'Crazy Ex Girlfriend' Star Talks CW Move, Musical Numbers and Mental Illness

'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend' - H 2015
The CW

Crazy Ex Girlfriend isn't just the CW's big swing this fall. It's the only swing. An 11th hour pickup on the eve of the upfronts, the hourlong comedy will be the only new series on the CW's fall schedule when it debuts Oct. 12.

A musical, originally piloted as a Showtime half-hour, CW president Mark Pedowitz is banking on it partnering well with critical darling Jane the Virgin on Monday nights — though Jane, it should be said, has struggled in the ratings. "We loved the fact that this has musical elements," Pedowitz told press on Tuesday. "We think we have something — at least we think we're taking a swing at something no one else has on the air."

When executive producer and star Rachel Bloom and fellow executive producer Aline Brosh McKenna followed Pedowitz on stage at the Television Critics Association summer press tour, they talked about tweaks that were made to the original half-hour presentation and emphasized that it is, in fact, a musical. "It took us two days to film that number," Bloom said of the pilot's big Broadway-style number, one of three songs in the episode. "We can definitely keep it up every week."

That will include between two and three musical numbers an episode. McKenna emphasized that they would be spanning all genres and that many of the planned songs for the first 13 episodes have already been written. The entire cast — Donna Lynne Champlin, Santino Fontana, Vincent Rodriguez and Vella Lovell, among them — was also eager to tell the crowd that they're all experienced tap dancers ... hand that their skills will be put to good use on the show.

The biggest question about Crazy Ex Girlfriend since its surprise order has been how it would be changed for the CW. The pilot follows Rebecca (Bloom) as she spontaneously ditches her life as a successful New York lawyer to follow childhood summer camp fling Josh Chan (Rodriguez) to the unassuming suburb of West Covina, California. "Sometimes people assume it's going to be radically different," said McKenna. "The 30 minutes you've seen are in the show. A little bit of profanity was taken out and some of the sexiness was toned down."

Filling the gaps has meant adding characters (Lovell's Heather Patel) and giving more material to the other supporting players. "One of the fun things about turning it into an hour is expanding the other characters," McKenna added.

It may not have been quite at the same level of Jane the Virgin's Gina Rodriguez the year before, but Bloom seemed to warm the cool TCA crowd — especially when she was asked to defend using the word "Crazy" in the title. "We knew we wanted to start with a character who was in a bad place and looked at Josh Chan as an escape," she said. "It's very important that this is not a SNL character; this is someone struggling with issues. We're going to explore that throughout the series."

Bloom seemed thrilled to take that and any question. Before anyone even spoke during the panel, she looked out at the crowd and laughed a bit. "This is amazing," Bloom observed. "I have a TV show. Who gave me a TV show?"