More Vincent Rodriguez III, Fil-Am family in ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’
Los Angeles—“Many members of Josh Chan’s Filipino family come back the second season,” Rachel Bloom, cocreator, writer and female lead of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” said in a recent interview in LA. The actress, who plays the titular Rebecca Bunch, added that we would also see more of Fil-Am actor Vincent Rodriguez III (Josh).
“Last season, Rebecca admitted her love for Josh,” said Rachel about her Josh-obsessed character in The CW’s wonderfully crazy, witty comedy-musical series. Rebecca is a successful lawyer who impulsively ditches her Manhattan practice to follow Josh, her summer camp boyfriend, to West Covina, California, the suburban hometown where he lives and where, in real life, many Filipinos reside.
Rachel, who won in January a Golden Globe best actress award in a TV series-comedy or musical for this role, said, “This new season is about if she could get any more immersed in Josh than she already is.”
“Vincent Rodriguez has been amazing this season,” Rachel said about the boyish actor described as “the first Asian and Filipino actor to play a male romantic lead in mainstream US television.”
The Fil-Am cast of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” includes Tess Paras, Coryn Mabalot and Alberto Isaac.
In one of the first episodes of the second season, Vincent sings “Ping Pong Girl,” a rock spoof where Rachel winkingly portrays ’80s music video babes. Vincent has impressive vocal chops, as do most of the series regulars, from Rachel, Santino Fontana (Greg) to Donna Lynne Champlin (Paula).
The fine cast also includes Pete Gardner (Darryl), Gabrielle Ruiz (Valencia), Vella Lovell (Heather) and Amy Hill (Lourdes, the Pinoy family matriarch).
Rachel recalled how she, cocreator Aline Brosh McKenna and her team picked Vincent. “[W]e wanted the best actor for the role. We needed a SoCal Asian bro. If he can sing, dance and do other things, great. We put in the breakdown for the audition: ‘Please display some sort of musical skill—singing, playing an instrument, rapping, etc.’
“Vincent came in and did all three—he rapped, played guitar and sang… So, he’s someone you want to write musical numbers for, because he’s so talented. He’s an acrobat, a martial artist and a dancer. He has so many skills.
“The part of Josh Chan could have been written to be the Brechtian symbol of obsession. But because Vincent is so empathetic, the idea of Rebecca and Josh quickly became a real prospect. Like, there’s a world in which they can go well together.
“Josh is dealing with complicated and contradictory emotions that he’s never had to deal with before. Their relationship gets more complicated as she unwittingly challenges him to be the bad guy—because when you dump someone, you have to be the bad guy. That’s hard for Josh to stomach. So their relationship only gets more complicated.”
Rachel credits Fil-Am writer Rene Gube, who also plays Father Brah, Josh’s friend, for the show’s Pinoy elements. “A lot of the authenticity of a Filipino-American family in Southern California is due to Rene and his unique voice, who grew up in a Filipino family in San Diego.
Rachel said the show’s groundbreaking decision to feature a Filipino male lead and family—a rarity in a medium criticized for its lack of diversity—was not for political correctness.
“We cast a Filipino lead just because it was a story that hadn’t been told before,” said the NYU Tisch School of the Arts alum.
“In doing a show with a Filipino lead about a Filipino family and working with actors of color, I have learned so much about what it’s like to be a person of color in this country that I never would have learned.
The show shines the spotlight on West Covina, with many Filipino businesses. “We got the key to West Covina. We got an award from the city council. James Toma, the mayor, has been extremely supportive. He tweets everything we do. The city has issued a proclamation declaring Oct. 21, the new season’s premiere, as ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Day,’ which is cool.”
In the new season’s first episodes, the show’s love triangle is more about the menage a trois involving Rebecca, Josh and Greg.
Rachel said she was not into a threesome. “I was in a disastrous love triangle in college with two older guys who were in my sketch comedy group…I was 19; they were 22, 23.
“It ended up so badly that one of them (the director) removed me from the group. If it were a corporation, it would have been sexual harassment.
“Love triangles usually end in disaster…the tension it creates is unsustainable. We explore that this season.”
Responding to a quesion about “crazy” in the show’s title, Rachel said she was seeing a psychiatrist. “The year I got engaged (to writer-producer Dan Gregor) was also the year we were about to film this show’s pilot. All the anxieties that I’ve been ignoring came up. I started getting these compulsive looping thoughts that I haven’t had since I was a kid. I started to suffer from insomnia, because I thought all the success was mine to lose.
“So finally, I went to see a psychiatrist… Mental illness runs rampant in my family, (but) I’m probably the first to see one, unfortunately.
“The second I got there (psychiatrist’s office), I felt like I was finally on the road to actually changing. I’m proudly on Prozac, which really helped me. But Prozac was in conjunction with other things.
“That’s what the show is about—the pursuit of happiness. And happiness is something you can get only if you truly want to change.
She and Dan, whose credits include “How I Met Your Mother,” seem perfect for each other. “My husband and I met doing comedy,” Rachel said. “We’ve always known each other as artists and comedians. My husband writes on my show once a week, because he consults for the show. So we constantly talk about work at home, because our work is our passion.
“I love having him on the show, because he understands what I’m going for. He directed many of my music videos before I got this show. I’m glad he writes for my show so I can see him, otherwise, I’m never home.”
The girl who grew up in a California beach town but did not think she fit in the surfer culture feels at home in LA.
“I feel like I fit in now because I found my people, many of them New York transplants,” she said. “I found my community of comedians. I live in the Echo Park area and that feels a lot like Brooklyn (New York). I’m proud to say that I’m a Los Angeleno. I love the diversity.”
Rachel remains grateful for that one night in January when she glowed in an emerald green gown. “The Golden Globe is the reason my show got a second season. Without it, I would be looking for a new job. The award changed everything. When you say Golden Globe, there’s a level of prestige.
“The Golden Globe, in conjunction with us getting on Netflix, has helped our exposure here and abroad. It put the show—and me—on the map. It changed my life.”
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