Season 2 of the show, which co-stars Skylar Astin, Alex Newell, Kate Findlay, John Clarence Stewart, and Mary Steenburgen, airs Sunday nights on NBC.
It revolves around Jane Levy’s titular computer programmer, who interprets other people’s private thoughts as song and dance numbers.
Leeds plays Zoey’s brother, David, and Lee is his wife, Emily, who are lawyers and new parents.
“It gives people a chance to live vicariously [through the characters] and our show doesn’t actually address the pandemic, so I feel like it’s nice for people to kind of forget for a moment, like there is this world where it doesn’t exist and people can be with each other,” Lee told reporters in a recent Zoom interview.
The unique nature of the show has been a creative oasis for dozens of artists during a time when most stage productions and live musical performances remain shut.
“It really is fun to be able to do this. Today, we had a dance rehearsal for three hours with everybody. There’s just not anywhere else that you can do something like this, especially on TV, right now,” Leeds said.
“I hope that the joy we feel doing it translates,” he added. “Even the most jaded of people here have a good time doing it. They can pretend they’re not, but I can see it.”
Leeds — a Groundings comedy troupe alum known for his roles in Bones and Veep — is a huge fan of musicals and immediately was intrigued when he heard the premise for Playlist.
“I saw when I read it that it worked,” Leeds said. “It was such a good, smart, organic way to do a musical. … You can see from the pilot this is special.”
He said what surprised him was how the show would resonate emotionally with the cast and audience.
“The dad storyline last year was such a beautiful, well-told story,” Leeds said of Peter Gallagher’s character, Mitch, David and Zoey’s disabled father who could not speak, but who had a voice shortly before his death, thanks to the show’s central conceit, which allows people to express themselves in uncoventional ways.
Lee — a YouTuber whose acting credits include Faking It and Switched at Birth — pointed out that Playlist differs from shows such as Glee, which also incorporated song-and-dance numbers, because it actually is not about music and singing.
“Our show is about people’s inner thoughts that you don’t know about it, [until] we sing it. I thought that was really cool because everyone is going through something,” she said.
The co-stars agreed that it is sometimes difficult not to react to a number that breaks out nearby, but doesn’t involve their characters.
“That’s the hardest part! When people are performing, you’re not supposed to look, but it is so tempting,” Lee said.
“It feels like such a waste,” Leeds agreed. “I have this amazing performer doing this number just for me, basically…”
“And you have to watch it on TV,” Lee finished with a laugh.
Although the love between David and Emily is palpable to viewers, their marriage is tested in Season 2, in part, because Emily suffers from postpartum depression.
“We explore that. She just had her baby, then she’s going back to work and her father-in-law’s passed away, her husband’s grieving,” Lee said. “We see how that affects her and their relationship and how they move through that, as well.”
“It’s always a bit of a bumpy ride, but I think they are really supportive of each other and they are always trying to make it,” Leeds said.
David also has quit his job, leaving Emily as sole breadwinner.
“I don’t want to put him down or anything, but he never really seems that satisfied. He quit his job to stay home with the baby. He does love his baby, but now he’s feeling dissatisfied by just being at home,” Leeds said. “While [Emily’s] out working hard, I’m like, ‘Maybe I’ll join a garage band.'”
“No matter what the circumstances are, it seems like David and Emily definitely always try to talk it out. It seems like they want to work things out instead of being like, ‘What the F are you doing?'” Lee said. “It’s really beautiful to see a couple really supporting each other.”