As the final season comes together, the co-creator, writer, and star of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is plotting her next steps.
Rachel Bloom has every excuse in the world to be exhausted. It's been just two days since arrived back in Los Angeles from the Tony Awards, where she served as the show's backstage correspondent for the second consecutive year and found time to send off the perfect retort to an ill-conceived Neil Patrick Harris tweet. (More on that later.)
Now, in the immediate aftermath of a GQ shoot, Bloom is sitting down with me over a cup of tea and a croissant. As soon as our interview is over, she'll speed off to the writer's room to resume work on the fourth and final season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend—the CW series on which she pulls triple duty as co-creator, writer, and star, in a role that requires her to literally sing and dance her way through one of the most unflinching, open-hearted depictions of mental illness on television.
So yes: At this point, exhaustion would probably be defensible. But as soon as we start talking, it's clear that Bloom, somehow, still has energy to spare. In conversation, Bloom is candid, reflective, and sincere—but with a natural talent for knowing when to veer off into a witty aside or a wicked joke. It's a skill that has established Bloom as one of the most innovative and multifaceted comedic performers of her generation, and a talent worth following across any medium she chooses to tackle:
GQ: You've been a Broadway super-fan since you were a kid. Now you're attending the Tonys every year. What's the difference between what you always imagined it would be and what it's actually like?
Rachel Bloom: You know, it's all the hard, mundane work on everyone's part. If you're performing in the Tonys—even if you are Patti LuPone or Christine Ebersole—you are there, starting at 8 a.m., in full hair and makeup, because they have to get it for the broadcast. And then they schlep you back to a theater to wait around all day. You're working your ass off. There's no velvet chaise lounge where someone gives you a massage. You're hoofing it all of the time.
How did you end up as the Tonys' go-to backstage correspondent?
I wanted to present last year—but I've never been on Broadway, and they have a policy that says you can't present if you've never been on Broadway. But they said, "You can do this backstage correspondent gig." This year, I heightened it more—added some more jokes, and a little more on my Instagram. And I got to share a dressing room with Patti LuPone, which is so fucking cool. I spent a lot of the Tonys just watching, in the dressing room with Patti. And then later I walked back into the dressing room, to find, instead of Patti, Ms. Bernadette Peters. The first time I met her was when I was 11 and I saw her in Annie Get Your Gun, and I don't think she'd remember that. And look: She and Patti LuPone might be my two favorite performers in the world. I was talking with Bernadette, and I was very casual. And then after I left I just walked back into the room and said, "By the way, I just have to let you know: I love you so much. You are one of my heroes. You're my favorite performer. I love you so much." I hadn't said that yet! Because you're trying to play it cool. But I had to let her know.
She loved it. Because you can't react badly when someone says something like that. That's what I've learned. Most people—most people you meet—are pretty nice. And I realize I'm coming from a different place, now, having a TV show. They say, "Don't judge people by how they treat their equals." Judge them by how they treat their... lessers? But I have to say, specifically with Patti, I met her when I was in college. I went to this big CD signing with the whole cast of the revival of Sweeney Todd. And she complimented my coat. Even back then.
On the other hand, there was the whole Neil Patrick Harris thing on Twitter. There's some confusion about what happened—some people thought you two were doing a bit or a joke.
No, no, no. It wasn't a joke. Basically... I saw that tweet. And I was kind of devastated. I was actually going to tweet, "This makes me sad." But then I was like, "Ehhhhhhhhhh... I don't want to give him that, necessarily." Look. I've met him a couple times. Very recently, backstage in the dressing room of a Broadway show. And we hung out for a solid 15 minutes with the star of this Broadway show. It was just bizarre to me that it wouldn't ring a bell. And also, that he wouldn't Google it.
But look, he's not a writer, so his version of a Twitter joke is to just kind of... live-comment to Twitter followers with kind of random, unformed thoughts. And fame does that to you—where you think every kind of random, unformed thought is a gem, because you get 10,000 likes from it. He has, like, 27 million Twitter followers. And that makes me scared about fame in general. The yes-men. Even if what you're saying is, I don't know, kind of weird or unoriginal, you're still getting a lot of approval and dopamine surges for saying it. And I really, really hope that I can surround myself with people who will call me out on my shit, so that—even if I ever were to have 27 million Twitter followers—I would be just kind of... a person first, and a famous person second.
And I guess what I would say is, the thing he said in response [to my tweet] wasn't really an apology as much as saying, like, "Well said! Thanks for the reminder."
Ehhhhhhhhhh... okay. In my office—mine and my husband's joint office, in our house—we have a big framed photo of the script for that episode [in which Harris's How I Met Your Mother character, Barney, meets his father for the first time], and a picture of my husband and his writing partner with Neil Patrick Harris, like, on our wall. [laughs] So it's, like, a big part of our lives!
Someone pointed out, "Well, maybe your beef isn't with Neil. Maybe it's with his son Gideon." And I was like, "You know what? You're right. That child and I now have beef." You have the exclusive! I'm in a feud with his child! [leans into microphone] Just to be clear: That's a joke. I wish his child well. And I hope that his child gets into a great school. And if he chooses not to go to college, that he finds a trade or profession that makes him happy and fulfilled. [laughs]
And I guess, the final thing I'll say about that is: Look, he didn't say that I was terrible. It was just kind of a random thing. But I think, if he wants to be gracious: He has 27 million Twitter followers. He could check out an episode of the musical TV show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend—which is, right now, the only musical show on television. And tell his 27 million Twitter followers to check it out. I wouldn't hate that!
