For those who have a soft spot for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s resident curmudgeon Heather and her sardonic take on life, it was a hilarious delight to see her get her own solo number in the form of an inspirational musical theater song that she reluctantly finds herself singing.
“[It’s] like the most genuine, inspirational upbeat genre you could think of sung by the opposite of that,” actress Vella Lovell tells EW. From the moment the writers told her at the start of the season that this number was in the works, she thought it was “genius.” Lovell’s Heather finds out her community college is making her graduate because, over the course of eight years, she has taken every class the school has offered – the moment provokes an identity crisis, but not before she breaks out into a rousing number about her future.
“People don’t actually burst into song, but in the form of a musical they are bursting into song because the emotion is so big they’re like, ‘What else do I do but sing?’ It is a real moment in Heather’s life [where] she’s on the precipice of something, but she herself as a person can’t bring herself to sing a song in a musical,” she explains of her approach to the tune.
Lovell says the tricky part was finding the balance between the tone of the song and Heather’s more begrudging attitude. “Is she making fun of the song? How outside of the song is she?” Lovell says they asked. “In the recording booth, we came up with doing these interjections and she’s being dragged against her will into the musical.”
She says she and the songwriters improvised several different interjections in the recording booth and then locked in the ones they liked best. “The writers and the songwriters are really great about coming up with stuff with you, so they really encourage a lot of improv and your own exploration and then they’ll kind of curate from there,” she explains.
Still, Lovell says it was difficult to play the song so deadpan for several reasons. “It’s actually a really good song, genuinely. Like, if you really sing it earnestly, you could sing it at graduation,” she says. Then there was the choreography, executed by dancers Lovell calls “excited and extra,” which expresses the high-energy nature of the song. Heather, in turn, executes similar moves with the least effort possible. “If I literally just looked behind me all I saw was feet and hair,” she explains. “They were jumping and smiling so much, and it was really hard to keep a straight face.”
Ultimately, the sly asides helped her get through the song. “Even the percussion, it really is asking you to do a hopeful glance to the sky,” she says. “Heather just constantly commenting really helped because any time the song just wants to overtake, they would let me step outside of it a little bit.”
Plus, there was the added challenge of split-screen effects and old lady makeup, which required a three-hour session in the makeup chair to get a plaster cast of Lovell’s face. “We do so many crazy things every week that I keep forgetting things happen and then it’s time to watch the show and I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m an old woman this week,’” she says. “It was really trippy being in the makeup and looking at myself in the mirror. I kept looking at the neck prosthetic, which was really freaking me out because it looked so real.”
By episode’s end, Heather had resigned herself to her fate as a graduating student and confronted Rebecca about leaving town in the midst of shocking revelations about Rebecca’s past. “The season for Rebecca is coming to terms with her own obstacles, her mental health, her emotional health,” explains Lovell. “For Heather, it’s becoming a grown up, it’s choosing a path.”
Lovell teases Heather will continue to struggle with her identity post-graduation (something many can likely relate to). “You’re a student from the time you’re like four or five until you’re 22 and then some of us go to grad school. A lot of your life is spent being a student and then all of a sudden you’re supposed to not be one,” she says. “The writers have it written in that she’s taking two steps forward, one step back. She’s attempting to make some bold moves and then she’s having the growing pains with that because no one can completely change their lives and then everything’s rosy. It takes a while to figure it out.”
Heather and Rebecca are at opposite ends of the spectrum. While Rebecca struggles to come to grips with her emotional health despite years of professional success, the emotionally intelligent Heather hunts for her professional identity. Lovell assures, however, that Heather will continue to be a voice of reason and realism in Rebecca’s life.
Additionally, Heather has been single since her breakup with Greg (Santino Fontana) in season 1 preceded Rebecca’s own relationship with the local bartender. That’s about to change. “There’s some love in the future for Heather, which is exciting. It’s just a huge growing season for her,” she says.
In essence, Lovell promises this season brings lots of change and personal growth for every character on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. “It’s just about every character coming up against huge obstacles in their life,” she teases. “It’s Rebecca’s story so it’s starting with her, but you can really see the trickle-down effect and it’s really every single character including Heather is coming up against their own personal obstacles while singing — as we all do, right?”
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend airs Fridays at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.