In 2015, a little show called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend premiered on The CW and quickly captured the attention—and adoration—of viewers and critics alike, establishing co-creator and star Rachel Bloom as one of the freshest voices on TV. The series is unique to network television: It's an original musical TV show with a diverse cast that tackles the "crazy ex-girlfriend" stereotype and broaches a range of topics, from body image to mental illness, every week.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend follows Rebecca Bunch (Bloom), a successful but unhappy New York City lawyer who has a chance encounter with an ex-boyfriend, Josh Chan (Vincent Rodriguez III), and promptly drops everything to move to West Covina, California to find him and make him fall in love with her again.
Bloom herself is spectacular talent: She can act, sing, dance, and write. Before Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, she was blowing up the internet with hilarious musical sketches like "F*** Me, Ray Bradbury" and "Historically Accurate Disney Princess Song." She captured the attention of screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada), and together they created the boundary-pushing series, which just confirmed that its upcoming fourth season will be its last. Here are 10 things you might not know about Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
1. WEST COVINA IS A REAL CITY, AND IT HAS EMBRACED CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND.
A show set in the Southern California suburb of West Covina stands out among the myriad shows set in New York City and Los Angeles. The city is pretty ordinary and nondescript: Until Crazy Ex-Girlfriend chose it as a setting, it was largely unknown to non-locals. "Aline and I liked the idea of West Covina being a symbol for what America now is: a diverse group from all walks of life going to the same chain stores and restaurants," Bloom told the Los Angeles Times, which noted that "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has been welcomed by some West Covinans, who say it portrays the cheery banality and casual diversity of life in Southern California's suburbs."
In 2015, the year the it premiered, Covina's City Council presented the cast and producers with the key to the city. The next year, the Council named October 21 "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Day," in honor of the second season's premiere.
2. BASICALLY EVERYONE IN THE CAST HAS BEEN ON BROADWAY.
When you're making an original TV musical, you need actors who can sing and dance. Where do you find them? Broadway, of course. Before coming to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Santino Fontana—who plays Greg Serrano, Josh's best friend—was an up-and-comer on the New York theater scene. He scored a Tony nomination for his role as the prince in Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella and starred in plays like Act One and The Importance of Being Earnest. Off-Broadway, he played Matt in the original revival cast of The Fantasticks.
Fontana's big break came in 2013 when he portrayed a prince again, voicing Prince Hans in the enormously popular Disney film Frozen. After leaving Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, he's been tapped to star in a new Broadway-bound musical adaptation of Tootsie.
Donna Lynne Champlin played Pirelli alongside Patti LuPone's Mrs. Lovett in the 2005 revival of Sweeney Todd, which was memorable because all the actors played their own instruments. Vincent Rodriguez III and Gabrielle Ruiz both cut their teeth in the choruses of musicals, he in the national tours of Anything Goes and Pippin and she in Evita and In the Heights.
3. THERE HAVE BEEN A FEW NOTABLE DIRECTORS.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has had as much talent behind the camera as it has in front of it. The pilot was helmed by Marc Webb, the director of The Amazing Spider-Man and (500) Days of Summer (the latter of which is notable for its musical sequence shot to Hall & Oates's "You Make My Dreams"). He also executive produces the show, and returned to direct and co-write the season two premiere. Webb calls himself "a total fanboy" when it comes to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. He told Variety that although he does the bulk of his producing work at the top of each season and then departs, "I talk to [Bloom and McKenna]—basically texting them how much I love them and how impressed I am with everything they do."
There have been other directors of note as well: Kenny Ortega, the director (and choreographer) of the High School Musical franchise, was behind the camera for the season one episode "I'm Going to the Beach with Josh and His Friends!," and Bloom's husband, comedian Dan Gregor, helmed two episodes.
4. THE SERIES WAS ORIGINALLY SUPPOSED TO BE ON SHOWTIME.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend never would have been made if it weren't for Aline Brosh McKenna. In an interview with ThinkProgress, McKenna told the story of how she first came across Rachel Bloom's viral comedy videos while procrastinating. After that, McKenna had to meet Bloom and find some way to work with her. Soon, they came up with the idea for the show. "At first, we were going to write it for a broadcast network, but there was no way for us to ensure that Rachel would be in it," McKenna said. "They probably would have wanted to use a bigger star. And I said, 'I don’t want to do this unless Rachel is the star of the show.' By necessity, and because it was dirty, we had to do cable."
