Rachel Bloom on Making a Movie About Murder With Her Husband

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Doug Mand, Rachel Bloom, Dan Gregor, and Adam Pally. Photo: Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Vulture

Can there be any hope (or empathy) for the former high-school cool kid who returns home to discover that no one gives a shit about him anymore? Lionsgate’s just-released comedy Most Likely to Murder — available for download now on iTunes — seeks to answer this age-old question, and tosses in some murder-mystery intrigue to mix things up a bit.

On April 30, Vulture held an exclusive screening and Q&A event for fans at Los Angeles’s London Hotel, featuring star Adam Pally, co-star and producer Rachel Bloom, co-writer and director Dan Gregor, and co-writer and co-star Doug Mand. The quartet had a lively (and often R-rated) chat about their New York comedy roots (and subsequent coupling, in the case of Bloom and Gregor); how they overcome the panic of casting a dramatic actor, Vincent Kartheiser, as their co-lead; what Pally would want from a Most Likely sequel; and what news Bloom can break about the forthcoming fourth and final season of her juggernaut hit series, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

You’ve known each other for a long time. How and when did you first meet?  

Adam Pally: Doug and I got hooked up because we were both transferring to New York colleges and had a mutual best friend who was like, “You’re both needy Jews, you should be friends.” We hung out — no joke — for ten minutes and were best friends. We knew everything about each other, listened to the same music, and dressed alike. So we moved in together in the East Village. God, this was when, 2000? 2002?

Doug Mand: No, around 1973. [Laughs.]

Pally: Then very soon after that, Doug and I moved in with each other, and he met Dan at Tisch.

Dan Gregor: Doug and I were in a really terrible writing class at NYU where the teacher would only let us write as a group. The whole class had to write an episode of I Love Lucy, but guest starring Alicia Keys.  [Laughs.] Think about that for a second. This was NYU. Paid a lot of money for that! Some advice: Go anywhere to college because it all means nothing. A little after that, I was starting this sketch-comedy group called Hammerkatz, and I ran into Doug and remembered he was the funniest guy in the class. I was like, “You gotta get in this group.” So Doug became sort of the first generation of Hammerkatz, and we became a sketch team.

Mand: Then we graduated, and Dan, Adam, and I lived together. Dan moved onto our couch because he refused to go back home to Long Island. And then Dan met Rachel, and then Rachel moved in.

Bloom: I auditioned for Hammerkatz. But I’m quite a bit younger than they are. Much, much younger.

Pally: You don’t have to keep saying that.

Bloom: Quite young.

Mand: We’re all so young.

Bloom: Well, not as young as I am. And I later became director of the group, and Dan and I started dating around that time.

Pally: Then Rachel moved onto our couch with Dan.

Mand: That’s when it got really fun. [Laughs.] Without being too super cheesy, we all just liked each other early on, knew we were like-minded, and wanted to do the same kind of things because we couldn’t do anything else.

Pally: I remember when I took my first improv class, and had my first rudimentary idea of what a sketch could even be, the person I turned to is Dan.

Mand: And he had a lot of notes.  [Laughs.]

Pally: But the biggest note he had was, “You’re really funny.” Dan kept me going for a while.

Mand: I was like, “He’s not that funny.”

Dan and Doug, since then, you’ve had an illustrious TV-writing career.  I don’t think that’s too big of a word for it, do you?

Mand: No, it’s perfect.

What made you want to venture into feature writing, and what inspired Most Likely to Murder? It has shades of Rear Window. It’s actually kind of an asshole-millennial Rear Window.

Gregor: Okay, that’s going on the poster!

Pally: Thank you for calling it millennial!

Mand: We’re going take that and run with it. Thank you.

Gregor: Doug and I were really obsessed with the weekend of Thanksgiving; that idea of coming home for the holidays, and movies about that. Like, Home for the Holidays. Beautiful Girls was also something I fucking loved. This isn’t on TV, I can curse, right? I’ve been cursing by accident in a lot of our interviews. I got bleeped on live TV.

Mand: You’re a bad boy.

Gregor: Ooh, danger zone. The first draft of the story was actually just about a guy looking for a VHS player. [Laughs.] It wasn’t a great draft, and we quickly realized that was not a good story line. So, we started thinking about this idea of nostalgia that you’re desperate to hold on to, but it’s gone and you’ll never get it back. You’ll never be the person you used to be. How do we make that an active drive for a story? So we decided to do that through a murder mystery, which has more activity at the center of it.

