How did you decide to approach Rebecca’s mental illness?
There were no boundaries. There was an early version of the show where she was cutting herself. Rebecca moving to another state to pursue someone is messed up. It would have felt false to romanticize love as an escape like rom-coms so often do. In reality, she would be a pill-popping, depressed lawyer with insomnia.
Rebecca sings “The Sexy Getting-Ready Song,” about the things women do to look good. Why was that important to skewer?
That song is about our collective madness. You think Rebecca is crazy to pluck and wax and wear Spanx for love, but is she? Her problems are symptomatic of the contradictory messages women receive every day. We’re told to be both successful and beautiful. The fairy tale ends with marriage, but when a woman gets upset over a breakup she’s “a crazy bitch.”
The show makes a male Asian character, Josh, the sex symbol, which is rare for TV.
I’d never seen the trope of an Asian bro on TV, and I grew up in California with a lot of Asian bros. The homecoming king at my school was Chinese. On a lot of shows everyone is white and vaguely Protestant to be “relatable.” I don’t care about being relatable. I care about being truthful.
Some people thought the show’s name was sexist. Did you expect that?
The show is the opposite of that. The theme song says crazy ex-girlfriend is a sexist term. Had it been on cable I don’t think there would have been backlash, because people would have assumed it was a subversion. But because it’s a network show, people take it at face value. But it’s a deconstruction and a darker comedy than people would assume.
This appears in the February 01, 2016 issue of TIME.