When it debuted in October 2015, CW’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” seemed on shaky ground. The hour-long series was a mashup of several genres — musical, dark comedy, satire — but it ultimately proved the naysayers wrong. Rachel Bloom, the show’s co-creator/exec producer, took home a Golden Globe in 2016 for performance by an actress in a television series, comedy or musical, in the role of New York lawyer Rebecca Bunch, who moves to California to chase her ex-boyfriend. The comedy has been renewed for a second season and was picked up by Netflix.
In approaching the show, the creators prioritize story. “From the beginning, Rachel and I always said, ‘Show first, then songs,’” says co-creator/exec-producer/showrunner Aline Brosh McKenna (who wrote the screenplay for “The Devil Wears Prada”). Nonetheless, the music is crucial, and McKenna credits the songwriting trio of Bloom, co-producer Jack Dolgen, and executive music producer Adam Schlesinger (formerly of the power-pop group Fountains of Wayne, which had hits including “Stacy’s Mom”) with much of the series’ success. Variety chatted with the team.
How did you come together for this project?
Bloom: Jack and I have been working together for about six years. He produced my first song, “Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury,” and it evolved into a co-writing partnership on my other music videos. When “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” got ordered to series, we knew we needed a powerhouse on the music end. Adam knows Aline because he was her husband’s roommate, so that’s how we lucked into the third part of our platonic love triangle.
Dolgen: I’d just add that while our love triangle is platonic for Rachel and Adam, for me, it is in every way deeply physical.
Schlesinger: I am still roommates with Aline’s husband, although she is unaware of this.
How does the collaboration work within this, uh, triangle?
Schlesinger: We all write lyrics and music. Often, when Rachel or Jack start an idea, they’ll send me a melody along with their lyrics. Sometimes it stays exactly as is, and sometimes it evolves or changes. And sometimes their initial demo is so good that it’s almost unbeatable, as in the case of the iPhone recording Jack made for “Could If
I Wanted To.”
|WITCHING HOUR: Bloom connects with the evil side of her character, Rebecca, in the song “I’m the Villain.”|
Dolgen: We all come from different perspectives, with different specialties, which makes for a really exciting and dynamic team. When we all laugh, that’s when we know it’s good.
What was your favorite song last season?
Bloom: We had a pretty great draft of the song for Rebecca’s mother in episode eight, except we needed a good hook line. At first we were toying with something like, “It’s meeeeeee/It’s meeeeeee/Your mother has come to visit,” but Adam astutely wanted something better. I thought about what my Jewish parents say whenever they enter a room and I blurted out, “Where’s the bathroom?”
Dolgen: Adam and I burst into laughter. It was so out of left field, but so spot-on — a classic Rachel Bloom genius moment. We finished writing the lyrics within 10 minutes after that.
Schlesinger: It’s a brilliant device to hang the song on because of the added tension of knowing the mom has to pee the whole time she’s singing it.
If they gave you all only one Emmy statuette, which of you would get it?
Dolgen: I’d like to think Adam and I would insist on Rachel taking it and then create what would ultimately become an unbearable passive-aggressive environment within which she would have no choice but to go to Home Depot, buy a hand saw, take out the Emmy in the dark of night, and, with tears in her eyes, cut it into even thirds for each of us to have.
Then she would create an environment of passive-aggressiveness so intense that Adam and I would have no choice but to sneak out in the dark of night, steal her third of the Emmy, go to Home Depot, buy some glue and reattach the separate parts and present the whole Emmy to Rachel in a cloud of guilt.
Upon which she would then insist that the only fair way to share the Emmy would be for the three of us to ceremoniously throw it into the Pacific, knowing in our hearts that our creative teamwork is more important than any award.
Upon which, I would sneak out in the dark of night, swim out into the ocean in search of recovering the statue for myself, only to ultimately die at sea trying to find it.
Schlesinger: That’s funny, Jack. But seriously, I would get it because we would go alphabetically by first name.