When did you first realize something was truly up with Daybreak’s Ms. Crumble (Krysta Rodriguez)? Was it when she unhinged her jaw so Josh Wheeler (Colin Ford) could root around her stomach for a set of keys? Was it when the Netflix “witch” and Principal Burr’s (Matthew Broderick) hands melted together like some sort of Salvador Dali-esque nightmare vision? Or was it the moment a black arm shot out of Burr's body, and he suggests the same thing is destined to happen to Crumble?
No matter when the “What the hell is happening with Ms. Crumble?” switch flipped for you, we can all agree the Glendale biology teacher is more than some simple half-ghoulie creature, as the first few episodes of Daybreak would have you believe. But the question is, what exactly is she? We turned to the two performers who understand Crumble best — her portrayer Krysta Rodriguez and her scene partner Alyvia Alyn Lind, who plays morally dubious tween Angelica Green — for answers.
The results are a gross-but-moving backstory. It’s exactly the kind of tale Ms. Crumble would appreciate.
Crumble is actually a woman overcoming massive trauma in the middle of the apocalypse. As we learn in seventh episode “Canta Tu Vida,” Burr threw Crumble does the stairs, leaving her bleeding out with near-fatal brain damage. Then the apocalypse happened.
“Yes, Burr did basically murder her,” Rodriguez explained over the phone to Refinery29 (yes, she does know Crumble’s real name, unlike the rest of the Daybreak cast). “I think the implication is that the school itself, when Crumble fell into the basement of it, it protected both her and Burr. I’m sure he probably left her for dead. Not a great guy that guy.”
With Crumble inside the Glendale High building, she was protected from the immediate deadly effects of the initial world-ending bomb (Burr explains the structure's Cold War-prepped defensive logistics in “Josh vs. the Apocalypse: Part 2”). Crumble was then left to put the pieces of her shattered mind back together all alone in the middle of Armageddon. “When she’s screaming something, it doesn’t make any sense. But to her, a lightbulb just went off,” Rodriguez says. “It's like, ‘Oh my god, I remember what Steve Harvey’s mustache looks like! Even though I’m screaming Steve Harvey’s mustache to nobody.’”
Although Crumble’s seemingly bizarre — and in reality heartbreaking — behavior can be blamed on her brain injury, her powers come from somewhere else entirely. Daybreak suggests Crumble’s evolution, which appears to be similar to Burr’s mutations, were caused by the secondary pathogens released by the apocalypse nuke. As Crumble says in the season 1 finale, the bomb has, “a plasmid that transmits DNA and sequences genes.”
That science-y mumbo jumbo is the only thing that can explain how Crumble nearly melded hands with Burr or the other changes to her body.
Speaking of Crumble’s many body horror experiences, you shouldn’t assume those are all computerized special effects. Take the “5318008” moment when Crumble tumbles out of a bathroom stall to reveal pulsating holes have taken up residence on her back. “That scene was insane to film because that was all completely real. Those spores and everything? There were literal holes on her back,” Alyvia Alyn Lind recalls over the phone of the practical effect used on Rodriguez.
The Daybreak team put little bags of air inside of a prosthetic on Rodriguez’s back so they could move the piece up and down to create the ultimate skin-crawling visual. While Lind had fun playing with the pump, things took the inevitable turn towards the icky.
“In one scene I actually had to put some cream on the prosthetic with a little cotton swab,” the 12-year-old actor says. “The cotton swab kept getting stuck on the back of it. I can’t. It was completely disgusting and gross.”
Still, Rodriguez believes those horrifying spots — along with all of Crumble’s mysterious changes — could just be for the best. “We had some discussions around halfway through shooting the series when you see that thing growing on my back about being monsters — about women being monsters,” the actress says. “What we hope will carry on is this idea of embracing whatever this monster is and using it for good. You see that I can also heal the spots. Crumble has them, and then she gets rid of them.”
This is an ability Rodriguez hints we may see used in a new way during a prospective second season of Daybreak. “There might be some likening it to like the discovery of penicillin,” she continues. “Maybe Crumble gets to use whatever is turning her into whatever this is. Maybe it’s a happy accident, and there’s some science to be mined in that area.”
Move over Sam Dean’s (Sophie Simnett) post-apocalypse strawberries — there’s a new world-changing science project in Glendale.