Mandy Moore with Zoey star Jane Levy (right) and Michael Thomas Grant
Every success story in Hollywood has a defining moment that pivots the protagonist from bit player to heavy hitter.
Yet choreographer Mandy Moore's career seems to consist of one defining moment after another.
She's worked on Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance (snagging an Emmy for each), and she's choreographed film successes like Silver Linings Playbook and La La Land. In 2017, she made history by choreographing the Golden Globes, Oscars, Grammys and Emmys, all in the same year.
"I love my life," says the St. Louis native, who grew up in Colorado. She came to Los Angeles after high school to pursue a dance career, but switched to offstage mode once she became assistant choreographer on American Idol.
"I enjoy being on this side of the camera — creating, and not performing," she says. "I thought I'd miss performing, but I don't." (In case you're confused, this is not the singer-actress Mandy Moore of NBC's This Is Us. And no, they've never met. This Moore actually named her company Nope Not Her.)
On her latest project, Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist, Moore tackles five or six dance numbers per episode. The NBC series is a surreal musical drama about a San Francisco computer coder who sees people's innermost thoughts, fears and dreams expressed in song and dance. Sound weird? Yes.
Does it work? Absolutely, thanks to an exhaustive catalog of hits ranging from the Beatles to Cindy Lauper — and, of course, deft footwork courtesy of Moore.
"I got the script from [showrunner] Austin Winsberg and immediately thought, This is so brilliant!" Moore says. The show moves from tearjerkers to full-on Broadway dance numbers, with Moore and her staff keeping everyone — from novice to pro — moving in sync.
"I like the intersection of professional dancers with these incredible actors," she says, referring to such talents as Peter Gallagher, Mary Steenburgen and Jane Levy, who plays Zoey. "I love getting in there and teaching someone how to move."
While Moore's day job is to help performers find their inner Rockette, in her downtime she seeks serenity. "I'm a huge nature person, so I love being outdoors. But, believe me, anytime music comes on, I'm dancing on the inside."
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 1, 2020