And did you work together to write what you lovingly call the “Vomit Draft”? Did you write side by side? Did each of you take a pass?

Mand: We generally always outline pretty extensively. It takes a long time; it’s pretty meticulous. And once the outline is up on the board or on Google Docs, then we assign each other scenes and write separately. And the only rule for the Vomit Draft is to keep writing. You have to just finish. It doesn’t have to be funny. It just has to be what we said in the outline.

Gregor: A lot of the dialogue is often, “I am going to walk to this set now.”

Mand: “I’m angry, and this is the part of the script where I’m changing my view.”

Gregor: And that’s okay.

And what was the toughest part of transitioning from writing for a multi-cam TV comedy like How I Met Your Mother — where the beats and jokes are different — to a single-camera production?

Gregor: I will politely reject that premise. [Laughs.] Obviously, there are differences between multi- and single-cam TV and film. But the bottom line is, you write a story. You are telling a beginning, middle, and end. The character needs a problem and to confront that problem and change over the course of the resolution. That’s fundamental.

Pally: This is like the Q&A version of [the Saturday Night Live sketch] “Schweddy Balls.”

Mand: Why, because it’s amazing and funny and highly informative, and people will go back to it for decades?

Pally: Yeah. When I think “Schweddy Balls,” I think “highly informative.”

Mand: Look — no one came here to hear Adam Pally and Rachel Bloom talk. They want to talk to the two schlubby writers who no one knows. No one cares about Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Happy Endings. C’mon.

Bloom: I have a request. Could I have my coat? I’m only wearing this like Mediterranean skank schmatta dress.

Pally: You consider that Mediterranean?

Bloom: It’s Mediterranean. I’m wearing silicone nipple covers so you guys don’t see any party hats.

Adam, in what ways do you relate to your character, Billy?

Pally: I relate to him being frustrated, I think. When you know you have something to offer, but just can’t like, get it in the right place. I also think Billy is a version of me that could have happened to me very easily. I look at a lot of my characters like that. Billy in particular feels like a couple degrees off from me, which is to say, I think that my personality probably would be a little harsher if I didn’t have a great family and a good job.

We definitely empathize with him.

Pally: And that was the goal: to do a character that was not necessarily what you would assume the “white man hero” would be. Even in like the slightest dark caverns of the movie I think there’s empathy.

Bloom: I just want to apologize for slut-shaming myself earlier when I referred to my dress as “skank dress.” I was feeling very cold. And we all say things we don’t mean when we’re cold. Every woman should have the right to show her body as much as she wants and not be labeled a “skank,” by themselves (Laughter and applause). I think I Times Up’d up myself!

So Rachel, this is your major feature film as an actor.

Bloom: I was in a very mediocre film called Bob vs. Society, for which I was not paid, in 2006.

Mand: So we’ll call this this first one.

How did it feel step away from Rebecca Bunch for a bit? Did it feel like you cheating on her?

Bloom: No. It felt nice. It’s funny because I’m doing press for this movie, but I only did like six days total on it. I was mostly in New York as Dan’s wife to support him emotionally, and with our dog, who I brought.

Gregor: The dog was the biggest part.

Bloom: Really, I was kind of incidental. “Oh, where’s the dog tonight?” “She’s at home. Sorry.” “You’re here to see the dog. That’s weird.” [Laughs.] But the character of Kara — her high-school experience is slightly close to mine, except I wasn’t a rebel. I didn’t drink or smoke. And I’m not just saying that because my parents are here. But I really didn’t. And I didn’t have sex.

And that’s why you’re a success today, by the way. You’re such a good model for young women.  

Bloom: Because I waited, kids!

Pally: I’d like to be the opposite of that test theory. I didn’t wait. And Daddy turned out okay.

Bloom: But no, it did not feel like cheating on Rebecca. It felt wonderful to access a part of myself that I don’t get to normally access, which is mostly a very justifiable and grounded vengeance towards the men who have wronged me.

Dan, this is also your first feature as a director. How scared were you on day one when you realized everyone was looking to you to tell them what to do?

