“The thing I love about ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ is that we constantly set up clichés, to smash them right in front of you” declares actress Donna Lynne Champlin during our lively webcam chat (watch below). “We have done that numerous times. Every single character, by the end of the season, had been handed a cliché and a sledgehammer.”
In “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” Champlin plays Paula Proctor, the “selfless to a fault” best friend of Rebecca Bunch (co-creator and star Rachel Bloom), the so-called “crazy ex-girlfriend” who impulsively flees New York for suburban California to follow her summer camp sweetheart.
The actress admits that the show’s producers took some risks when casting her. “Series regulars don’t look like me, let alone guest stars,” she says. “Look at our cast! Even the fact that half of us have even been cast is smashing stereotypes. I’m a 45-year-old woman, I’m a size 14. All of that is so against the rules of television for series regulars. Vincent Rodriguez III, who plays Josh, he’s Filipino. You just don’t see a Filipino leading man. We’ve been very specific about tapping into types that are not seen on television.”
Champlin is currently starring in “The Taming of the Shrew” at the Delacorte Theater in New York’s Central Park, and took time out from rehearsals to chat from backstage. She has gone from playing a beloved best buddy on TV to Hortensio, the classic Shakespearean wing man. “Between ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ and doing the first all-female ‘Taming of the Shrew,’ I’m happy to be doing whatever,” she laughs.
The actress agrees that the best friend role often hits a nerve with fans because it is someone that people can relate to, or even aspire to, as everybody either has a “Paula” in their life, or wants a Paula, or should get a Paula. “I think so!” she laughs. “I now want to get t-shirt that says all of that!” As she explains, “It has always been about the relationship between two women, as opposed to what guy is she supposed to be with. The relationship between Paula and Rebecca is the cornerstone of the entire series.”
In the season finale, Champlin is featured in “After Everything I Have Done for You,” a hilarious musical number inspired by an iconic number from the Broadway classic “Gypsy”. Champlin loved the idea of shining a light on “middle-aged woman rage.” “When you’re a middle-aged woman, two things happen; you slowly become invisible, and proportionately the rage inside you just grows” she laughs. “And that’s where they got the idea of doing the Mama Rose for Paula number, because it’s an iconic middle-aged woman rage song!”
“We knew it would be risky, because middle-aged women are not allowed to be seen, let alone be legitimately angry,” she admits. “I was really happy with the response because I expected a lot more people to misinterpret her anger as psychotic, which is also playing into our ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ stereotype.”
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