'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend' postmortem: Scott Michael Foster also likes going to the zoo

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the “Josh Is a Liar” episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

Move over, Simon & Garfunkel: 50 years after that legendary duo released their beloved ditty “At the Zoo,” this week’s episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend unveiled a zoo-related anthem for the “Hotline Bling” generation. Besides being the flat-out funniest song of the show’s third season (though the oh-so-timely “Let’s Generalize About Men” remains the all-around gold standard so far), “I Go to the Zoo” is also a great showcase for Scott Michael Foster, who joined the show midway through Season 2 as Nathaniel, the fitness-obsessed, feelings-challenged new boss/love interest for Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom).

Since his arrival came on the heels of fan favorite Santino Fontana’s departure, it’s safe to say that CEXG fans were a little skeptical of Nathaniel at first. But musical numbers like last season’s “Dirty Dancing” homage and now “I Go to the Zoo” have earned him our affection … as well as Rebecca’s. After literally dancing around each other for the past half-season, the two fell into each other’s arms on last week’s episode. In this week’s hour, they seemed poised to take their relationship further, with Nathaniel showing up to whisk Rebecca away just as she’s about to be confronted by her friend over her various deceptions. “I’ve seen fans saying, ‘He’s doing a good job,’ which makes me feel good,” Foster tells Yahoo Entertainment. “I’ve had a lot of fun playing Nathaniel. It’s a challenging, fun role.”

The actor filled us in on his own feelings about zoos and provides some hints about the show’s highly anticipated 100th song, coming later this season.

So the obvious first question is: how much do you love the zoo?
[Laughs] Oh, man. Listen, I don’t think I go as often as Nathaniel does, but every time I do go to the zoo I definitely enjoy myself.

What was your first reaction when you learned about this number?
The first thing they tell us is the name of the song. And in this case, Aline [Brosh McKenna, the co-creator] actually named the song, so she was very excited to tell me. Then they were like, “We’re going to do it as a music video in the style of Drake’s ‘Hotline Bling.‘” So I was like, “I can’t fail miserably at Drake’s dance moves!” So I was 80 percent excited and 20 percent scared. I had seen the video a couple of times already, but I watched it again and thought, “How close can we do it?” We never actually parody anybody; we’re just sort of loosely basing our song off a popular music video.

What was your approach to vocalizing the song?
We had a couple different takes when we were in the booth recording it. The whole point of the song is that he’s upset, so he goes to the zoo. We did it a few ways where I sang it supersad and barely moved my lips. Then we did more where I spoke it, like a slow rap. It was terrible! [Laughs] It sounded like early R&B, just really bad. So we ultimately decided to go with the “singing full out and having sadness on my face” approach.

One of the things I like about the song is that it’s just another way that Nathaniel keeps surprising us. Looking at him, you wouldn’t think that his happy place would be the zoo.
I’ve always been pleasantly surprised by him. Whenever I learn a new thing about him, I don’t think “I don’t agree with this.” Everything definitely tracks with the character they’ve been writing. There’s a lot of emotion with him and Rebecca this season, and we definitely do more delving into his family and finding out where he’s come from.

Last week’s episode ended the “will they or won’t they” phase of Rebecca and Nathaniel’s relationship when they slept together. That’s always a risky move — were you nervous about where they were headed next?
I’ve definitely had the conversation with Rachel and Aline [about] not doing the typical trope of “Will they or won’t they.” That’s why they were like, “Let’s just get that out of the way [early on], and then they can focus on other things.” I really like the direction we’re going with that relationship. Without giving too much away, there are roads that each of them go down that you don’t typically find in a rom-com situation. They’ve got a really fresh and unique perspective on the relationship, and I’m excited for everyone to see it. I mean, Nathaniel isn’t used to having working relationships anyway. He comes from a family with terrible relationships. So the fact that Rebecca can bring these emotions out of him — and he likes it — is completely foreign to him.

What balance did you want to strike in terms of him giving into his obsession with Rebecca while still demonstrating some modicum of self-control?
Nathaniel’s entrance last season was very methodical: He knew what he wanted and what he was doing. Having this relationship with Rebecca is sort of a wrench in his wheel. You get to see how different he is, and that’s something that I enjoyed playing. I couldn’t forget the person that’s always been there, but to have this new person who wants to be around Rebecca instead of being flustered by her was like walking a tightrope. Not to mention the singing and dancing and all that jazz! You think, “Oh, this is just a musical comedy, it’s easy,” but a lot of times, I’m like, “God, this is actually difficult!”

Besides Rebecca, we’ve also seen Nathaniel’s relationships expand with the other people in the office. For example, his dynamic with George (played by Danny Jolles) is really fun to watch.
That relationship cracks me up. I was very excited when they brought Danny back for more. We always talk about how Nathaniel and George are kind of like Gaston and LeFou from Beauty and the Beast. And I get more scenes with Paula [Donna Lynne Champlin], which is great.

At the end of “Josh is a Liar,” Rebecca’s secrets have been exposed to Paula and a few other people, but Nathaniel doesn’t know yet. Can you tease where it goes from there?
Like you said, he doesn’t know what’s going on with her at all, so I think he just wants to embrace this new relationship that he has. The next episode picks up pretty much from where that cliffhanger leaves off. There’s a big confrontation that gets pretty crazy. He doesn’t know what’s going on, so he feels like she’s ganged up on for no reason. So he’s definitely her champion. And I’ll say that I had to hold Rachel in that cradling position for practically two days. You know how you pick somebody up romantically and walk them through the door? When you have to hold them in that position for two days, it’s like, “Oh my God!” [Laughs] My back was starting to give out.

What can you reveal about the songs you have coming up?
We have a couple of different numbers. I get to have some fun with David Hull, who plays White Josh, and Rebecca and Nathaniel have another number that we’re shooting now. It’ll definitely have some sexual innuendos! And, you know, we actually just hit our 100th original song on the show, which is bananas. It’s a song about love, and was very inspired by Hair. We’re all dancing around and it’s very musical theater-y. That’s going to be a good number.

Minus the nude scene in Hair, I imagine.
No, I don’t think there’s that. [Laughs]

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend airs Fridays at 8 p.m. on the CW.

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