Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Socially Conscious Content Making it’s Way into NBC’s Winter Line Up

NBC - John Clarence Strewart
John Clarence Strewart

*“I feel like a lot of my friends, a lot of people who are in my friend group, that’s been the journey of our lives, is trying to heal,” John Clarence Stewart, an actor in the new NBC “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist,” said at the NBC Talent Mixer on Monday (11-11-19).

The show, debuting in January 2020, allows its characters to expose, experience and process a variety of mental health issues and coping strategies, with a slight twist- musical theatre.

“I think it begins making people have conversations again, to make people actually talk, because that’s the premise of the show,” said Alex Newell, who plays Zoey’s vivacious neighbor Mo on the show.

To her point, the conversations surrounding mental health experts and advocates are in need. Early this month, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention released a new report citing childhood trauma as a public health issue. The report found that Americans who had experienced adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs were at higher risk of dying from five of the top 10 leading causes of death.

“We have to get past all of the ideas we have about each other, all of the masks; into what’s actually going on. Because I think when we get underneath all of the other stuff, what’s actually going on, isn’t foreign to any of us,” Stewart said.

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NBC - Alex Newell
Alex Newell

With our understanding of the topic growing, it’s no wonder mental health and socially conscious content are making their way into mainstream TV shows and films.

“We live in a time and space where we need empathy, and empathy only happens with understanding and understanding only happens with vulnerability,” Stewart said, who’s a character in the new network series and has opportunities to do just that: be vulnerable, shed the mask and get real about how he feels.

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is just one of NBC’s series dealing with mental health issues. When the show, “This Is Us” premiered in the fall of 2016, audiences saw characters like Randall experience things like anxiety or Kate with depression and body shaming issues.

“It’s a relatable show, it’s so relatable and it’s like ‘This Is Us’ pretty much touches on things that people would go through, but nobody would say anything out loud about it,” said Lyric Ross, who’s been on the show for the past 2 seasons now as Deja.

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NBC - The Cast of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlis
The Cast of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. On the left, John Clarence Strewart, In the middle, Alex Newell and on the right, Peter Gallagher

Even in the new half-hour comedy series “Indebted,” premiering February 2020, the subject matter, though light-hearted still deals with matters of the heart and mind through a multi-generational family who see things like setting boundaries and proper coping mechanisms differently.

Whether through song and dance, tears or laughter, audiences this fall won’t just be absorbing content merely as an entertaining escape, but perhaps it’ll be more like an opportunity for personal evolution.

“I think we’ve strayed so far from being human and just having contact with each other,” said Newell. “And mental health is such a thing we’re struggling with and we keep advocating for because people don’t want to talk about it, but in actuality, we need to talk about it.”

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