Rachel Bloom Says ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ Goes Full ‘Fatal Attraction’
It’s the dysfunctional relationship you can’t get enough of: “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” that hilariously demented musical rom-dramedy that a legion of devoted fans hopes The CW never breaks up with, is back for a third season. And this time, says Rachel Bloom, Rebecca Bunch won’t be ignored.
The season picks up with Rebecca still reeling from the smoking rubble of her romantic life in West Covina after being jilted at the altar by her dream man/unhealthy obsession Josh, and focusing her considerable energies on extracting her revenge –- she’s going full-on Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction,” says the show’s star and co-creator.
“I get where she’s coming from in it,” Bloom tells Moviefone. “She doesn’t want to be ignored, and I think that that’s the worst thing, being cast aside. You’d rather, at a certain point, be hated than not be thought of at all.”
“It’s a bit of a villain origin story, so it’s really her girding for battle,” says executive producer and co-creator Aline Brosh McKenna. “What’s fun about this season is that anything you thought you expected about this show –- this is the crazy ex-girlfriend who started on a mission to exact some revenge -– we’re finally there. So it’s been incredibly fun for us to actually sort of go there and do the kind comedic ‘Fatal Attraction’ that the show has always promised. So it’s been incredibly fun and liberating.”
In previous seasons, the show has explored the show’s titular adjective in terms of Rebecca’s mental health: there are genuine issues that she needs to address, and this year they’ll be put under a microscope, says. McKenna.
“That character is sort of a fused autobiography of Rachel and I, and we started working on it like the second we met, essentially,” says McKenna. “And we wrote her by feel, and then this year we did the work of sitting down and figuring out exactly what’s troubling her. So we did a ton of research and talked to a lot of people, and she’s going to get a specific diagnosis and a specific course of treatment, and that has been really interesting.”
Bloom joined Moviefone to dig deep into both Rebecca’s revenge and her road to self-discovery –- and the things the star has discovered about herself on her own journey.
Moviefone: The first thing when I heard what the premise of the season was going to be is thinking about how you’ve very artfully exploited the comedic side of her but then there’s that serious side of her issues, too, that you’ve touched on. Tell me a little bit about the approach, how sensitive you’re going to be to certain things, and how you just want to go for the funny in other ways.
Bloom: Well, I think that there’s a wackiness in that Rebecca is actively trying to take on the persona of a character, right? That’s a crazy thing to do and leads to kind of these humorous scenarios. But then there’s the other side explored –- like, okay if you actually do this in your life, you try to be Glenn Close, what is going to happen that happens in your real life? How are people going to actually react to this?
And so that’s been kind of the tightrope to walk — that on the front end if she gets crazy or wacky in a funny way, we have to then deconstruct that and make sure we are calling out how crazy the first thing was.
How easy was it to find big, splashy comedy prospects in this new path?
“Easy” is the wrong word because nothing is ever easy, but definitely there were some things that we just hadn’t mined yet that we had always wanted to mine. I mean, Aline said it so well, where it’s like her version of “Fatal Attraction” is like trying to boil a bunny looking at the bunny’s face, making the bunny a pet, and then she ends up with like 50 bunnies and she doesn’t know how they got there. I mean, that’s a pretty good way to sum up at least the beginning of Rebecca trying to be a villain.
What was the dimension to her that was really creatively exciting to explore that you hadn’t really dug in too deep before?
Going further into sexual manipulation. That’s very fun for me, and interesting. And it’s something we did in the pilot. The idea of, you know, hooking up with Greg just to get information, like we’ve done shades of that but going further into that is very interesting
It’s a very unique thing to your show. People don’t go there very often on shows.
Yeah, because they want to, as Aline said, “protect the lead,” but as long as she and I are portraying a flawed person who’s somewhat of an anti-hero, as long as it’s earned, as long as you understand where she’s coming from that it doesn’t feel gratuitous and it doesn’t feel like those edgy cable shows where suddenly people are f*cking and you don’t know how it happened. Like, as long as you understand what’s going on, that’s all that matters to us.
Which character in your deep bench of great characters was kind of crying out for a little more attention this season?
Heather. She’s been so wise for the past two seasons, you know? She’s been so wise and I think that’s what makes her fun is she’s so kind of above it all. But it’s like, Heather’s a perpetual community college student. So I think that’s been very interesting, and Vella Lovell who plays her is just a star. I mean, she’s so wildly talented. But, when someone’s already enlightened that leads to less plot points, and so that definitely is something that we have actively tried to do this season.
Like, “Okay, how do we take this really interesting but enlightened character who’s arguably a few steps ahead of Rebecca and ingrain her into the story?” Because ultimately it’s Rebecca’s story and sometimes when characters have storylines that have nothing to do with Rebecca, they end up getting cut. And so that was our challenge, and I am very excited.
The musical numbers, as you well know, are part of the pop of the show and that’s what people love, but you also keep everybody engaged in between, which is the big trick.
Oh yeah! And it’s funny there are people who only watch the musical numbers, who go on YouTube and watch them, and then there are people who watch it and fast-forward through the musical numbers. There are both.
So how are you when it comes to the creative side? Do get a concept in your head and feel like, “Could we just film this video now please?” Or do you want to always get to where you need to be to set up the right kind of song and video approach to it?
Oh no, the set up is important. I’m not precious about cutting songs at this point, like, if it’s not earned cut the song. The songs being earned are very, very important. I mean, there are occasionally songs we’ll shoehorn in. “Heavy Boobs,” “Man Nap,” we knew we wanted to do from the start. We kind of wrote little plot points around them, but even then we wrote plots kind of around them to earn them. I really try to have things come from an emotional place and I think we do that very well this season.
