'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend' Star Vella Lovell on Season 3's Mega Revenge: 'The Stakes Are Higher' (Exclusive)
By Emily Krauser
These days, it'd be tough to find a TV wit drier than that of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend's Heather Davis. The actress who plays the perpetual community college student, however, is anything but. Bright and bubbly, Vella Lovell is genuinely delighted to talk about everything from the Kardashian sisters' pregnancies to Mary Jane, the play she starred in at the Yale Repertory Theatre over the CW musical comedy's hiatus.
After more than two years of playing such an acerbic character, the 32-year-old actress is also eager to analyze just what makes Heather tick, especially since we'll be seeing more of her than ever this season.
ET chatted with Lovell at the end of September, when the cast was in the middle of filming season three's eighth episode, and she opened up about Heather's big musical numbers, the diversity on set and yes, all of that revenge she's helping Rebecca Bunch dish out to Josh Chan.
ET: The season three teaser came out recently, and it was fully focused on the revenge plot line after Josh left Rebecca at the altar in last season's finale. What can we expect when the premiere picks up from that literal cliffhanger?
Vella Lovell: You kind of always knew, in a way, that this was coming. We just did the table read for 309, and it is different. It's also the same insane humor, but it is darker. In the beginning, she's new in town and she has a crush, and now she almost jumped off a cliff and Josh is a priest, so the stakes are way higher. I think we and the writers can go deeper and darker. We can go to different lengths because of what they've been building up to. It's always been a dark comedy in a way, but it's just living up to the name a little more this season. It's a great challenge to be asked to go deeper with all of them and have those little quirks of each character explained a little bit more.
Heather is getting more screen time this season. What does that mean for her in terms of growing up a bit more?
The writers have been talking to me a lot about how Heather is going to start to transform from being the cool commentator on the sidelines to being more of a participant in her own life, because she's been on the sidelines of her own life in a way. She's been in community college for a really long time, so she had this bubble that she felt really safe in and could make her dry, sarcastic comments and still feel protected. But now, the challenges that they're throwing at her in season three, she's very much coming to face all of these crutches that she's been dealing with.
That sounds like fun for you as an actress, because it's very clear talking to you how opposite you are from Heather.
I think that's one of the surprising things when people meet me. I'm a lot more bubbly than Heather, but I feel like there's a Heather inside of me, like she's my alter ego. I think we all have a Heather that's just judging and being like, 'Ugh, that's so annoying.' It's really fun to play this character. It's such a great challenge, because we all know that girl and we all have that girl inside us, but there's always more. No one is a stereotype of themselves, even though people can come off that way.
You got to show off your vocal skills last season when Heather sang "Settle For Me (Reprise II)" to Greg Serrano, but you didn't have many other singing opportunities. Will we finally see more solos for Heather?
Yeah, which is really fun! I have a solo in episode three, which is hilarious. I just did ADR for it the other day, and it's ridiculous. It's the opposite genre that you think Heather would sing -- it's a very upbeat, genuine genre. Then we have an awesome ladies' number in episode one that's me, Donna Lynn [Champlin], Gabrielle [Ruiz] and Rachel [Bloom] doing like an '80s Pointer Sisters number. We got to wear shoulder pads that were bigger than our heads and bounce around, and it was so much fun. I'm in some more group numbers and getting to do the solo was really great, but what's interesting is, I'm a musician and I play piano, but some of the people on our show are Broadway singers. I've always felt comfortable singing, but I've never considered myself a singer, so it's been a fun challenge being on the show, because I wasn't necessarily thinking I would do a musical show.
When I spoke to Scott Michael Foster [who plays Rebecca's boss and sort of love interest, Nathaniel Plimpton III], and he said a very similar thing about being around so many Broadway singers.
