Rachel Bloom is the ultimate underdog. The bubbly, quirky, all-out personality erupted from Internet stardom to become this year’s awards season spoiler, and it’s all due to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Bloom’s audacious CW musical comedy that unexpectedly changed everything.
“We got a lot of really, really good critical press before the show premiered. Then the show premiered to smaller ratings,” Bloom, 29, told ET. (The series averages fewer than 1 million viewers in same-day ratings.) “It felt like a slow build until the Golden Globes nomination.”
Bloom is being humble. She ended up winning the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a TV Comedy, over seasoned performers like Julia-Louis Dreyfus, Jamie Lee Curtis and Lily Tomlin, and later snagged a Critics’ Choice Award.
“It felt like after I won [the Golden Globe] was really when the critical praise started getting more, and more, and more,” she recalled.
Set in sunny West Covina, California, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend follows the journey of Rachel Bunch (Bloom), a twentysomething New York City lawyer who abruptly moves to SoCal to follow her first love, Josh Chan (Vincent Rodriguez III), who is oblivious to the fact that she’s still harboring unresolved feelings from a decade earlier.
Unlike traditional comedies or music-centric shows, like Glee or Empire, each episode features cheeky original songs co-written by Bloom and Adam Schlesinger that aim to highlight Rachel’s inner monologue, accompanying them with ambitious dance numbers that rival a Broadway production.
“We use templates like regular TV shows and musical theater, especially when it comes to how we write the songs, where the songs go,” Bloom explained, adding that any comparison to her show's TV counterparts is only a positive: "It'd draw people to the show."
It’s still a delicate balancing act, nonetheless.
“It’s a balance of ‘what’s the musical number’ and ‘what’s coming from the character,’” Bloom said. “We always keep in mind character. We never want a musical number to sell out a character. Luckily, a lot of our characters have selfish qualities.”
“If we were doing flawless, perfect, squeaky-clean characters, the songs couldn’t be nearly as funny. We get a lot of song mileage out of exploiting our characters’ flaws,” she added.
Songs are greatly conceptualized and vary in subject matter, from a father loving his daughter almost to an inappropriate degree (see: “I Love My Daughter, But Not in a Creepy Way”) to adult Rachel singing with her younger self about her lack of friends (see: “I Have Friends”). “We really like contrasting the naturalism with the heightened stakes of the musical numbers,” Bloom shared.
For Bloom, the draw of bringing a musical to primetime was in part self-serving. “Musical theater is my roots, 100 percent,” she said, expressing desire to incorporate more live performances as Crazy Ex-Girlfriend continues on in its second season this fall.
Before she broke through in the mainstream, Bloom was already a comedy force on YouTube, posting silly musical numbers to her channel, RachelDoesStuff, which boasts 70,000 subscribers. (Her most popular, “You Can Touch My Boobies,” has nearly 4.4 million views.) It was also the online videos that drew Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada, 27 Dresses) to team up with Bloom to create Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, originally developed as a half-hour series for Showtime.
“My YouTube stuff was successful in a cult way,” Bloom said of the perceived stigma attached to Internet stardom. “For as long as I’ve been doing sketch comedy online [and] for as long as I’ve been doing my musical comedy videos, I’ve been a working television writer and a working comedian. They were always going hand in hand.”
Briefly employed by Saturday Night Live, Bloom shared the one lesson she took from her time working at 30 Rockefeller Center.
“You see there’s no golden key that leads you to becoming famous or leads you to getting hired,” she said. “It’s just about getting better and better at your craft. You’re always in a state of learning.”
Additional reporting by Stacy Lambe.