Tell me about the different influences for the music and for the videos this time around. Were there things that immediately sprung to mind and you knew, “Okay, I want to do it in this vein or do this style of song?”
“Big Disney ensemble song” I think is something I’ve always been wanting to do and this Season Three opener –- pretty much the top of Season Three is the biggest production number we’ve had since the pilot, which is so exciting to me.
When it came to rebuilding the intro number for the new season and coming up with what you wanted to do, you knew that early didn’t you?
Well, yes and then as Aline and I broke out the season, “I’m Just a Girl In Love” for Season Two ended you up applying to a lot of Season Two, no matter what twists and turns. Like, “I’m just a girl in love, I can’t be held responsible for my actions…” –- that applies to a lot of the season. And when it came to this season, the part of the challenge of finding the right theme song was what is going to still be true in episode ten? Will the revenge angle still hold weight in the same way? And so that was our main challenge.
Because it’s not just a song. It’s our emotional thesis statement and it’s finding the emotional thesis statement in a sitcom-y way for a show that has a lot of plot. I mean, it’s why “Game of Thrones” is just like “Here’s where the show’s taking place” –- that never changes right? “Westworld” is kind of this fundamental thing about like “This is what the show is,” but ours, because it changes with the seasons. It’s finding that balance between “Okay, what’s specific to the season but vague enough so that it can apply to episode one and also apply to episode 13?” It’s hard!
What has observing your super devoted fan-base. and what they say about the show told you about the show that you’re making?
So much. I mean, there’s so much that they notice that sometimes I’m like, “Okay…” I used to go on the “Crazy-Ex” Reddit and then be it good or bad things… I’ve heard a saying recently: “What other people say about you is none of your business.” And I took Twitter and Facebook off my phone –- I just wanted to focus on making the show.
But the fans glean so much, I mean, the way they see Nathaniel, the thematic connections that they make … We have very smart fans. That’s the thing I’ve taken away from this is whip-smart fans.
The show has so much craft to it. It’s clear how much work you guys put into it.
And Aline’s a brilliant show-runner.
And everybody involved does an amazing job. Tell me about making sure that in all of that tight craft there’s room to follow the crazy idea, the silly notion–
Well, to me, comedy has an even tighter craft than drama. The way that I learned comedy was not rigid, but this very specific technique taught by the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, which is the idea of, “What’s the game of your scene?” Playing out the game to it’s fullest extent. So to me, broad comedy actually has the most firm structure. It’s when you start to get into drama that I think, for me, the structure almost gets a little looser.
So that’s been an adjustment for me — that sometimes I will gravitate towards the wackier thing because it feels structurally right. And Aline will say, “Well, no that’s not what a person would do.” Let’s go for the unexpected thing rather than following the A to B to C to D to E structure that you sometimes learn when you’re starting out in sketch.
How has the success of the show changed your life?
My life is unbelievable. It’s obviously gone in phases, but the workload has changed my life the most. It’s given me a confidence I didn’t have, but also made me appreciate things that I had before. Like it makes me appreciate my husband, my dog, my friends that I had before the show.
My career is forever altered. And for a long time my career was synonymous with who I was. It’s less so that now. I think the pressures of being in the limelight and being in the spotlight have caused me to do some of the work that Rebecca’s doing, which is look inside myself and find out like, “Who am I, really?” Cutting out a lot of the external BS that has nothing to do with what I want to say and the art that I want to create.
The show has changed my life in so many ways. I went from being a person who was doing moderately successful videos online and working as a moderately successful TV writer and aspiring to do this to having a Golden Globe. Really within a year I went from having a dead Showtime pilot to winning a Golden Globe. So it’s just insane.
You talked about that spotlight, and as a young, creative person starting out you crave the spotlight. You’re seeking it and then it hits you. And when it hit you, was there a moment like, “Did I really want this?”
I would say it’s 90% gratifying. I actually really like having the spotlight on me. The thing that I crave now more than ever when I’m doing interviews, when I’m turning it on, I can be on. When I’m not on, I want to be left alone. I want to have quiet.
I think that I would have never called myself an introvert before this -– and I’m not an introvert. I’m definitely not -– but now, I’m kind of like a puppy that’s played a lot and I just need to nap. When I want to rest, I want to rest hard. I want to be with my husband, I want to read a book, I want to be left alone, I want to take a bath, I want to get a massage. I just want to left alone.
So the idea of decompressing with, like, a crazy party, I can do that for a night if I have alcohol in me. But short of that, I just want to go home and rest. I think that’s been like an actual big change and that’s been the thing that makes me feel most adult, is craving my relaxing alone time. That’s been really important.
What are the interesting opportunities that have come out of being known for the show? In Hollywood, success breeds more success, generally.
I’m doing a lot of voiceover right now. There have been so many opportunities like countless guest spots of television shows that I’ve done. Being on the Tony Awards. I think getting interest to maybe write Broadway shows. I mean, it’s opened up a whole world and all stuff that I wanted to do that I dreamed about doing before I had the show. So it’s all in the same vein. I mean, it’s nothing that’s out of the ordinary. I’m not getting offers to be on ‘The Bachelorette” or anything.
Maybe the next “Star Wars.”
Exactly, exactly! You know, that would be amazing! But like it’s all within the vein of what I’m doing because my show is still a specific niche show.
Immediate bucket list: what’s looming? Given that the show takes up a lot of your time and energy, what’s something that you’d like to check off sooner rather than later?
Well, I have a book deal so I’ve got to write that book. I want to do Broadway, I want to write a live stage musical. But the main part of the bucket list other than the book –- which I am contracted to do and I’m excited to do it -– is making the show the best, because it’s a finite amount of time. It’s a finite show. I want to make sure we’re doing, up until the last second of editing, the best show we can.