Just how close is Rebecca Bunch's long-pursued, on-again/off-again, increasingly anxiety-riddled paramour Josh Chan to a meltdown big enough to mark him as a crazy ex-boyfriend?
Multitalented performer Vincent Rodriguez III admits that his "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" character has been in a downward spiral since Josh and Rebecca entered into -- and then out of -- their full-on romantic relationship, with each on entirely different pages as far as commitment goals.
Now that the couple's dynamic has shifted dramatically yet again, Rodriguez joined Moviefone for a deep-dive into Josh's tailspin, as well as being an Asian leading man on TV and the multiple joys and occasional pains of putting together an hour of musical-comedy each week for one of TV's funniest and most ambitiously genre-bending series.
Moviefone: The season has gotten off to a really interesting start. For you, what got you excited about where they were starting Josh and Rebecca, and where it's starting to go?
Vincent Rodriguez III: I'm really actually glad you asked me that question, because when we first read Episode 1 of the new season, I was taken aback just because this is a different direction in mindset for Josh. Josh has been kind of oblivious to Rebecca and her truths, I guess you could say -- he kind of had an inkling. So now it's totally out. So to see what Josh does with that was kind of startling to me, though not surprising, based on how we had set him up.
But it was just kind of like a big spiral, I started to notice. So that's exactly what Josh does, is he spirals. I didn't really know what that was going to actually look like, or what that would mean, in terms of like his actions and what would happen. After reading the next few episodes of Season 2, I still kind of can't wrap my head around it, because it's a lot, very, very fast.
But it also is a testament to, when something this major happens to your main character, Rebecca Bunch, it affects all of us. So I definitely see how it's affected me, but we start to see how it really affects others. It's very surprising how that can be beneficial to us in the long-term, but also like just big old hot sh*tty mess at the same time.
Does he start to wake up? He's really been sleepwalking his way into this new phase of his life. He's not really thinking things through too much.
I think Josh is blinded by something. Unfortunately, Josh is not as evolved as I think we'd like him to be. Especially at this point where Rebecca has kind of spilled all her beans. To see how Josh takes advantage of that, and really doesn't fully learn from it. He doesn't piece it all together. It's like, does he think he's invincible? Does he not realize what this combination of events means?
Yeah, that's a really great way of putting it: In a way, he's kind of sleepwalking. He doesn't get it. But he knows he's asleep, and he knows this stuff is crazy, and is a little off, and isn't quite right, but he kind of coasts through it anyway. I also think that's a very important aspect of Josh and Rebecca. All of our characters are all flawed, but particularly Josh and Rebecca, they're enablers of each other.
So Josh needs to grow up. Josh needs to find himself, and his wants, his needs, his goals, his future on his own, and he can't do that. He's very overly reliant on his crew, this classic crew, to define him, and this relationship with Rebecca, or with Valencia, which has kind of been this very present entity in his life – he's always been with Valencia. He's always been with her, since as long as he can remember. Except for that summer where he met Rebecca, so he had two girlfriends at that point. And then now as an adult, he can't be alone.
So it's unfortunate, but this is also something that's so common, and now we're just watching it manifest itself in a guy like Josh, who isn't very bright, doesn't have a whole lot of ambition, but means well, and is very easy going. It's to a point where it's just kind of ruining him.
What's been the fun for you to play him in this sort of tailspin?
It's been very up and down. [In the episode where Rebecca thinks she and Josh are pregnant] in one scene, I don't know how many pages it was, two or three pages, we shot it all day. All day. By the end of the day, I didn't know what daylight was. It was like Groundhog Day, which is typical for filming, but for this particular scene, it was more obvious because we went through this roller coaster of emotion, in a very short period of time, all because Rebecca was trying to protect herself and was being very self-serving. And in this particular case, Josh was just being bat around like a dog, being thrown across the room emotionally, and it doesn't end well for them.
It's a perfect example of what Josh's future with Rebecca would be like on the path that they're on. So in that one scene, it's kind of a very condensed example of what is happening to Josh in this season. So we get to see Josh go through that, as opposed to seeing Rebecca go through that. She keeps putting herself through that, but now we're seeing how Josh is just holding on to dear life trying not to fall off this very fun, crazy ride.
How is this show testing your stamina? Here you guys are, cranking out a musical comedy with dramatic elements every week. Is it a challenge to keep up to speed with everything you need to know and be able to do to get an episode done?
It's been challenging, yes. What people don't know about our show, a lot of people who have just heard about our show barely know it's a musical. Yes, it is a musical. It is also an hour-long comedy, which I found out when I got to L.A. It's my very first TV show. An hour-long comedy films typically 10 filming days, 10 business days. So we get Saturdays and Sundays off. We film Monday through Friday. However, we do it in seven.
But we are also a musical comedy, so we have to learn music. First, they've got to write the songs, two or three songs an episode, which is a whole lot for us. They write it, they rewrite it, we learn it, we record it, they mix it, then we have to memorize it when we sing along with ourselves on set, and then there's various locations that have to do with that, then there's choreography rehearsal, memorizing the choreography, playing it to different cameras. It's a lot. So the fact that we do an hour long musical comedy on television in seven days is a very big feat.
