The co-creator, co-writer and star of the dark musical comedy talks about making one of the best shows on TV
By David Goldberg|
When Crazy Ex Girlfriend premiered on the CW in 2015, it seemed like a rare fluke with a short lifespan. What precedent existed for a feminist comedy about an obsessive single women with mental health issues singing songs inspired by Broadway favorites? But over three seasons, the quirky deconstruction of romantic movies has evolved into TV’s most thoughtful—and unexpectedly dark—character examination, thanks to cocreators Aline Brosh McKenna and Rachel Bloom—who also stars. We talked with very funny New Yorker Bloom about creating the show and staying true to her voice.
What’s amazing about Crazy Ex Girlfriend is that after three seasons, and getting so much attention, the show has really stayed consistent. How do you stay true to your voice with so many moving parts? It’s hard. Aline, the showrunner, runs the writer’s room, and I co-write or work on all the songs. I’m like the musical showrunner, so all the songs keep a consistent tone. But we’re always going. Right now, Aline and I are going over passes of the finale while looking over edits for midseason episodes. It’s hard. It’s really hard. But since the beginning all that has mattered to me is that the work is good.
You write, produce and star in the show. How do you manage it on all immunological, psychological, and logistical levels? It’s a marathon, but I think I’ve got the hang of it now. The first year kind of killed me. While we’re filming, I wake up at five or six in the morning, get to work, do makeup, film until night. I describe my day as someone moves my body around a set, and they put me in front of cameras, and every once in a while someone rubs my back and sprays aromatherapy spritz so that I can keep going. I get up, go to work, come home and sleep. And that’s it. I have no social life. While we’re filming, I don’t do appearances or podcasts or anything else. But putting an emphasis on sleep is big. On any night when I get home, I’ll still have so much work coming in. I have to make a conscious choice of: Do I look over this pass and edits from the latest episode, or do I say that it will wait until tomorrow so that I can actually go to sleep, even if that affects the quality?
What’s it like when the season ends? It’s really interesting, because I’ve been this character full-time for three years now, and while she’s growing and evolving, I can see that I’ve sort of stalled to who I kind of was before we started the show. When hiatus comes, I feel like it’s the first time I can put on my old clothes and be myself, and it’s like nothing has changed. I mean, when I look in my closet, the clothes are a bit nicer than they were from before I was doing the show, but it’s weird. I’m able to hang out with my old friends again and I feel like I’m stepping back into my old life. But I’m curious what it will be like after the show ends. I have some projects I am working on, and I always want to do theater.
The show has such a slow burn on its characters development. How do you balance that without giving them too may payoffs? Aline and I sat down and made a full arc for the characters before the show started, so we know where it’s going. Then, we check in to steer things in the right direction. The first few episodes of this season have been very intense and tumultuous, so we’re working on balancing out the rest of the season and introducing new storylines.