocate. A native of New Jersey, he writes about entertainment, health, and politics.