A quiet but subversive courtship has unfolded on The CW’s freshman musical series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. It began with a flirty chat on a party bus in the Jan. 25 episode. Then, there was a gentle kiss on the cheek, and a few episodes later, there’s a date.
It’s been slow, deliberate, and sweet. The endearing "will they or won’t they" would almost be cliché if not for the fact that the romance is between a young gay man named White Josh (David Hull) and a middle-aged lawyer named Darryl (Pete Gardner) whose dorky shift into queerness might make him the most vanilla bisexual man on television.
Darryl, the bumbling boss of protagonist Rebecca (Rachel Bloom), is the essence of sincerity. His joyful coming-out — both to himself and to others — is “just this wonderful discovery,” Gardner told BuzzFeed News over the phone. “There’s another way to love. There are other people that might love him.”
This is the kind of visibility bisexual people — especially bisexual men — often miss out on: As GLAAD noted in its 2015–2016 report, the few bisexual male TV characters that exist are frequently depicted as untrustworthy, manipulative, and self-destructive. (See the duplicitous Frank Underwood on House of Cards and the scheming Tyrell Wellick on Mr. Robot.)
But on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, bisexuality is an ordinary facet of a principled person. Darryl’s self-actualization parallels that of the show’s titular crazy ex-girlfriend, who quits her job and moves across the country to pursue a likely unrequited love. Bucking the trend, Darryl is the open and honest one, where heterosexual Rebecca is semi-tortured and secretive.
“I’ve gotten letters from bisexual friends that have written to me, and said that actually, when I kissed White Josh, they were holding their breath because they were just waiting for me to go, ‘Nope! Not gay!’” Gardner said. “[It’s] like a joke, their sexual orientation. And that’s just not what it is [with Darryl], and that’s what’s so nice about it.”
In the March 7 episode, Darryl comes out to his co-workers in a song that explicitly rejects misconceptions bisexual people encounter — namely, the idea that bisexuality is a cover for homosexuality, or that bisexuality is a sign of confusion or promiscuity. (Lyrics include “I don’t have the ‘gotta choose blues.’”) “We definitely wanted to confront the stereotypes,” series co-creator Aline Brosh McKenna told BuzzFeed News on the phone. “I think that Darryl has done his research and understands that people are going to confront him with these stereotypes, and so he wants to make sure that everybody knows that those are not the issues.”
In the writers room, Darryl has always been bisexual, McKenna said, but the character hasn’t had the vocabulary for it — the first time he comes out, he literally doesn’t know the word, calling himself “bothsexual.” Society has “changed tremendously” since Darryl came of age, she said, and taboos around sexuality have been, to some degree, lifted. Still, McKenna added, “I think if you’re a man and you are attracted to women, you sort of think, Oh, well, then I must be straight, and I can just go with that. And you don’t want to upset the apple cart by trying to expand your identity into other things, because it makes people uncomfortable.”
Both McKenna and Gardner separately recalled the meeting between the actors and the writers during which Gardner was informed of his character’s sexuality: It happened with a matter-of-factness that mirrors the no-nonsense treatment of sexuality on the show.
“They were like, ‘OK, so here, in Episode 5, that’s when you sing your song.’ And I was like, ‘Oh boy, good to know,’” he remembered. “Then they were like, ‘And here’s Episode 11, and you’re bisexual.’ ‘Bisexual?’ ‘Yeah, that’s right, that’s where that happens.’ I was like, ‘All right! Well!’”
McKenna said both she and star/co-creator Bloom knew bisexual people in their lives, but had not often seen them depicted on television or in movies — it seemed fresh and honest. And, like the writers, Gardner wasn’t thinking about the character in the political terms bisexual viewers might: When asked how he felt about playing what is probably the most radically unremarkable male bisexual character on television, he laughed. “Awesome!” he said. “I really approached this as just a love story.”