Gregor: Actually the first day that was stressful was when we were still in preproduction and still casting. There was just a long period where we thought it was going be just our friends in the movie; just a bunch of comedians, and that was not stressful. Then Doug and I had the realization that we really needed a dramatic actor to play Lowell, because [people] weren’t going to buy the stakes of the movie if you didn’t have someone you could actually feel uncomfortable about or uncertain about. [Silicon Valley actor] Zach Woods was the first person we thought about.

He’d have been great.  But it would have been a very different movie. And so, we asked for and actually got Vincent Kartheiser. It was so shocking to us that he agreed. That caused a panic attack for sure, like, “He’s a real dramatic actor.”

Right. “He was on Mad Men.”

Mand: And we didn’t know him. Rachel and Adam are brilliant actors, but we know them. There’s a shorthand. Vincent we did not know. “Oh God, we should probably shower. Are we dressed properly to talk to him? I think I’m an idiot. So, I’m not going talk.” Vincent scared us.

Gregor: We are not from like, acting schools. We’re comedians.

Bloom: [In a low sultry voice.] Well, some of us are.

Pally: Yes, speak for yourself, Daniel.

Gregor: Ok fine, the writers from this movie were not from acting schools. And so, it was a very different vibe and a new pressure I’d never felt before. But I just prepped the shit out of it. I got really intense about making sure I really knew exactly what I wanted. I probably fucked up the first half of the first day. The AD was like, “You are three hours behind. You’re not going make your day.” Then very quickly I revamped my thinking. I was like, “Oh, I’ve done this a billion times before. Music videos and short films and sketches. This is just a different format.”

Were there any scenes you changed during filming that maybe weren’t working?

Bloom: The part about Lowell having a big dick was something we realized while shooting that we had to call back to.

Gregor: I also remember the day we shot the parking-lot scene, Rachel, you said, “I really think we need to know like what their sexual history is.”

Bloom: Yeah.

Gregor: The ending was both written and improvised from Rachel’s notes. We’d left it too vague and then they were in the relationship. Therefore the line, “I’m gonna squirt in your face” — that was a Rachel line that day.  [Laughs.]

If you were to make a sequel to this movie, Adam, what would you want for Billy’s future?

Pally: Oh, I would like him to get out of jail, go back to Vegas and to fall in love with a superstar doing a residency there, like Gwen Stefani. And then suddenly he’s in Fatal Attraction. That’s what I’d love to see.

And finally, because we all have to get home and move on with our lives…

Pally: Unnecessary.

Bloom: And we’re all eventually going die. And none of this will matter and this movie will probably be lost in the fire as the sun burns up the earth. True.

Pally: It’s not like we’re holding these people hostage like in The Room. It’s not like there are 80 Brie Larsons here.

I think that was just called Room, Adam. The Room is different movie entirely.

Bloom: But Tommy Wiseau was definitely in both movies.

True. Rachel, what can you tell us about the fourth and final season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend?

Bloom: Oh my God. Like literally nothing. We’ve only done one day of writing. And the one day of writing consisted of us trying to figure out: What are the major giant plot points in this season and what is the series finale?

And those are what exactly?

Mand: Rebecca was dead all along! [Laughs.]

Bloom: Well, I haven’t shared this yet, but I’m pleased to announce that this year an episode will be directed by Mr. Dan Gregor. [Applause.] I did just break some news.

Pally: Someone call Nikki Finke!

Bloom: Doug and Dan have written on the show for the last three years, and have had cameos. They’ve done wonderful work. Seeing them in the context of a writers room — they’re fucking amazing. And the fact that they aren’t writing every single major box-office movie just proves how broken the studio system is.  [Laughs.]

Finally, Dan, Doug, and Rachel: If you were to write a cameo for Adam for the final season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, who would you like him to play?

Pally: Ooh, I like this. Also my FYI, episodic TV quote is sky-high now.

Bloom: Well, I don’t think there’s a role in which you can’t play a Jew. So, I’ll say tentatively I feel like you’d be a good son for Patti LuPone, the rabbi.

Pally: I love Patti LuPone. I’m in!

Mand: You can sing, too.

Pally: I got a decent baritone. Call me. I’m in. You heard it here!

Rachel Bloom on Making a Movie About Murder With Her Husband