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  • Eric K. Thomas

John Clarence Stewart Talks Code-Switching and the Midseason Finale of Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist



Last we spoke to John Clarence Stewart he talked to us about being a creative and his role on Netflix's What If. Two years later, he has continued to grind and is now starring in NBC's Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist, a musical comedy-drama tv series.



On the midseason finale, the show tackles systemic racism. Simon, played by John, is the spokesperson for a tech company and is challenged to cover up the fact that one of the company's watch software has an issue with recognizing people of color. Instead of saying it was a glitch, in order to save face, Simon publicly says that the company has an issue with diversity. The episode unravels from there.


In a recent interview with QG, John talks about his hesitation about the episode due to the fear of him not wanting to "hurt my community with the story". He also shares how the episode came about, code-switching and singing Black Man in a White World by Michael Kiwanuka.



John was very involved in the concept of the episode.


Austin Winsberg reached out to me and started a conversation with me three or four weeks after George Floyd had passed... was killed. And I had a lot of reservations about doing the episode. And I made sure to articulate that. And he listened to that, he heard them and he opened the door to communicating and to collaborating. And so we started there. And then he connected me and Zora Bikangaga our writer on the episode, brilliant, brilliant brother. And we had a few very long conversations about what it's like to be in the world, being Black men in white spaces. What is that experience like? Being black men with white friends, what's that experience like? What's been that experience now specifically, what are we moving through? And then all of that kind of found its way into Simon, and into what you see on the screen.



John also speaks on code-switching.


Code-switching is the linguistic embodiment of the movement of Black men in a white world. The movement of Black men in the white world is a Black body in space just like shifting and moving through and coming to an awakening of oneself in the midst of movement, that's happening. Code-switching, in my opinion, is how do I linguistically move through spaces that may be safe or not safe, and read the codes that are happening, and know how to keep myself alive.


Check out the full interview below.



The season returns Sunday, March 28 on NBC.

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