Here at Conventional Relations, we love Nickelodeon. We also have a thing for celebrating 15 year anniversaries!
The year 2005 was a truly magical time for live action Nickelodeon shows. Each week we were treated to new episodes of “Drake and Josh,” “Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide,” “Unfabulous,” and the subject of today’s read: “Zoey 101.”
Brought to life by “The Amanda Show” creator Dan Schneider, “Zoey 101” was adapted as a starring vehicle for actress/musician Jamie Lynn Spears, who starred in the eighth and ninth seasons of “All That” (I think her sister might have also been moderately famous or something like that…)
The show premiered in January of 2005 and won the hearts of many with it’s breezy charm, over-the-top humor, and likable ensemble of characters. For four seasons we saw Zoey and the gang go through a plethora of wacky situations at Pacific Coast Academy. Along the way, we also got to watch the frustratingly slow burn that was Zoey and Chase’s romance. As much as we all rooted for Chase to get out of the friend zone, the journey was relentless and it took a whole 60 episodes for it to actually happen.
The series might have ended in 2008, but love for it still remains strong from both the viewers and actors who grew up with it. The internet buzzed last year when most of the cast had an impromptu reunion dinner shortly after Jamie Lynn Spears announced that she was interested in making a reboot of Zoey 101. While any actual updates of a reboot have yet to be seen, the cast did reunite to film an episode of “All That” which is slated to air in March.
We got to chat with Sean Flynn who played Chase to talk about his memories working on the show, reuniting with his former co-stars, and what he is currently up to.
Check out the interview below, and dare I ask… ARE YOU READY?!
You are the grandson of the legendary actor Errol Flynn. Did your interest in acting stem from learning about your family’s acting history or was it something you got into separately?
It’s definitely stemmed from that. Ever since I saw my grandfather on my VHS tapes back at home it just felt like it was sort of meant to be. Walking in his footsteps you know? It felt right. My mom also thought it felt right and she would always support it. So that’s exactly correct.
What do you remember about auditioning for Zoey 101?
It’s been a while now, but I do remember getting the sides and wondering “Okay, what’s going on here?” because it was being referred to as “Untitled Jamie Lynn Spears Project” and I was like “Okay, interesting. What is this?” I remember reading the sides which is the portion of the script that they give you and thinking to myself “Wow, I really relate to this guy. We’ll see what happens here.” Then like four callbacks later, I met the executive producer Dan Schneider and that was it. He knew right away that it was a match made in heaven.
There’s an audition video of yours online and the way you delivered the scene is almost exactly how it came out in the show. You seemed to connect with Chase right away. How much did you have in common with him?
Growing up, I was completely the shyest guy in the world. You referred to that audition. I was still the shyest guy in the world. I don’t know if you could tell, but I was definitely very reserved and for me it was just always about Chase never telling anyone about his feelings, being too afraid of rejection, too afraid to face reality. I think a lot of people relate to that deep down, at least at that age. Eventually, hopefully, you get over that. But I know growing up, it wasn’t always easy to be that outgoing charismatic guy. That Logan Reese type.
Were you a fan of Dan Schneider’s work prior to auditioning for the show?
Everyone in the cast had a really fun and organic chemistry on-screen. Did you guys click right away or did it take time for that chemistry to develop?
I think the guys clicked right away. We were all just so stoked to be there and to be a part of it. For some of us, it was just no problem at all. I think building up a relationship with Jamie Lynn back then took a little bit of time. She opened up a little bit more slowly than the rest of us which makes sense. She was a little guarded, but in terms of the other cast mates it was super easy from day one and she was easy too of course. She was always the sweetest person, great to work with, but you know the rest of the cast would hang out all the time and would always try to go out together. We definitely had a great time.
The first time we see Chase on the show, he falls off of his bike and it becomes a recurring gag. Did you ever do any of your own stunts?