Yeah, he's in the same boat. Well, he's a singer! He has a really good voice. I think it's so hard, especially now -- we have The Voice and American Idol. Everyone loves to sing and everyone has some kind of a voice, but we also love to judge singing. When it's asked of you, it's very scary, because singing is so vulnerable. You can't hide -- your voice is your voice. It's a testament to the kind of show we're doing. I really think, for every character, they started with acting first -- they were like, is this person right for this part, and then, what's their voice. For my character, it wasn't required to sing for the audition. I just decided to because it's a musical show, and then [I ended] up on the show two years later, singing a song every week. Sometimes I look around and I'm like, 'How am I here right now? This is so crazy!' But it's awesome. The first time I had to record something, I was so nervous. I was like, 'They're going to think I'm so bad,' but the guys in the recording studio are so nice and supportive. They can make you sound great.
Is Heather still a spokesperson for Miss Douche?
So far, she hasn't done a ton of Miss Douche stuff! I don't know if that's coming up farther in the season. In my mind, she got the $10,000 for winning and got the apartment and bought new clothes and that was it. I'm assuming it was heavily taxed and she was like, 'Oh, OK...' But she's still the reigning Miss Douche!
On the surface, the show doesn't pass the Bechdel Test, but it is very feminist and empowering, especially now that the relationship focus is moving from Rebecca and Josh to Rebecca and the women in her life. What can fans expect from that shift?
We're so used to the romantic comedy tropes -- it's all about which guy the girl is going to choose, so I wouldn't have predicted that she'd create this group of female friends that's really strong. It's been a really sweet surprise for me -- I think it's really heartwarming. The four women -- Paula and Rebecca and Valencia and Heather -- they all really haven't had a tight-knit set of friends, so they're all coming at it genuinely interested in being friends with each other, at least where we pick up in season three, bonded together to help Rebecca get through this mess of the wedding. Everyone has a mission, which is: don't wrong my friend or I will cross you. It's like when someone talks badly about your family -- I can talk badly about my family, but you can't.
And Rebecca's the one that brought them all together and brought deeper understanding of themselves. Rebecca has deeply affected every character in the show. She's the catalyst of everyone growing up in this place, so everyone feels very protective of her, especially the women. With Heather, it's been a little more subtle, but you can still see [the ripple effect]. She has been more invested in friendships and Rebecca, and then she moved out of her parents' house. Heather's been a little bit of a slow burn, but you can see it and the fact that she's committed to their friendship... The great thing about our writers is they don't hold back with anything. If they want to do something, they go 100 percent in that direction. I feel like in other shows, Rebecca and Josh wouldn't have kissed until season five, but they were like, we're not tip-toeing around anything. It's the same case with the revenge stuff at the beginning of this season. She goes for it.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has so much diversity in its cast. Is that a conversation on set or did it just work out that way?
I think it's probably both. With anything progressive in this world, it takes allies. It does matter, and Aline and Rachel are committed to making a diverse cast and writers room, which is beautiful and amazing. It is refreshing and nice to see people who actually look like your neighbors and the people who you see in the world on screen. It's important. I think it's totally a conscious effort on their part, which is admirable, and because it's the lens that they operate with, it's probably their second nature at this point. Especially with Josh being an Asian-American romantic lead, that's huge. And it's not the end of the story -- the people just happen to not all be white or straight or whatever it is. It's about human beings interacting with each other and trying to find happiness and love, and that's what I think is really powerful and strong about the show, is that it's something they've committed to, but it's not the end point.
You were also part of one of the most beloved movies of the summer, The Big Sick. What did it feel like playing a character so different from Heather?
Heather is so dry and funny and sarcastic, and that lives in a very specific part of me. [Khadija] was a little more genuine and genuinely looking for love and then gets rejected, which is something Heather doesn't really let herself do, so it was a totally different part of me, which was really exciting. I only shot for a couple of days on The Big Sick. It was a quick, lovely experience. Everyone on that film is so amazing. [Writers] Kumail [Nanjiani] and Emily [V. Gordon] and [director] Michael Showalter -- it was like a dream team, so I was just in heaven. It's such a special film, and it's been really exciting to see the life that it's having. It couldn't have happened to better people.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend returns to The CW on Oct. 13 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.