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How Rachel Bloom's Musical Comedy Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Became a TV Obsession

How Rachel Bloom's Musical Comedy Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Became a TV Obsession


"I really like to play with the tension of the fact that we're animals who also have to interact in society."

Photography by Amanda Friedman. Top by Haute Hippie. Jacket by Zara.

Comparing Rebecca Bunch, the lovesick protagonist of the CW musical comedy series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, to a meth kingpin might seem like the setup for a hilarious, odd-couple viral video. But to the offbeat mind that created and plays her, the similarities are too numerous to ignore.

"She's a bubbly Walter White. That says it all," Rachel Bloom declares, referencing the Breaking Bad antihero without a hint of irony. While her show has been celebrated for demolishing stereotypes through Rebecca's "sexy French depression" (and through subplots featuring gay fitness bros and a dad coming out as bisexual via a keytar number), she wants to make one thing clear: Yes, calling her plucky character a "crazy ex-girlfriend" is sexist, but Rebecca -- who quits her job at a high-powered New York law firm and moves to California to win back an old beau after running into him on the street -- is still in serious need of professional help.

"She's going to get worse, as far as getting further and further away from happiness, and then letting obsession take over her," Bloom says. "That's kind of the arc of the whole show."

It's a hot July afternoon, and the 29-year-old is drinking tea at a small table outside Girlfriend's North Hollywood writers room. She's already snagged a Golden Globe, and 24 hours later her series will receive four Emmy nominations (none for Bloom herself this time, but hey, even Leo DiCaprio had to wait a while). Yet here in her element, wearing a loose T-shirt and jeans, she seems more "work-from-home freelancer" than "award-winning showrunner."

Though they share personality quirks, Bloom is much calmer and more confident than her alter ego, or at least she is today. After correcting the challenges raised during Girlfriend's first season -- with Bloom simultaneously writing and starring in scenes about wanting to wear another woman's skin and singing Into the Woods-style songs about being a horrible person -- her writing team is ahead of schedule in drafting season two, even though most of them are out of the office. It helps that Bloom and her co-creator, The Devil Wears Prada screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna, have known where Rebecca's story is going from the beginning, including (and once again echoing Breaking Bad) how it will end.

"When we started thinking about the show, [Aline wanted] to plan it out like a movie," Bloom says. McKenna had been working exclusively in film for 20 years before jumping back into TV with Girlfriend, bringing her new experiences with her. "It would give us a place to go because the concept is so plotty," Bloom says. "Aline specifically said she didn't want to 'create a sitcom that spits out copies of itself.' This is a 50-hour movie."

So the pair mapped out four seasons, each centered on a new chapter in Bunch's life, complete with a new theme song for each. Bloom describes season one as the stage in which "Rebecca's in denial about how she feels"; it concluded in April with her finally sleeping with her former boyfriend, Josh Chan (Vincent Rodriguez III), and admitting she moved to West Covina for him. Bloom says season two contains more of that "Walter White" descent into darkness now that Rebecca's secret is out -- and just as she's forging a semi-functional relationship with Josh's friend Greg (Santino Fontana).

"This season we can have music videos where she openly says, 'I love him, I love him, I love him,' " Bloom explains excitedly. "Before there was always this denial, and that's now been stripped away. It's going to be the 'crazy' of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend."

This anxiety, the danger of everything finally just going off the rails, is exactly why Bloom's show has elicited frenzied critical acclaim and a fervent fan base. Every character in it is damaged and could easily boil down to a tired archetype. Each problem could have a tidy resolution, a warm-and-fuzzy moral. But real life -- and mental health, in particular -- is far more complicated. And scarier. And sometimes, funnier.

"I really like to play with the tension of the fact that we're animals who also have to interact in society," Bloom says. "Ultimately, the show is [about how] no one thinks they're the villain. Doing mean, bad, or illegal things comes from pain. Our philosophy is that everyone wants to be happy."

So when, then, can we expect a happy ending for television's most beloved ex-girlfriend?

"People are like, 'Rebecca and Greg should end up together,' " Bloom says. "Great! But then the show ends. What do we call it then?" she asks, shrugging. "Greg and Rebecca: They're Fine?"

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend returns October 21 at 9 p.m. on the CW.

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