'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend' Star Rachel Bloom on Writing About Mental Illness and Upcoming Musical Numbers

Courtesy of Michael Priest

The co-creator and star discussed season three and a future Broadway musical during the latest installment of THR’s TV Talks series.

The CW's Crazy Ex-Girlfriend may be a comedy, but the series is taking a dark and dramatic turn in its third season, with co-creator and star Rachel Bloom's Rebecca Bunch recently diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.

And speaking with The Hollywood Reporter associate editor Ashley Lee during Wednesday night's TV Talks discussion at New York's 92nd Street Y, Bloom insisted that she and the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend team did their homework. “Before we even wrote the season, we talked to different psychologists. We did a ton of research on all this stuff," she said.

Bloom has been open about her own struggles with mental illness in the past, so tackling the subject matter for the series in a correct way is important to her. “I myself have struggled with anxiety and depression and some obsessive, intrusive OCD thoughts, and the worst thing about it — I know for me and I think for a lot of other people — is you feel like you’re the only one,” she said. “Words like 'depression,' it’s just a word. It doesn’t mean the way you’re feeling, and so to see that other people have felt this exact same thing … I’m not the weird one.”

Next week’s episode “Getting Over Jeff,” which is the winter series finale, is the first to not feature the name of the object of Rebecca’s affection, Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III), in the title. “Jeff is Paula’s [Donna Lynne Champlin] long-lost love, and we go home to Buffalo and we’ve been wanting to do this episode for quite some time,” revealed Bloom. “In the pilot, there’s this line where Paula goes, ‘I wish I had been as brave as you were when I was your age.’ So we always knew that Paula felt like there was something that got away from her, and so this is an episode where we meet that guy.”

The CW series is known for its unique inclusion of musical numbers, which are often spoofs and parodies. Bloom previewed some upcoming songs fans can look forward to later this season for the crowd at the Upper East Side event.

“The next episode, Donna Lynne Champlin sings a fabulous ABBA song,” Bloom revealed. “Darryl [Pete Gardner] has a Meghan Trainor song coming up. There is a clean version and a dirty version. So Pete was really excited to go blue,” she said. “There is, for a lack of a better word, a very sexy Nathaniel-White Josh duet coming up. Get ready,” she told the audience of Scott Michael Foster and David Hull’s upcoming musical number. “Amy Hill, who plays Lourdes, has a song coming up and she’s fantastic.”

Bloom also touched on the character of Nathaniel, Rebecca’s boss, with whom she has a complicated relationship. Viewers have slowly seen a softer side to him since his introduction in season 2, though Bloom said that she doesn’t necessarily care if viewers like him. “I want you to understand where [characters are] coming from. That’s really all I care about because, to quote our own show, 'No one wants to be the villain in the story.' No one goes through life saying, 'I’m a villain.' Even our president does not do that,” she said. “Whenever someone’s mean, it comes from trauma in their own lives, and I think that that’s what’s important for us to show on this show — that no one is ever all bad or all good. We’re all just doing our best. So the same goes for Nathaniel.”

The series was created by Bloom alongside showrunner Aline Brosh McKenna, and Bloom said the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend production team features a lot of mothers. “What I’ve seen moms do is they are very efficient because they have to be. They’re very good at multitasking, but taking one thing at a time,” she said. “Aline has two kids, and she said that when she had her kids it actually made her better at her job because she wanted to get her work done so she could be with her kids.”

Bloom also noted that working with a female showrunner has its benefits. “Not to generalize about men, but you hear sometimes showrunners who keep their writing staffs until 4 a.m. and they’re just drinking and playing poker and they don’t actually start writing jokes until 2 a.m. because they don’t want to go home or they don’t want to see their families,” she said. “You will not see, I don’t think, a showrunner who’s also a mom do that ‘cause they want to go home to their families, and Aline never keeps the room late. She runs the room incredibly efficiently."

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is structured to last four seasons. When the series comes to an end, there is a good chance that Bloom will be taking on live theater. When asked if she has a dream role, Bloom revealed that she wants to write a character for herself. “I wrote a full length musical before Crazy Ex-Girlfriend was even an idea, but the musical I wrote was called Broadway Crazy,” she said. But the musical’s concept is in no way connected to the TV series. “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend was Aline’s idea for a movie that we made into the show so I’m debating about bringing that show or do I write a new show.”  

“I kind of want to eventually write a musical about Countess Elizabeth Bathory, who’s the most prolific serial killer in human history,” Bloom revealed. “I don’t know what it would be, and I don’t condone serial killing — I just want to say this now. But she bathed in women’s blood and stuff, and it’s just interesting. Like why would you do that?” She added, “We are looking into Crazy Ex-Girlfriend as a Broadway musical.”