Tovah Feldshuh dishes on creating one of the best mothers on television for The CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
Legendary stage actress Tovah Feldshuh found a home as Rachel Bloom’s mother on The CW’s musical sensation Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Her quick wit and dry delivery made her one of the show’s best guests stars. We can all dread not living up to our mother’s monstrously wild expectations. Her Naomi Bunch has a tendency to come across as a tad… shall we say… selfish? Judgmental?
Hey! Don’t disrespect your mother like that!
In Season 2, Feldshuh appeared most prominently in “Will Scarsdale Like Josh’s Shayna Punim?” when Rebecca goes to celebrate a family bar mitzvah but worries about a childhood nemesis. Feldshuh has a hilarious duet with old friend Patti LuPone titled “Remember that We Suffered.”
Enjoying Every Minute
While some actors would be nervous to jump into such a lively role, Tovah Feldshuh reveled in the opportunity. She admits that she had some questions about how some things would be handled on the show, but she quickly learned that it would all be worth it.
“I feel young! Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna are keeping me young. When I read the script, the mother was listed as 59, and I said, ‘Who’s going to play her?’ They said, ‘You are!’ I asked if there was going to be a body double, and they told me no. That wig was pulled very tightly, and let me tell you, it was worth every pull and every tug. I am having the time of my life.”
Combining All the Skills
Theater can have a long rehearsal process, but that’s not the case for working on television. Even though performers may have different training from one another, Feldshuh was able to introduce her own ideas to help deepen the character even further.
“They are very comfortable with me throwing around ideas. Rachel has an improv-based background, so she’s always trying new things. I have a theater background, so I would always ask permission. But they always said, ‘Sure, sure.’ They encouraged me a lot.”
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a perfect fit for Feldshuh. She’s one of those actresses (like LuPone and Andrea Martin) that move seamlessly between working on the stage to the small screen.
“It wasn’t a combination of my body of work. Not like Yentl mixed with anything else. It really combined my skills though. I love comedy, I love drama, and I love musicals. I am trying to get a Leona Hemsley to Broadway. It’s called Queen of Mean. Maybe we will do it Off-Broadway. I like to change things up and keep going.”
Mothers, Yes, But No Relation
Normally actors can use their own experiences when developing characters. Felshush insists that while she is a mother herself, she didn’t learn anything about motherhood from playing Naomi Bunch.
Naomi’s worst quality isn’t a part of Feldshuh’s life.
“Naomi comes across very selfish. She wants what’s best for Rebecca, and has the highest standards for her. She simply doesn’t understand why she quits her successful job and moves to West Covina to chase after boys, especially one that is of a different faith. Naomi is trying to keep her head above water. Aren’t we all just treading water?”
“Naomi is very different compared to other mothers. She doesn’t fully listen to Rebecca, and she puts forth ideas that doesn’t totally fit with Rebecca’s life. Playing her didn’t really teach me anything necessarily. I’m a mother myself—I have two kids. I don’t share Naomi’s narcissism, so she wasn’t going to teach me anything in that regard. Narcissism is bad. But Naomi’s narcissistic attitude doesn’t come close to comparing to the current President of the United States. And that’s all I’ll say about that.”
Fearlessness Helps, Too
No one should be surprised by how fearless Feldshush is. She’s a pro. You can hear it in her voice. There is also an eagerness and excitement when she talks about performing for a live audience. In 2013, Feldshuh joined the cast of the Tony Award-winning revival of Stephen Schwatz’s Pippin.
This new outing was completely revamped and staged to look like a circus, and the role of Berthe had to sing her big song while performing on a trapeze above the stage.
Was that a terrifying element?
“No, not at all. It was tough, and it was demanding physically. After very intense training and 15 pounds, I was ready to rock and roll! I was very lean, and I weighed what I weighed when I was very young. Really, I was never afraid of performing on the trapeze. I was thrilled.”
Eager to Continue
Feldshuh is very aware of the era of television we are living through, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is definitely a part of that. She couldn’t reveal much about the upcoming third season, but she reassures us that we will also see her continue in other projects.
“They are writing the scripts right now, but all I know is that in the upcoming season things take a very big turn. So that’s all I will say about that. I will be back on Chicago Justice very soon. My character was a defense attorney but now she’s a judge. I’m thrilled. Careers are built on patronage, so I’m very fortunate. We are living in the Golden Age of TV. We truly are.”
After all, mother knows best.