Initially, Showtime appeared to be very interested, and had seen all of Bloom's videos. In fact, it was Showtime's suggestion that Marc Webb direct the pilot. But after the pilot was done, they passed on it, a move that surprised McKenna. At the same time, McKenna had just binged and fell in love with Jane the Virgin and thought The CW might be interested. To everyone's delight, the broadcast network loved it—dirty jokes and all.
5. EXECUTIVE MUSIC PRODUCER AND SONGWRITER ADAM SCHLESINGER WAS IN FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE.
Adam Schlesinger, one of the three songwriters on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, was the bassist for '00s rock band Fountains of Wayne, which achieved fame with the 2003 single "Stacy's Mom." He's actually been making a name for himself as a Hollywood songwriter for years, winning Emmy and Grammy Awards and picking up Oscar, Tony, and Golden Globe nods. Schlesinger penned the title song for That Thing You Do!, and wrote tracks for the 2007 rom-com Music and Lyrics, starring Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore, and the underrated 2001 film Josie and the Pussycats. He also wrote the music for a short-lived Broadway musical adaptation of the John Waters film Cry-Baby.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend songwriting team Bloom, Schlesinger, and Jack Dolgen share two Emmy nominations for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics. Bloom is the one who concentrates on lyrics and rhythm. "I can do those on set," she told Billboard. "For me to write music, I have to be at the piano and an hour of time to think about it, which I don't have," she says. "Adam takes the music that I send and changes it for the better."
6. WEST COVINA IS ACTUALLY LESS THAN TWO HOURS FROM THE BEACH
There's a recurring joke in the series that encapsulates how West Covina can seem both heavenly and lackluster: It's oft-parroted by the locals that their hometown is only two hours from the beach, but four in traffic. Well, the residents of the real West Covina will have you know that their city is actually less than two hours from the beach, thank you very much. One viewer even took to Google Maps to prove that, in fact, the city is 46 minutes from Huntington Beach and 47 minutes from Redondo Beach.
7. RACHEL BLOOM AUDITIONED FOR SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.
In 2012, an internet-famous comedian named Rachel Bloom sent in an audition tape for SNL. Four years later, with a hit show and and a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Comedy or Musical under her belt, Bloom shared the video on Twitter, to the delight of fans. As we know, she never made it into the cast, despite her excellent impression of Katharine Hepburn auditioning for Space Jam. No hard feelings, though.
8. BLOOM WORKED AS SETH MEYERS'S INTERN.
Though she may not have succeeded in making it onto Saturday Night Live, Bloom did get to work on the show—as an intern. In 2016, Bloom appeared on Late Night with Seth Meyers and talked about her experience at SNL … including the time Meyers got mad at another intern over a salad. "Someone went down to Hale and Hearty to get you a salad, and they came back and it was the wrong salad," she recounted. "They gave you the salad and they were like 'Oh my god, I'm so sorry, it's the wrong salad. Do you want me to get another one?' You went 'No, I guess we can work with this.' And you slammed the door." Bloom presumably never messed up Meyers's salad order.
9. BLOOM AND DANNY JOLLES ARE OLD FRIENDS.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend fans know actor Danny Jolles as George, Rebecca Bunch's oft-mistreated colleague who has been fired and rehired countless times. He finally got his moment in season two. Well, sort of. He got to belt out his own number, "George's Turn," but in classic sad-sack fashion, the camera cut away from him just as he was resolving to no longer let himself be interrupted. But fans may not know that Jolles and Bloom have been friends since long before the show started. The two have a history of performing together in online sketches and at Upright Citizens Brigade and the People's Improv Theater in New York City. The night that the "George's Turn" episode aired, Bloom tweeted about their friendship:
10. FATHER BRAH IS ALSO A WRITER ON THE SHOW
Rene Gube, who plays Josh's friend and advisor Father Brah, is also one of the show's writers. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has garnered praise for its realistic representation of a Filipino-American family, and a lot of that is thanks to Gube, who brings his experience as a Filipino-American to Josh Chan, the Chan family, and his own character Father Brah. He penned the episode "My First Thanksgiving with Josh!," in which Rebecca comes to Josh's house for a traditional Filipino-American Thanksgiving and strives to impress his mom. Gube told Vulture that he was excited to be able to write for a show in which his own identity was represented: "To have an opportunity to create a fully developed Filipino character, a male romantic lead, I’ve never seen that before, and I was super excited about that. It is a great opportunity to show a Filipino family on network television, and show how American that Filipino family truly is.”
Of the Thanksgiving episode, Rodriguez told Vulture, “We’re really focused on the family values and the environment Filipino families create at Thanksgiving. Rene is a great resource in terms of what we’re trying to accomplish with a Filipino family on television and the kinds of things that need to be in place.”