For fans of the tv show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, our August teafluencer needs no introduction. But if you’ve somehow not come across Rachel Bloom in her many roles as a performer and writer, welcome to learning about another passion this comedian has: tea. To her, the Camellia sinensis brew is no laughing matter (but almost everything else is!).
Harney: Tell us a little about you. Where are you from, educational background, where you live, family, etc.
Rachel: My name is Rachel Bloom, and I’m an only child from Manhattan Beach, CA. I went to NYU and lived in New York for six years before moving back to LA. I’m a comedian who is probably best known for the television show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. And, most importantly: I love tea.
Harney: Wikipedia says you are an actress, comedian, writer, singer, songwriter and producer. It’s true that you are all these things -- if someone you met while ordering a cup of tea asked you what you do, what would you say?
Rachel: I would just say I’m a comedian because this moment isn’t about me – it’s about the tea.
Harney: When did you first develop an interest in acting? What was the earliest production you were in?
Rachel: My first foray into acting was doing a children’s theater workshop run by the city when I was about three. I believe my first production was “The Three Little Pigs,” in which each pig was played by three children at once. I believe I was the pig whose house was made of straw, but DON’T FACT CHECK ME ON THAT.
Harney: Tell us about your career before you created a certain TV show that we’ll talk about in a minute. What was your experience like as a young actress? What challenges did you overcome and what successes did you have?
Rachel: Being an actor for film and TV is a powerless and anxiety-inducing profession, you are completely at the mercy of what others think about you—other than that it’s great! Most of my early paying jobs were on writing staff for tv shows, which is a job that contains a whole other set of challenges but at least you don’t have to put on makeup if you don’t want to. My passion, though, was always writing work that I performed, and I would do this every chance I could, whether it was my online music videos, stage shows at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater or television pitches that I tried to sell (all unsuccessfully).
Harney: So: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Co-creator and winner of numerous awards and a cult following. Where did this series come from? And how much of Rebecca Bunch comes from Rachel Bloom?
Rachel: I had been doing music videos online for some time and they were seen by Aline Brosh Mckenna, my future co-creator of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Rebecca is a mix of me and Aline!
Harney: What did you learn from having a successful TV show? Anything you’d have done differently?
Rachel: Honestly, having a tv show really hammered home that every actor you see onscreen, ever, has someone professional doing their hair and makeup. It’s necessary for continuity and making actors look normal on camera, but there’s a tendency for people to look too polished and it warps many people’s self-images. So, just remember that the next time you see a rom-com heroine with a perfect blowout flapping in the wind as she’s running to the airport.
Harney: In the show, your character is diagnosed with a borderline personality disorder. You have talked openly about mental health issues. Why is it important for you to have those public conversations?
Rachel: When you are in the middle of a mental health issue, feeling you are the only person going through it makes it a thousand times worse. So, talking about this stuff and destigmatizing it actually helps people feel better.
Harney: As we said earlier, you’ve done so many different aspects of performance art, but singing/songwriting seems to be very near to your heart, especially musical theater. Tell us about your musical background and why you incorporate musical productions into much of your work.
Rachel: Musical theater was my original love, and then when I fell in love with sketch comedy, I wanted to find a way to combine the two. So, I am able to approach musicals as someone who earnestly loves them and as someone who knows they’re ridiculous.
Harney: You’ve had great success with two songwriting partners, Jack Dolgen and Adam Schlesinger, including a song called “Antidepressants Are So Not a Big Deal,” which won an Emmy. You lost Adam due to complications from COVID -- our condolences. In addition to that huge loss, how else has the pandemic affected your life and your work? Your industry in particular has taken a huge hit.
Rachel: I talk about this a lot in the epilogue of my book, I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are, available on Amazon, Indiebound, Target, and wherever books are sold! All proceeds go to the important cause of myself!
Harney: You also do voiceover work, most recently as the hard rock troll Barb in Trolls World Tour, and you’ve also been in Angry Birds 2 along with other roles. How do you work to develop those voiceover characters? How different is that type of acting versus acting with others in a scene?
Rachel: When you’re doing voiceover, all that matters is the sound of your voice. In a nice way, you’re a tool that the directors and editors can play around with to build the best movie possible. So, often you do each line three different ways to give everyone options that they can cut together later.
Harney: Moving on to your writer hat -- as you mentioned, you’ve recently published a book entitled I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are. It’s a collection of personal essays, poems and, we understand, amusement park maps. What inspired you to write this book, what was the process like? Did it turn out as you anticipated, or were you surprised by the end product?
Rachel: One day, I was sipping a cup of Harney and Sons Paris tea and I suddenly thought, “What if I wrote a book called, I Want to be Where The Normal People Are?” In an artistic fugue state, I grabbed a cup of Harney and Sons Dragon Pearl Jasmine tea and, over the course of the next 48 hours, I wrote the entire book. Celebrating with a cup of Harney and Sons Decaf Vanilla Comoro, I sent the completed manuscript to my publisher and told her I refused to make any changes.
Harney: Speaking of amusement parks, we assume there are maps in your book because we understand you are a huge fan, especially of Disney. When’s your next rollercoaster ride, and do you have a favorite?
Rachel: My next ride will be The Secret Life of Pets ride at Universal Studios because my husband wrote that ride! That’s right, rides have writers! Also, my husband would like everyone to know that his obsession with Harney and Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice tea is what turned me on to Harney and Sons in the first place. Seriously, if I didn’t put this fact in here it would negatively impact my marriage.
Harney: Your Instagram page says you are a “connoisseur of dog fun facts.” Please, do share!
Rachel: Dogs tend to poop on a north to south axis; they literally align themselves with the earth’s magnetic poles and no one knows why.
Harney: Since you’re this month’s Harney Teafluencer, and given your previous statements, we think it’s pretty safe to assume you enjoy a regular cuppa every now and then! What role does tea play in your life? Do you have any rituals that involve tea?
Rachel: Tea is essential to who I am and what I do. Every morning I drink a cup of Harney and Sons Royal English Breakfast and every afternoon I have a cup of some sort of green or matcha tea. At night, I’ll even drink decaffeinated dessert tea just to be a bad girl. Sometimes I like to pretend I’m a fancy queen as I stir my tea and look dismissively at my dog like she’s a lazy servant. Also, I miss my husband Prince Philip, but I know he’s in a better place.
You can take a deeper dive into the wickedly funny world of Rachel Bloom by dropping into her website or checking out her posts on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. It was our pleasure to have Rachel as a Harney Teafluencer, and we appreciate her time and willingness to provide enthusiastic shout outs to Harney and Sons! All photography was provided by Rachel.