In its first season, the CW's musical-dramedy Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has already been nominated for a People's Choice Award and has seen creator and star Rachel Bloom win a Golden Globe and Critics Choice Award. So ... it's been a great first season—and the series has already been re-upped for a second.
In case you haven't been obsessively watching like we have, Bloom plays the main character, Rebecca Bunch, who leaves her stressful New York City life as a lawyer to move to West Covina, Calif.—a small town that offers the promise of happiness and also happens to be where her high school camp boyfriend, Josh Chan, lives. (Though, she repeatedly insists, that's entirely coincidental. Watch the opening theme song here, for more.)
As CEG's first season has progressed, the creators have expanded and added depth to Rebecca's new world and the players within it—case in point, Valencia Perez, Josh's controlling girlfriend who's justly skeptical of Rebecca's intentions. Played by stage veteran Gabrielle Ruiz, Valencia is introduced as Rebecca's polar opposite; But as the season progresses, the character reveals some true vulnerability—and by tonight's season finale we're more #TeamValencia than we ever expected to be. Ruiz recently sat down with us at the InStyle offices to talk about what to expect from tonight's episode, what she's hoping to see for season two, and if she's actually, as her debut song proclaimed, "so good at yoga."
In the early episodes Valencia is essentially an obstacle for Rebecca... but as the season progressed she started having her own arc. Was that always the plan?
"They originally only wanted Valencia to stick around for two episodes. They didn't want it to be a two girl, one guy triangle, which makes sense, especially for the progressive feminist writing on the show. They wanted it to be about Rebecca Bunch. But I stuck around for 11 episodes because Rachel and I first had great chemistry off-screen and then it was such a great collaboration on the show."
What's your take on your character's arc this season?
"I love Valencia and I get her in the sense that she she shoots it straight. She oddly enough is the voice of truth when it comes to all the characters in terms of what's happening in the world of West Covina and what Rebecca Bunch is doing. Her world was normal before this person comes in and starts wrecking things. I think she's fighting for what's normal to her. And what she's been used to. But life throws you curveballs. And because of Rebecca Bunch, she realizes that she's been dating this guy for 15 years and thinks, wait a minute, why have we been dating for 15 years?"
You mention you and Rachel have a good relationship. Is it hard to be in character and say really mean things to Rachel's character?
"Like 'You're not that disgustingly fat'? I don't think Valencia knows that it's mean. She doesn't have a lot of girlfriends. I think for Valencia that's the only way she knows how to communicate and her vanity does come out. I think women that are kind of vain like that, they think they're doing you a service by being around you. They're kind of like: 'You're welcome! I'm so glad I'm here for you.' That's why I think Josh balances her out because he's so humble, giving, and caring. Even if she doesn't express it, she needs him to balance her out."
Valencia does rise above the situation when Josh confesses he kissed Rebecca. Why do you think the character would be so forgiving—no one, especially Josh, expects her to be as calm about it as she is.
"Erin Ehrlich, who's also an executive producer, she directed that episode and she also wrote my first episode, 'Josh's Girlfriend is Really Cool' so she's really had a hand in shaping that character. And she and Rachel were very specific about Valencia not really rising above, but more acting based on a fear of loss. Going into your 30s, things start changing. Your friend group changes—people decide to live somewhere else or have babies. So when someone as close and comfortable and secure as Josh changes ... I think she realizes it's more than losing just a ring. As a woman, I don't feel Valencia needs a man, but she doesn't know not having a man. And I can relate to that because I've always been a serial monogamist. She's more afraid of losing the routine of their love and I think she realizes that she took advantage of it. So I don't think she's fighting against Rebecca, she's fighting for Josh. And I love that they let Rebecca see that."
Can you tell us a little about tonight's finale?
"Well get ready for Lea Salonga, who not only is a Broadway veteran but the voice of Jasmin in Aladdin. Her character and my character, we have some things in common. So Valencia isn't alone anymore, which I really enjoyed. Also, there are a lot of deadlines that need to be met in terms of everyone's journey in the show. Especially for Valencia and Josh, the conversation about their relationship does happen. I can say that."
Have you gotten any heads up on what we can expect in season 2?
"They've only spoken to me about Valencia and the end of the finale of season one leaves her in a place of change for sure. That doesn't necessarily mean a breakup—or it does. She has to do a little, as the yogis would say, soul-searching to find out who she is, versus what she is. And I'm hoping we can find out about who my family is, who my mother is—wouldn't that be awesome?"
Valencia is a yoga instructor on the show and your big song on the show is "I'm So Good at Yoga," so...
"Do I do yoga in my life? Now I do."
The season finale of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend airs tonight at 8/7 c. on The CW.