‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ Producer Marc Webb on Cable v. Network TV and Being Jealous of ‘La La Land’

Marc Webb isn’t just an executive producer on the CW’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.” He is, by his own admission, “a total fanboy.” Best known for helming films like “(500) Days of Summer” and “The Amazing Spider-Man,” Webb directed the show’s pilot and the Season Two premiere (which he also co-wrote with star Rachel Bloom and creator Aline Brosh McKenna).

The show stars Golden Globe-winner Bloom as the titular character, who moved from the bustle of New York City to the sunny land of West Covina, California, to pursue a former flame. It features elaborate musical numbers, catchy tunes, and some pretty edgy commentary for a network comedy.

You’ve been with the show since the beginning. Is it fun to be in Season 2?
Definitely. Getting a show on the air was quite a feat. We started at Showtime and ended up at the CW; we narrowly escaped the jaws of death. I thought there’d be a bigger tonal shift from cable to network TV, but the CW was pretty forgiving in terms of what they’d show. Like in the pilot, I’m surprised this one joke made it through. It was a visual gag where she’s waxing, that carried through from Showtime. There was some pretty graphic imagery, but it managed to stay on board.

How much time do you have to dedicate to the show when you have a busy movie career?
I start at the beginning of the season with Aline and Rachel and after I do my edit I let it go, I don’t have as much time to focus on them. But I talk to them —basically texting them how much I love them and how impressed I am with everything they do. It’s really a wonderful group of people. Morale can go down in TV shows really quickly because they have to operate at such a fast pace. I’m always impressed when I go to set, it’s such a well-oiled machine. The fact that they do this on a weekly basis is a really impressive feat. I don’t think people realize how difficult it is to achieve that.

What’s scene or number has been your biggest challenge on the show?
In 2.01 we had to go out to the desert to do “Love Kernels.” The conditions were really brutal. It was incredibly hot, everybody drank 16 gallons of Gatorade and never peed once because we were sweating so much. We were waiting for the sun to get in the right place. And Rachel’s wearing a full-body cactus costume. Because there’s musical numbers, there’s so many opportunities to make things look big and cool. Even in the pilot we did a 120-person dance sequence with a giant pretzel. It was a set piece in the midst of this tiny show about a woman moving to West Covina. It’s something that I really enjoy doing and don’t get a chance to do often.

People are relating to the show and to Rebecca even though she often does things that make them cringe. Any theories as to why?
It’s a total unique show that understands the tropes of musicals and is always undermining them. It’s always one step ahead. Rachel and Aline don’t get enough credit for their incredibly specific talents. It’s the songwriting, the storytelling, and I think there aren’t enough shows about women. Its originality is very powerful. There’s nothing else like it. I’m impressed and grateful the CW has supported this show because it’s an odd endeavor.

You also have two movies due in the next year, what can you tell us about those?
First up is “Gifted,” about a custody battle over a math prodigy. It stars Chris Evans and Jenny Slate and as the young girl, Mckenna Grace is really a wonderful discovery. I think people are going to be enthused about her. It comes out in April. I shot it almost a year ago so I’m very ready for it to come out. I just finished “The Only Living Boy in New York.” I’m in the edit as we speak. It’s a script that’s been around for quite some time and it’s wonderful. I’ve had it in my corner and finally get to make it after four, five years. It doesn’t have any musical numbers in it, though.

Is it weird to be filming things where people don’t burst into song?
A little! It’s so in my veins, musicals. I can’t bear to see “La La Land” because I know I’m going to be so envious of how amazing it is. They’re such wonderfully talented people I’m going to be in a fit of jealousy when I see that movie. Jealousy and joy, I’m sure. Musicals go through waves and they can be beaten down very quickly because they can be so earnest and people – critics in particular – are brutal when it comes to sentimentality. But I think you can do things with musicals you can’t do in any other genre. You can express joy, be a cultural critic like in “Hamilton,” or talk about gender roles and mental health in the way “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” does. And do it in a way that doesn’t feel like you’re teaching someone a lesson.

Live musicals on TV are the rage now; have you given any thought to a live episode of “Crazy Ex”?
That’s a really good idea. And by the way, this cast would kill it. That’s what they’re used to. They’re theatre pros with massive quantities of talent. It doesn’t take them any time to warm up on their takes, they’re completely reliable and would be brilliant in that scenario. I’m constantly in awe of them.

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