During the roughly five years she spent living in New York City, Rachel Bloom was hit by people on bicycles on two separate occasions. This only came up because, during our interview outside the boathouse cafe in Echo Park, an aggressively drunk cyclist calling himself "Captain Maniac" miscalculated the width of his berth and slammed directly into our table, collapsing in a pile at Bloom's feet. After we made sure the guy wasn't hurt, the Golden Globe–winning actress and co-creator of the hit CW series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend politely suggested that perhaps it would be safer (for everyone) if he walked his bike instead of riding it. In response, he slurred something to the effect of "Maybe you should walk your bike" and sped away with a defiant "woot."
Bloom has said in interviews that growing up in Manhattan Beach she always sort of felt like an outsider, a neurotic New Yorker with a "hamster-wheel" brain born into a land of lolling palm trees and gentle breezes. I like to think Captain Maniac just made her feel a little more at home.
On Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Bloom plays Rebecca Bunch, a fish out of water who leaves a lucrative job at a high-powered New York City law firm and relocates to West Covina to rekindle a romance with summer-camp crush Josh Chan. It probably goes without saying but Rebecca makes bad decisions, a tendency that's rooted in — among other things — unresolved abandonment and inadequacy issues, compliments of a derelict dad. We laugh when she does something like set her apartment on fire while burning an ex's stuff, but we sort of love and admire her for acting on all of our most questionable impulses.
Originally developed for Showtime, the show's defining feature is that its characters frequently break out into song-and-dance numbers about things such as urinary tract infections, the heft of one's breasts and the experience of accidentally falling for a fuck buddy.
"At the end of the day, it's our take on musicals," says Bloom, who performed in productions at Mira Costa High School and graduated with a degree in drama from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts in 2009. "Everything has this sardonic lens on it, because the whole show is about deconstructing tropes and stereotypes.
"I love musical theater, and even as someone who loves musical theater there are a lot of parts of musical theater that I hate." She says she's heard people refer to the show as a "musical for people who hate musicals."
Bloom's first big thing was "Fuck Me Ray Bradbury," a comedic music video that went viral over the course of a day in 2010, thanks in part to a tweet by nerd king Neil Gaiman. She got an agent, was quickly hired as a writer on Jonah Hill's animated Fox series Allen Gregory and moved to L.A. where her then-boyfriend (now husband), Dan Gregor, was already living.
Shortly thereafter she was set up on a "blind date" with The Devil Wears Prada screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna, who wanted to help Bloom pitch a musical TV show. "At first she was going to supervise while I wrote it, maybe co-wrote it with someone, [but] the more we met with each other, we conceived the show," Bloom recalls. "I have the email where she's like, 'Do you just want to just write the show together?' Now it's all she and I do." They've also developed a close friendship. "I call her my sister-mother-wife," Bloom says. "I see her, at this point right now, more than my husband."
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Bloom, McKenna and the show's team of writers, songwriters and consultants (her husband among them) are currently working on season three. The show's story arc concludes with the fourth season, so, as of now, the plan is to end the show there.
Returning to L.A. has been good for Bloom. "I think that being in L.A., or back in L.A., kind of settled me down. It kind of balanced out my anxiety a little bit," she says. She even appreciates the time she gets alone in the car, saying the isolation is "productive to her personality." In that sense, Bloom — the only child of a stay-at-home mom and a health care lawyer father — had an unconventional upbringing: She was raised in a family of walkers. Her mother doesn't drive by choice and her late grandmother, who lived in Torrance, preferred to walk as well. Bloom explains: "Between my mother and grandmother I would just spend a lot of time walking around. Everyone else would be in cars and I really got a sense of, you know, the good and bad of Southern California." It's a perspective that would come to inform how L.A. and its environs — the San Gabriel Valley in particular — are presented on Crazy Ex: SoCal as viewed from the sidewalk by a person who's slightly suspicious of its charms.
Experience withstanding, she probably should watch out for cyclists.