So you know how when people are completely in sync they finish each others’ sentences? That’s not quite the way it is with Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna, co-creators of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.” Sitting in their North Hollywood offices, you come to realize that they are definitely in sync, but there’s not always sentence-finishing happening.
“We have a tendency to get up in front of the writer’s room and be like, ‘But ... because ... remember and the thing? The thing with the boobs, we’ll put there and then we’ll do the thing,’” McKenna says. “What happened for the first few weeks of the writer’s room is that people would just be like, ‘What’s happening?’”
Set in sunny West Covina, “Ex-Girlfriend” chronicles the journey of Rebecca (Bloom), a bright, successful New York lawyer who has decided to uproot herself to Southern California to follow the love of her life, Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III), who has no idea she isn’t over their teenage love affair 10 years prior. Rebecca quickly finds a new job and social circle including Josh’s best friend Greg (Santino Fontana) and co-worker Paula (Donna Lynne Champlin), who quickly realize why Rebecca moved all the way across the country. As the first season progressed Rachel eventually fell for Greg’s “settle for me” charms, but by the finale appeared to have convinced Josh they were meant to be (well, maybe).
The two met after McKenna discovered Bloom’s comic music videos online, and McKenna knew they could work together.
“There’s this sort of manic intensity to a lot of the characters that Rachel does in her videos. As we were sitting there I remember I looked over and I said, ‘I had this idea for a long time. I want to do this thing about being a crazy ex-girlfriend.’”
Says Bloom, “I was like, ‘Yup, that’s the show. Done.’”
Most episodes of “Ex-Girlfriend” feature two new songs from a number of unexpected musical genres, with stand-outs such as “The Sexy Getting Ready Song,” “Cold Showers Lead to Crack” and the season finale showstopper, “After Everything I’ve Done for You (That You Didn’t Ask For).” All of it designed to express Rebecca’s inner monologue.
Bloom, who won a Golden Globe and Critics Choice Award for her performance, also spent a good deal of her time writing the show’s songs with composer Adam Schlesinger. Accolades aside, it’s that collaborative creative process with McKenna that she’s just as passionate about. The duo sketch out the plot of each episode before most of the songs are written, but often Bloom will begin songwriting when they are in the outline stages.
“For the ‘Sex with a Stranger’ episode, we knew even before the script was written, we knew we wanted [the song] to be about her hooking up with a stranger,” Bloom says. “Then I got to work and I think by the time we got a first draft of the script in, I had a rough draft of that song. A lot of it happens simultaneously.”
Originally developed as a half-hour Showtime pilot, “Ex-Girlfriend” was saved from the reject pilot pile by the CW. Because Bloom and McKenna went through such a long process getting the show off the ground, they had a major head start before production began. That means the actors are often already singing the songs for individual episodes at the initial table read. They give Schlesinger a huge amount of credit for making the music come to life in time.
While the music differentiates the show from other comedies, “Ex-Girlfriend” wouldn’t work if the audience didn’t care about the characters. Fans may root for their heroine to end up with Josh or Greg, but Bloom hopes they are all on “Team Rebecca” first.
“I think it was really important for us at the end of the season that everyone’s right and everyone’s wrong, especially in this love triangle,” Bloom says. “They all have valid points and they’ve all [messed] up in major ways. The idea of being team anyone, it’s fun to say but it’s just a different show.”