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‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’: Donna Lynne Champlin on Paula’s Big Decision and Those Suggestive Vegetables

Rochester families, pinball machines, and an eggplant were all vital to "Getting Over Jeff," a turning point two and a half years in the making.

Crazy Ex Girlfriend Paula

“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”

Eddy Chen/The CW

[Editor’s Note: The following interview contains spoilers for this week’s episode of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” “Getting Over Jeff.”]

First, let’s quickly talk about the gourd.

“Manuel [Baca], our props guy, was so proud. He had actually found that gourd at some festival the weekend before and he had bought it and picked it up because he thought it was so fantastic and phallic-looking,” Donna Lynne Champlin told IndieWire, explaining one of the inanimate stars of this week’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.”

The squash in question is one of the centerpiece flourishes in “The Very First Penis I Saw,” the impossibly fun sequence from a pivotal episode for Paula, Champlin’s character. But aside from the grocery-store frolicking and innuendo, the song actually helped focus a lot of the emotion that made this another vital step in Paula’s journey on the show.

A trip back home in to Buffalo in “Getting Over Jeff” brings her face to face with her personal one-that-got-away version of Rebecca’s Josh Chan (appropriately named Jeff Channington). When some of those old feelings start to rekindle, she faces a familiar dilemma as the prospect of a different life beckons, one without her husband Scott and two less-than-grateful sons.

“This episode is a callback to the pilot where Paula says to Rebecca, ‘I wish I had been as brave as you were.’ Jeff has always been the pebble, and anybody else that she considered having an affair with was a ripple effect of her romanticizing what could have been with Jeff,” Champlin said.

Paula’s ultimate decision to move on from a bygone crush and find the best of the life she has is one that Champlin sees as multiple seasons in the making.

“This show to me is like a pinball machine. This, I think, is Paula bumping around the whole episode and the very end she hits the jackpot and goes, ‘Oh, right. My father isn’t who he was in my mind as a child, the house is smaller, and Jeff is just a regular guy. He’s not Prince Charming,'” Champlin said. “I don’t think you could’ve had this episode in season one or season two because I don’t think Paula was in a place to realistically have all these ‘aha’ moments and have it stick. I think it’s going to stick now.”

Craxy Ex Girlfriend Paula Grocery Store

“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”

Eddy Chen/The CW

As much as this episode marked a vital moment for Paula, the rest of the episode’s Buffalo journey home meant a lot to Champlin, who grew up not too far away in Rochester.

“It was nice because I popped into the writers room when they were working on this episode and the writers started asking me about upstate New York and what my experiences. They made my father a Fox News watcher and that is 100% accurate, it is. Very Republican and very red where I am from, but you have to understand that the flip side of this is an incredibly generous heart and an incredible sense of community,” Champlin said. “They are very conservative in certain ways of thinking but then on the other hand, they will let you live in their basement if you need help or they will give you their last five dollars. This interesting sort of dichotomy of being very, very strict on how things should go and the rules of how you live your life, but they will turn right around and give you their house. I was kind of excited that was in there as well. ”

The result was a character, in Paula’s father, that was a tad different from the kind of person that Champlin had been building up in her imagination since the show started.

“My impression of who Paula’s dad was in my mind for the last two and a half years had been somebody very imposing and very big like a Brian Dennehy, ex-Marine. Then you come to find out that he’s just a normal dude. When we’re kids and we look up to our parents, especially if one of them can be aggressive or slightly abusive, you imagine them as huge giant ogres. And then just grow up and you have kids of your own and you come back and you go, ‘Oh God, we’re the same height. That’s weird.'”

It’s not just Champlin who’s been on the receiving end of a balanced Season 3. Even in a season when Rebecca’s diagnosis has been such a foundational element in the overall development of the show, it’s been great to see the show take the time for the important stories of all the people in her orbit.

“Our regulars like Mike McMillian got the ‘Les Mis’ song [“The Buzzing from the Bathroom“] and there is another great song coming up from Michael Hyatt [Dr. Akopian], which is going to literally blow everyone’s minds. We have such a deep bench of talented people that it’s just so amazing to watch the writers room give those people the chance to have a moment. I’m very, very excited about that.”

As far as this episode’s moment, if fans of “Very First Penis” enjoyed what eventually cleared the final product, Champlin pointed out that, as with most instant “Crazy Ex” classics, there’s more that didn’t end up in the final version.

“We filmed bits that didn’t make it and I’m pretty sure it was because [Standards & Practices] was like, ‘You can’t use that cucumber that way on network television. You just can’t,'” Champlin said.

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