FASTCOMPANY.COM OCTOBER 2018
CREATIVE CONVERSATION I RACHEL BLOOM
I try to treat everyone like collaborators. When I’m frustrated, I try to go somewhere
where I can be frustrated alone. Every person who’s been in a supervising position has
that moment where they feel like, “Ugh, why aren’t people getting it?” Or “Ugh, people
are trying to sabotage my show!” You need to understand that everyone is just trying to
make a good show.
You’ve talked in the past about being in writers’ rooms where people are afraid to
pitch their ideas. How do you and Brosh Mc Kenna stop that from happening on Crazy
Ex-Girlfriend? In every writers’ room, ideas are shut down, but I think it’s important not
to look at people dismissively or derisively when one of their ideas isn’t going to work
in the script. The role of a boss is to shut the idea down in a very calm and humane way.
I reject ideas overly kindly. I’m like, “I understand where you’re coming from. I appreciate
it.” [Rejection] is something you have to learn as a writer.
What is it like to write and act on a show that also involves at least two musical
numbers per episode? The hardest part is that we are a network show, so we’re doing it
all at once. Other shows, like Insecure, Girls, and Broad City, are 30 minutes long and 8 to 10
episodes [a season]. I believe that all of them write, then film, and then edit. We do it all at
once. So in the morning, I’m looking at outlines [for upcoming episodes], then acting, and
then editing. It’s very fast and very hard, and I don’t think I could ever do this process again.
You’re among a generation of comedians, including Insecure creator Issa Rae and
Eighth Grade director Bo Burnham, who got their start on You Tube. Do you think
the platform is still a great talent incubator? It was a lot easier to get your web series
noticed when I was coming up. The lines between web series and TV shows have shifted.
There is a real oversaturation of sketch comedy online, and that’s why you see sites like
Funny or Die or College Humor downsize. The internet continues to be a great place for
people to make art, but when it comes to getting noticed—how you break through with
something that isn’t super topical—I don’t know. On [Crazy Ex-Girlfriend] we can’t be topical because we’re making the show in advance. We have maybe three or four videos that
go viral-esque [each season]. But having quality content is not necessarily all that you
need anymore, because there is so much out there.
The cast is diverse in a lot of ways, from ethnicity to age to body type. Was that
something you planned from the beginning? When Aline and I were researching the
show, one of the things we did was walk around West Covina [the Los Angeles suburb
where Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is set]. It’s diverse, but no one is talking about how diverse
it is. I grew up in Manhattan Beach: Our homecoming queen was Japanese and our
king was Chinese, and I don’t remember anyone patting themselves on the back being like, “Oh, we’re so diverse.” I think you get a lot of writers in Hollywood who are
transplants from the East Coast, specifically places like Long island where it’s much
more segregated—though not officially—by class and race. But if you grow up in SoCal,
you have a different experience.
You’ve been a vocal advocate for pay
equality in the entertainment industry. How have you approached the issue on your own set? All of the heads
of the show are women and we’re very
aware of pay disparity. We’re always
monitoring that, especially during actor
negotiations. I’ve learned to look at my
own biases. Looking at a white person
and a person of color, [I’ve learned to]
ask why [is one of them] getting paid
more? Is it because of their expertise or
because they have a better lawyer? We
need to give everyone the same chance
and opportunity to succeed, and then
the ball is in their court.
depression. The show’s about find-
ing what makes you truly happy,
about inner happiness. We’re always coming at [Rebecca] with
compassion and [trying] to understand why she’s doing what she’s
doing. Every episode is an experiment. The tone is always the hardest thing to nail, and each episode
there are definitely moments where
we make a change when something
feels totally off.
Last season, your character tried
to commit suicide, which unfortunately is something that
has been in the news lately. Do
you see the conversation around
mental health starting to change?
I hope so. In the research we did
about people who want to commit
suicide, [they] kept saying that they
don’t want to die, they just want
the pain to stop. When you’re in the
middle of a depression, the words
mental health are clinical words
that just feel so separate from the
way you feel. Along with talking
about mental health, we should be
talking about how it feels—about
hopelessness, sadness, the feeling
of being trapped in your life. We
need to address that in the national
What do you think you achieved
with that episode? I had a few
people tell me it inspired them to
go to therapy, which is probably the
best compliment I could ever get.
You have a background in writing and performing, but this is
your first time creating a show
and leading a cast. How did you
approach these responsibilities?
I think a big challenge of this job
is learning how to be a boss and
to forgive myself when I disagree
with [someone else’s] choice. That’s
been something I [had to] learn as
a young woman. I’m the second-youngest member of the cast and
[one of the youngest] members of
the writing staff. When you’re in
production meetings and people
are often 20 years your senior, you
have to find that balance of being
respectful, but also holding firm on
what you want.
YOUTUBE S TARDOM
After studying theater at NYU, Bloom
joined the Upright Citizens Brigade improv
theater. In 2010, she
started posting original music videos on
with the Ray Bradbury
hit. It cost $3,000 to
produce (the bulk of
her savings) and now
has 4. 5 million views.
include “I Steal Pets”
and “You Can Touch
BREAKOU T MOMEN T
The effort paid off
when Brosh McKenna
discovered her videos.
Together they created
the pilot for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which was
picked up by the CW
in 2015. Bloom won a
Golden Globe for her
performance in 2016.
TALEN T OVERFLO W
Bloom released her
first album of musical
Honey,” in 2013. She
followed it up with
album later that year.
Her first book, a collection of personal
essays and more, will
be published by Grand
Central next year.
“WHEN YOU’RE IN PRODUCTION MEETINGS AND PEOPLE ARE OFTEN 20 YEARS YOUR SENIOR, YOU HAVE TO FIND THAT BALANCE OF BEING RESPECTFUL, BUT ALSO HOLDING FIRM ON WHAT YOU WANT.” Icon:JemisMaliattheNounProject