Jazz Tangcay talks to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend showrunner Aline Brosh McKenna about crafting Season 2, the series’ music, and what to expect from Season 3.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend fans, rejoice! Season 3 is under way! Showrunner Aline Brosh McKenna is en-route to the writer’s room. On the way, she bumps into show co-creator Rachel Bloom, and they’re about to start talking about the upcoming season’s music.Airing on The CW, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend instantly became one of the most-talked about shows when it made its debut in 2015 and continues to be talked about. Its season finale close with Rebecca (Bloom) left at the altar by once-beloved Josh Chan (Vincent Rodriguez III). That seismic event sets up a Season 3 that will surely deliver revenge galore.
I caught up with Brosh McKenna to discuss highlights from Season 2 and what else we can expect from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend when Season 3 returns.
I have to say, one of my favorite moments this whole season was “Maybe This Dream.”
Isn’t [Donna Lynne Champlin] amazing? Isn’t she incredible?
Oh my God! I’m so glad you gave her that opportunity to shine the way you did. In fact, I went looking for it almost immediately afterward because I needed it in my life.
You can also see her performing it live because she performed it at our FYC event. You can see her perform it, and it’ll make every hair on the back of your neck stand. She’s just so talented and gifted. She’s such a gift every day.
You have over 70 songs over the course of the show’s entire series. How do you come up with that creative process?
We have 40 in the first, and about that same number in the second season. Right now, we’re in the middle of it. Rachel and I break the overall shape of the season, and the stories and the songs emanate from there. It’s always the scripts first and then the songs. Really for the musical numbers, it’s about taking moments of heightened emotions where a song might fit. It’s tough because the song might shift around as the episode shifts around, but generally, we’ll know an area and we have three songwriters who will talk about ideas and genres.
This week has been a songwriting week where we’ve been developing the songs for Season 3. It’s really the four of us talking about what the shape of the song might be, but I’m not a songwriter. It’s a process that runs at the same time as the scripts are being written. They’re not plot driven, but the joke has to fit into the episode.
The season also has you taking a big step with directing the episode.
I directed the end of the Season 1 finale too. By the time you get to the end of the season, as a showrunner, I’ve been working with the crew and actors on a day to day basis through the whole season. As a director, I’m there with them around the clock, and you get to see what’s happening on your own show from a different perspective. I think it’s a great thing for all showrunners to do. It was a great experience, and this season I wrote and directed the episode. By that point, the writing process is over so I can just focus on the directing and get things exactly the way we want it. I can unplug the writer’s brain and go into craft shooting mode.
How was going from Season 1 to 2? What did you take and learn from it?
There are a whole lot of procedural logistical things that we had learned for sure. It was such a giant and steep learning curve for sure. We had a lot of great help. Moving into Season 2, it was such a joy because we didn’t know if we would have a second season. So, when we got it, there were all these stories we were burning to tell, and to get the chance to do it again was a privilege.
The story got intense in Season 2, and her emotional predicament became more intense and her effect on other people became more prominent. West Covina is a type of purgatory, and what’s funny is this character chose to go to purgatory. Slowly, these characters are starting to free themselves from these chains. I think it was interesting that the person that seemed the most mired in West Covina was Greg who was the first person to get out. Writing that storyline was emotional and gratifying for us because we felt like this character that we love so much is finally starting to sort his life out. We also added Nathaniel [Scott Michael Foster], a new character. Adding to that ensemble was a big challenge, and it’s always interesting.
The twists leave us gagging for more. You ended again on a wedding. What was it like writing for a wedding that wasn’t going to happen?
Every season so far has ended with a wedding. Logistically it was a pain in the arse. They are a lot of work. The high stakes of it emotionally are a gigantic tribute to Rachel and what she does in that she’s able to do so many different tones. She does a Death Metal song in one scene and in another, does this very emotional and vulnerable work that you see her doing with her father. We didn’t add any score to that because it was so great. The ability to add some tones to our palette was fun because it allowed us to explore the foundation and emotional stuff.
Is that going to be a trademark, ending with a wedding?
I’m not sure about that. The show is going to pivot a bit. We give you a glimpse of what the following season will be about, so you know from the end of the season we’re now going into the phase of being a vengeful ex-girlfriend.
You’ve developed the other characters. Are they going to be helping her seek retribution?
They’re definitely going to be involved in helping her seek retribution and the best way to do that.
I love it. The episode gave us a good character and giving us a good insight. What was that like for you writing that in exploring that side of her?
I think we are attracted to things which are not the best for us and stem from our families of origin. I think this was something she had not really examined in her own life very fully. Maybe the audience had some incipient knowledge that this was an issue for her? What I loved about it was that we had a lot of questions about her, and that’s why the episode starts with that “Previously on…” and you have everyone asking who is she and what is she doing there?
We start to try and answer some of those questions about why Rebecca is the way she is.
I have two words: Period Sex.
That was a big Rachel obsession. If it was up to her, it would have been up to her to have it all the time. It was only in three episodes.
That’s bold for the network. Did you have any problems?
The full version is on the internet. Creatively and artistically, they’re super supportive.
Her finale face is a meme.
We did that a number of different ways, and what you see in that shot is somebody who needs a new persona to try on. That’s how she saves herself and protects herself emotionally is by finding her cultural types to make herself feel better.
On the musical numbers, do you have a favorite?
It’s hard to pick one. I had a fondness for “You Go First” which was the Heart type song because it reminded me of the 80’s, and I’m an 80’s baby and love all of that. I love them all and we work so hard on them. I’m not the songwriter and always blown away by what they’re able to do.