Rachel Bloom and I met on a kind of blind date in 2013. I had seen her YouTube videos and asked to meet her. I pitched her an idea about a show called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and off we went. By February of this year, we had made SIXTY episodes, a number so large I can’t comprehend it, though I know The Simpsons have done like 9,000 and the number of SVU episodes has to be expressed with an exponent.
Here’s how we made our last, and 61st, fictional scripted episode. (We also made a concert special and a documentary at the same time, because we are not sane.)
The process of making that final episode began with a very long writers’ room session. We assembled the whole staff and had a five-hour discussion of everything we thought was necessary to land the story. Many of the narrative points we had discussed for years (the writers’ room has changed very little over our four seasons) but some new story elements had emerged this past season. We wanted to make sure this brilliant group of writers got a chance to weigh in before Rachel and I went off to write a first draft. No one knows Rebecca and her story better than this room.
After the room discussion, Rachel and I sat down to write. It was such a relief to script this episode after years and years of talking about it. We wrote a first draft of the damn thing in a day. At the end we were quite weepy. Actually, in the middle we were weepy too. We were just generally weepy the whole time. After almost six years of working together, we’ve fused into a single-celled creature. Here’s us weeping as we wrote those last pages. (Did I mention we wept?)
Now, the countdown began to the shoot. We were also finishing the writing, shooting, and editing of our last three episodes. I was writing so much I was wearing an ace bandage every day. There was a stretch of about 40 days when I didn’t have a day off. I’m not complaining (she said, complaining) because I love the job so much, but I was so immersed I really couldn’t do much of anything else. One of my friends (hard to believe that after four years of running a show I still have friends) gave me this calendar to scratch off the remaining days, like the Count of Monte Cristo. I hung it on my bathroom wall and x-ed off each day before bed.
The first day of the shoot arrived. The first day of directing an episode, I always wear a puffy jacket that was given to me by another friend, John Gatins, the Oscar-nominated (LET ME BRAG, HE’S MY FRIEND!) writer. This is my fifth episode of TV. The puffy coat always makes the first day of being a director real, since they are necessary equipment as mandated by the DGA (that’s not true.)
I love directing our cast so much. Man, I don’t even know where to start with these people. I’ll start with Donna Lynne because she plays Paula, who is in some ways my alter ego. I always tell Donna Lynne Champlin she is among the best actors I’ve ever worked with and I’ve worked with Meryl Streep and Harrison Ford (YES, I DROP NAMES, SEE ABOVE.) Here she is after the very last scene we shot in one of our key sets, Home Base, a combination kids’ club/sports bar that is based on a real place in West Covina, California, where our show takes place.
Here is one of our producer/writers, Michael Hitchcock. He also acts on the show, playing Bert, and is so funny on Best In Show. Watch Best In Show. Here Michael is with Scott Michael Foster, who plays Nathaniel and is what I call a Swiss Army knife actor — he can do anything — and Pete Gardner, who is so funny and sweet as Darryl. This photo was taken by me on a day where we got behind and had to race through our scenes. You can’t see me in this picture because I took it, but just picture me with a white-hot look of panic on my face.
Interesting factoid: on this episode, Rachel had two body doubles. They doubled for some scenes where Rachel plays two characters, but because Rachel was sick for a lot of the finale shooting, I decided to also use them for one of our regular shoot days so she could rest. They matched Rachel so well that one of our editors had no idea the scene had been shot with a double! It’s an unheralded art form.
Every day of the shoot, we closed out more of the set. This is the last scene we shot in the Whitefeather lobby/Rebetzel’s set, a new set we built on a new stage this year. Here, Rachel is having trouble saying goodbye. I feel the “closed” sign is a bit on the nose for a “saying goodbye” photo essay, but sometimes life just hands you a clean metaphor.
One of the true pleasures of this show has been working with so many kickass women. I grew up in a very male business. Having so many smart, talented women around every day was a source of inspiration and nourishment. These are the four members of our beloved Gurl Group, captured after their last scene together.
Finally, the last day of the shoot arrived.
I had requested we get the whole crew together for a photo. Ah, our crew, our crew. Everyone says they have the best crew. I can’t comment on that, because we have the best crew. I can’t explain to you how hard these people work, the hours they keep. Every time I direct, I’m knocked out by the effort and heart of the people behind the scenes. Here they’re wearing T-shirts I had made that say, “I’m Not Sad, You’re Sad” on one side and “This Is The End of the Movie Whoa Whoa Whoa” on the other. If you don’t watch our show, you won’t know what that means. But if you’ve gotten this far in this piece and you never watched our show, what are you doing, really?
And then we wrapped… A HUGE moment, a sense of completion but not really because… we had weeks of work left editing with our post team, cutting not just the finale but our last suite of three episodes. Here we are after cutting our last few scenes ever. Kabir Akhtar, who cut the finale, also cut the pilot, so it all felt very full circle.
That brings us to the very last actual day of work on the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend TV series. That took place on March 30, 2019. It was the final mix for the final episode. Mixes are sometimes long, this one was excruciatingly long. It was great and terrible and bonding and after, we all went across the street and ate too much pasta.
Also that night, Rachel and I did what we do best, stuck our heads into a selfie and cried. Rachel taught me it’s okay to look terrible in photos, the young folks do it on Instagram all the time! So here’s a photo of us looking reasonably terrible, tired, grateful, sad, and exhilarated.
Now it’s over. That hasn’t sunk in. Mostly, lately, I feel lucky. Lucky we got to work with such amazing people. That we got to tell our story the way we wanted to.
It’s now been six years since Rachel and I met each other. Well, not quite six years. That anniversary is coming up in June. To celebrate that milestone, we will probably take an unflattering, weepie selfie and reminisce. We’ve already started to get nostalgic, even though the thing has only been done for like five minutes.
Sometimes you savor each moment, sometimes you mark off the days — either way, you look up, and it’s over. Thank you if you watched the show. If you didn’t, again, this has been an odd use of your time.
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