Let's talk about the fourth and final season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. You've said, from the very beginning, that you pitched the show as a four-season arc. How much does the show, as it exists now, line up with your original plan?
We went through: What are the cycles of being a quote-unquote "crazy ex"? Falling in love with someone, being obsessed with them, getting over them, and the path to recovery. And it was four. No more, no less. [Co-creator Aline Brosh McKenna] and I pitched the show as four seasons, and there are networks executives all around town who know, if they cared to remember, the end of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. The finale, right now—the final image—is the same series finale ending image we pitched five years ago. It's a very specific point that we want to make.
What's it like, on an emotional level, to know that you're bringing the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend story to an end within the year?
It's so uphill that it doesn't feel like the end yet. We not only have to do 13 episodes—we write two to four original songs per episode. We have the theme done. We have three songs in the first episode, and those are done—although literally, on my to-do list today, I have to get those demos to Adam Schlesinger, my writing partner and executive producer. We have one or two more songs in the can, but it's such an uphill battle. It'll get nostalgic when the work is over. But the work has just begun.
Has the process gotten any easier from season to season?
I've learned to prioritize my self-care a bit more. But no. It's still hard. It's a very hard show. I couldn't do a show like this ever again, on a network TV schedule, because we're writing and editing and filming at the same time—unlike cable shows, which do all three separately. Plus, I'm in it.
You originally produced the pilot for Showtime. How different would the premium cable version of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend have been?
Shorter. Slightly easier, because we would have had fewer episodes, and would only have been a half hour. Thematically, the show is what it is. Very little changed between the Showtime pilot and the CW pilot. There would have been a lot more sex. I feel like Showtime would probably have pressured me to show my tits pretty early on. God, if we could show actual sex scenes... yeah, I'm sure things would be different. There are plot lines that might be different.
But this is ultimately the show we wanted to make, and we have more time, so we can showcase the other characters. If we only had a half hour to do this show, I don't know how much we could have done with other characters. And because we're on a network, and have to abide by FCC guidelines, mothers and daughters can watch this show together. I've heard of mothers watching this with their preteen or teenaged daughters, or parents watching it with their kids. Sharon Horgan has told me she watches it with her daughters. And that's really cool to me, because we talk about a lot of stuff that wasn't talked about when I was that age. And that's really special, as opposed to an edgy Showtime show that would just be watched by the hipsters who are similar to the people making the show.
But for the past three seasons, we've had the steadiest ratings on TV. We have the same, basically 600,000 people who watch the show every week. No more, no less. And the fans are all in. The fans are amazing. I'm so excited to do another live tour. Hopefully we'll hit some of those international markets. I see you, United Kingdom. I see you. That's another reason it doesn't feel like the end. And then I'll be out of a job.
In three seasons, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has debuted more than 100 original songs. Which song do people want to talk to you about the most?
"Heavy Boobs." Nine times out of 10, they say, "I'm a Jewish girl with big boobs and I really feel that song."
Oh! And "Gettin' Bi." People use that song to come out, which is fucking amazing. Adam Schlesinger wrote basically all that song, and then we got notes from GLAAD on it. And this show was [Pete Gardner]'s first time singing in public, and he's amazing. He's technically—forgive me, Pete—he's technically, by age, the oldest member of our cast. But also the youngest.
Which was the hardest song to write?
The Season 3 theme song. Because our theme songs are the story Rebecca is telling herself, and Season 3 was so fractured. She was telling herself different stories, and she didn't know which story to tell herself. And she was running out of stories.
Which was the hardest song to shoot?
"I Could If I Wanted To." That's a oner, so there couldn't be a single mistake on that. And even then there was one little flub-ish thing that we had to go back and re-record. And when we shot "Love Kernels," we were in the desert, and I was in a long-sleeve cactus costume. Very hot. Very. Oh! And "Horny Angry Tango." I'd never done ballroom dance before—and that is a very hard form of dance. That was probably the most frustrated I've gotten with myself in choreography.
Which was the hardest song to sing?
"I'm a Good Person." Early in Season 1, I was dealing with some pretty bad acid reflux, so I was pretty hoarse. It works with that song, but you can hear that I'm definitely raspy. I hadn't worked it out—"Why am I waking up so hoarse?" And it's because I was eating these big meals, because I was so starving after filming.
Which song would you use to introduce someone to the show?
Start simple, with "Sexy Getting Ready Song." It's not musical theater genre. "We're cooooooooool!" [laughs]
Is there a musical genre you haven't already tackled that you want to make sure you hit in Season 4?
We haven't done 1960s boy band, and Adam has produced a couple of records with the Monkees. He wrote the song "That Thing You Do." He was nominated for an Oscar for it! But we haven't done that! And we haven't had Donna Lynne Champlin tap dance yet. We have to rectify that.
And after you're done with the final season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and the live tour—let's say your next project can be literally anything you want to do. What would you make next?
A period musical film. I was pitching around a Christmas musical that takes place in the '30s with Paul Feig, and no one wanted it because it was a period piece, and people are scared of spending a lot of money on a musical that's not marketable. But if you gave me unlimited money? I would try to make something like that.
This interview has been edited and condensed.