I fought to do my own stunts, but not always very hard. I especially wasn’t down to do the stair fall on a bicycle just because I wasn’t looking to fall and smash my face. But there were a lot of other stunts that I really did want to do on the show. Like you said, it was a recurring gag that Chase just was the clumsiest guy around, but I never got a chance to do ‘em. They just never trusted me. I was a child, you know? I’m not Tom Cruise [laughs]. I think it was good they let the professionals handle it. I’m sure it looked a lot better.
This might be a silly question, but the first time that Chase falls off of his bike do you think it symbolizes him falling in love with Zoey?
Now that’s some really deep, meta stuff right there. I completely respect that perspective. I think it’s beautiful, let’s go with it!
The first couple of seasons were filmed at an actual university. The sets were later recreated in a parking lot and green screens were used. Was that a weird transition to make?
It was at first. The first season and the second season were all filmed at Pepperdine University which is the most gorgeous campus on earth. During the second season they spent a lot of time gathering plates and tons of different static shots of the campus so that they’d be able to inter-lay them with all the stuff that we would later film in that parking lot. There were tons of green screens used and they just put those plates in the background. It was a really smooth transition because they went all out when it came to building that set. It was beautiful and it felt just like the real thing, but it even had more interesting sets that were much more personal to PCA. It was really cool. I mean it felt like kind of working at Disneyland every day.
How much sushi did you guys eat making the show?
Honestly, we did not eat any sushi. We didn’t get to eat any of it. We just had to pretend like we were eating it. I mean maybe Quinn got to eat some sushi or something like that [laughs]. I didn’t eat any sushi and I’m kind of happy I didn’t because I don’t know if I would trust that kind of sushi from the set. I don’t know what tricks they would use to make it actually edible, but this is also before I even acquired a taste for sushi which now happens to be something that I love. I think my 14 year old self just wasn’t ready yet.
One of the most depressing endings to any Nickelodeon episode is probably when Chase’s grandma passes away. I read that Dan Schneider even thought about re-shooting it. Was that challenging for you to film?
It was a little bit challenging in the sense that there were some technical hurdles. We had to have the rain which is never easy to just get a huge set like that pouring rain. Aside from that, it was one of the more challenging scenes for me for sure because it was one of the more emotional scenes for Chase. I had to really go to a dark place to get to that level of emotion. I know that it happens to be one of the episodes Dan has said he’s the most proud of. He loved the way that it came out.
Do you have a favorite episode or one that you enjoyed working on the most?
The one that was probably the most fun was the episode where Logan and I raced go-karts because for that we actually did get to ride in those go-karts. I mean we did have stunt doubles do a couple of the harder turns, but we got to go in the go-karts and Logan’s go-kart went super fast. Like it actually went up to 40 miles per hour. Mine only went up to like 20, but still. You’re like an inch off the ground, you’re 14, you can’t drive yet. So that was like a huge deal. It was a lot of fun.
Prior to the last season, you left the show to focus on your education. Was that a difficult decision?
Definitely. It was a really tough call, but I had spent a lot of time growing up with the family that I had at that school my entire life so it was one of those things where I did want to try and follow through with that. It was not easy, but it was a call I had to make. I did get to come back though and I kept in touch with most of the cast so it was fine.
A lot of fans are curious about how the show would have unfolded had Chase been there for the entirety of the last season. Do you have an idea of how things might have turned out?
I don’t know exactly. I would imagine a few of the usual antics. A few close calls between Chase and Zoey. I’m sure a lot of trouble between Chase, Logan and Michael. Maybe a storyline or two for Dustin. I don’t know, we can only imagine these beautiful things.
You guys made the time capsule anniversary video a few years ago, but there is an issue: Zoey and Chase were together at the end of the series, but they are not together in that video. What happened in between?
I can only guess myself. I also don’t know. These are things that even if I did know, I wouldn’t be able to necessarily relay. But at the same time I feel like there is something left to be uncovered here in the future. I’m not entirely sure about that, but there are a lot of question marks. Clearly, we had a bump in the road somewhere along the way and it’s time to see what happens next.
You guys had a few reunions last year. How has it been reconnecting with the cast again after all these years?