I think the only reason we can do that is because our cast has a very strong, grounded theater background, live. Rachel Bloom has done a lot of stand-up, she's done a lot of improv. A lot of our writers have done a lot of improv, are actually in improv groups. Like, Rachel's husband Dan Gregor is in an improv group called JV, along with Father Brah -- the role of Father Brah is played by Rene Gube. So I've seen a Friday night show, and they create stories on the spot. So we got those guys as writers, and we actually did see them on the show. So everyone, there's just this nice combination of thinking on your feet, going with the flow.
And in specifically the musical theater aspect of it, a majority of the series regulars have that experience. More so in singing and acting. A few of us have very strong dance backgrounds, and our writers know that, and they write to that. So on our show, what you're seeing is what you're getting. Everything you're seeing could be done live, because we're really doing it. We're really singing. That's really us, obviously, acting, and the dancing on the show, that's really us. We learned it, we filmed it, and there actually have been live performances where we recreated.
It's interesting because online some people are like, "Was that really you singing?" I'm like, 'Yeah, it's me singing! Why wouldn't it be me singing?" [Laughs] In this day and age, with shows like "The Sing-Off," and movies like "Pitch Perfect," movie musicals are becoming more popular, it's becoming kind of a staple now. A lot of these actors are showing off their singing skills all of a sudden, because it's becoming very topical. Especially with like "Hamilton" being the rage on Broadway. Our show has all that background, so we take advantage of that.
What did it mean to you to find a project like this that allowed you to tap into all your different creative talents, and you get to be a non-white romantic lead on a network television series?
It was a dream come true. It was also a complete gamble. What I mean when I say that is, I've been training for this my whole career. I didn't just learn how to sing for the show. I didn't just learn how to do hip-hop, or jazz, or musical theater for the show. I've been doing this for a very long time. I've been performing on stages across the country, including countries like Japan. I've been auditioning for shows and hearing a lot of noes, and trying to be on Broadway, and hearing a lot of noes, and teaching a lot of classes back where I'm from in San Francisco, and even teaching on the road when I'm on tours of Broadway shows.
I've been kind of hoping and dreaming of something like this for a while now. It wasn't until about two or three years ago, I started to dream this up, this idea that what if all this time I've been trying to be on Broadway and be just a working actor and be happy doing the things I like to do, theater and acting, and dancing, and singing, and what if there's something bigger out there for me, and I need to prepare for it?
So when I wrapped my head around that, all of a sudden I focused on the things I knew weren't my strengths. Like TV and film, and more specifically my acting. And I did. Then through more TV and film auditions, and a lot more noes, and being in New York, and just kind of working my survival job, taking my classes, trying to figure out how to do this, how to maneuver this, how to sustain, it was a stroke of luck. It was purely timing.
The fact that Aline [Brosh McKenna, the series' co-creator] was procrastinating one night and found Rachel Bloom's video on YouTube, then loved her and binge-watched all of her videos. Then they took a meeting and decided they were going to do a musical comedy on television. Then they had auditions, and then I auditioned, and it just so happened they wanted the lead to be Asian. I auditioned and they said I was great for the role, I was perfect for the role.
Then at that point, it's, "Well, here are all my skills I've been working so hard to have. Can I do this, too? Would that help? Would that compliment what you're doing?" That's what happened. So the writers' room has a list of special skills from all the actors, and I've been very blessed that they've been giving me a lot of opportunity to exercise those skills. It's a dream come true, it really is.
If you told me that I was going to be doing this when I first started this business, I don't know if I would have believed you. I wasn't seeing me on stage playing the roles I wanted to play. I wanted to be a lead, but I thought I was a character actor, because I was Asian, and I was tall. I wasn't built like a leading man. I didn't have like chiseled features. I didn't feel handsome. I felt very much not what they wanted. And I tried so hard to make myself into that. It got to a point where I didn't need to be that anymore. I just needed to train for it. So I did.
Now, given the opportunity, I had the skills I needed because I was trying to be more than what the industry was allowing me to be. Now I'm really lucky I get to be here, and I'm very hopeful that things are changing right now for the better. I'm seeing way more Asians on television, Filipinos specifically, more diversity in shows, and content, and actors, and casting.
I am so honored to be a part of that, because I feel like this is something we've been waiting for for a very long time. I feel strongly that "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" is one of those shows that has helped push that envelope. I think we're going to keep going and we're going to see more shows like it.
Have you headed out to West Covina since the show started? I'm sure you would be treated like a king.
Last year we got the key to the city. So I was greeted with a pretzel, and they let me hold the key to the city. I was on the news, and it was really cool. The key to West Covina resides in the writers' room here at "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend." And then, recently, West Covina declared October 21st -- the season premiere of Season 2 of "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" -- as "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" Day. So our show aired that night, and West Covina was like, "You have a day now, in our town. It is 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend' Day."
So it's very surreal. I don't really know what else to say. I don't think I've ever experienced or been a part of something like that before where people are offering me keys to things and naming days after shows I've done.
"Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" airs Fridays on The CW.