It’s been magical. It really has. It’s been super cool, super fun. Everyone’s changed a lot, but at the same time everyone is still just exactly who they were and are at their core. So it’s just been really awesome to just get to know everyone again, but at the same time feel like we’ve known each other the whole time. It’s been really fun. Recently we got to shoot a little reunion episode for All That.
I was about to ask about that! How was filming?
It was cool because we got to actually work together again. It was one thing just grabbing dinner and having drinks and seeing Dan again. That was all amazing, but it was really cool to get in front of the camera together, explore our chemistry and just see how it felt. We were laughing non-stop the whole time, just playing pranks on each other. There’s one video of Chris [Massey] and Matt [Underwood] that’s just absolutely ridiculous. I wish I could post it on Instagram, but Matt won’t let me right now. It’s a little too much [laughs]. But that’s okay, I’m gonna respect that. I’ll just let you know that it involved a hotdog and it involves Matt’s face. That’s all you need to know.
Was the “All That” taping the first time you guys had seen Jamie since Zoey 101 originally wrapped? How was seeing her again after so long?
Yes! And oh my god, it was amazing! She’s so cool and so chic and so awesome. She’s like the ultimate mom everyone wishes they had. She was with her two daughters and she’s just really cool. I mean it’s really awesome to see her again and to see her doing so well and just killing it.
Was it surreal to not only be working with your former co-stars, but also the new “All That” actors who are roughly the same age you were during your start at Nickelodeon?
Definitely. It was very interesting to get to know the new cast of “All That.” They were so charismatic and interesting. I could tell how talented they were and it was just so cool to see this new generation of kids.
Did you have any advice to give them?
I did because some of them asked me specifically and I just told them to really try and appreciate everything that they have because it’s one of the coolest things ever to be in that position at their age. It’s also one of the most difficult things ever to fully appreciate at that age, so it’s sort of a paradox. You can’t really appreciate something at that age as well as you can when you get older.
Looking back on “Zoey 101” 15 years later, what would you say the show means to you?
For me, it really does encapsulate one of the most critical points in my development as a person, as an actor, as a kid. I grew up on that show. Those are the most crucial years of your teenage life. It definitely holds a very special place in my heart just for that reason alone, beyond the fact that I made some great friends and made some great memories. I learned to play guitar. I mean, I could go on and on!
I actually saw a behind-the-scenes video where you were playing a really cool black Rickenbacker. Do you still have that guitar?
I don’t, but it’s in the family still because my cousin owns it. He lives in Jamaica actually.
Do you have any projects you are currently working on?
I’m actually a producer now. I work at a company called Donatello Arm. We do 360 motion capture videography for products. It’s pretty cool. I’m not trying to throw the whole plug out there, but Donatello Arm is a pretty cool place if you have any product that needs to look sexy. Whatever it is, if you can fit it on our turntable we’re gonna make it look great. You can go to our Instagram @Donatelloarm. We have a space here in Atlanta. We have a big machine and a small machine so we can shoot anything from the size of a beer bottle to the size of a refrigerator so we have a big range there and we can basically fly all around the product and highlight all the cool cool aspects of it.
Did I also see on Instagram that you’re playing in a band?
Some of my old co-workers started a band and I did have the honor of playing with them. One of the guys who started the band’s name is David Murphy. He was in a band called STS9. They were pretty big back in the day and I think they still play today. He used to be in that band, but he’s started a new band called Saint Lord and they’re really cool. I’m not in the band unfortunately. I wish I was, but I did get to play with them because one of the songs that David wrote is sort of in my honor. It’s called “What Are We Talking About?” and that’s because it happened to be a phrase that I would throw around a lot when we were working together. Regardless of what was going on, if there was some sort of confusion or if there was some sort of reason that I would need to clarify something I might throw up the “Okay, what are we actually talking about?” Eventually, it caught on to the point where David was like “Okay. This is a song now” So I got to play on that track.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
No. This has been really fun. It was great to talk to you guys!