'Jane the Virgin' Boss on Season 2 Expectations, Difficulties of Adding a Baby and Britney Spears

"You want to continue to push yourself and be inventive," showrunner Jennie Snyder Urman tells THR, "and yet, make sure that you're still doing the things that make the show what it is."
Patrick Wymore/The CW

Jane the Virgin, the telenovela-inspired CW comedy about a pregnant virgin, is bracing for one big change when it returns for season two on Monday: Jane the Virgin is now Jane the Mom.

"She wasn’t planning on being a mother this early and there's definitely going to be some adjustments but also, some amazing things that come with that," showrunner Jennie Snyder Urman tells The Hollywood Reporter.

But with the exception of baby Mateo (and a few more guests like the one and only Britney Spears), Jane the Virgin's formula isn’t changing all that much as it heads up into its sophomore season. So how will the show lure new viewers? How much will things change with Mateo around? And what's this about a marionette episode? Urman talks to THR about all that and more.

What would you say is the theme of season two?

The theme of season two is how does one become a mom and retain one's sense of self? How do you prioritize yourself and prioritize your child? That balance is going to be something that I think a lot of people will relate to and something that Jane is certainly going to struggle with.

What has it been like navigating that new addition and that huge life change into the writer's room? How much has it been figuring out how much to put Mateo in the show?

It's interesting, right at the beginning when we were writing I had this moment where suddenly I was like, 'Oh my God, she's always got a baby with her, doesn’t she? This scene and a stroller, this scene and a stroller, this scene and we see him.' Its definitely a production pressure because you're working with very young babies so your hours to work with them are very specific and small. That said, it's hard to explain, but now it's hard to now imagine doing it without Mateo now that we're this deep into the season. He's a giant part of her life, he complicates everything, obviously. He also makes everything that much richer and more emotional. But, definitely, he's around. The baby is either with Jane or with mom or with grandma or Rafael so you're going to definitely get to know Mateo.

What were other new challenges you faced in season two that you didn’t face in season one?

Uh, expectations. (Laughs.) I would say that I don’t like to repeat things too much, like magical realism and all of those kind of jokes, the set-ups. Now you've gone through a season and done a season's worth of stuff so you want to continue to push yourself and be inventive and exploit the telenovela trope in different ways and yet, make sure that you're still doing the things that make the show what it is. That's always a challenge. Especially at the beginning, the premiere episode, those are always really hard episodes because you have to wrap up the drama and the cliffhangers while also launching fresh drama and cliffhangers. So for me, I just always go back to making sure that we have big, sweeping telenovela twists and turns but also a real grounded emotional story that we can hook into it and that keeps our feet on the ground.

You obviously mentioned expectations. How do you adjust dealing with that as you go into season two?

There's so much work that you just can't think about it unless you're on the phone like this. (Laughs.) You have to keep moving because production is a train and 22 episodes is just an enormous amount of material and work. You just have to keep going. I put a lot of pressure on myself that I wanted the first episode to deliver and obviously that one takes longer because you're setting things up but for the rest of it, you're just building stories and working them hard. I know all the writers know the characters so much better this year; the editors, the actors, everyone knows who we're dealing with, so there's a certain amount of a shorthand that goes along with that. But then the other side of that is we know them so well that we want to make sure we're not just doing plot turns for plot turns' sake, but it's all coming out of character, making sure that as wild and crazy as people's choices are, we can always understand them. Those are the pressures that we put on our characters last year and we continue.

Talking about the twists of the show, with this kind of series, you go through a lot of storyline in season one. How do you think the pacing in season two compares, and how much of a concern is that for you to go through things so quickly?

It's a pretty similar pace. Theoretically, it’s a concern but it just hasn’t been a concern practically. We just have so much story. We took about close to a month to really break the whole season and by the end of it, we were like, 'OK, that's season three.' We had to push stuff. We have a ton of plot and we really work hard on the plot before so that once we're breaking the stories, we know the character has to move from a to b and this is what's going to happen. Then we can just layer in all the character work and all the fun and all the comedy and make sure we're telling it in the most dynamic way. But we did most of our plotting at the beginning of the season. On a show like this, I think you have to so you know where you're going because you want to be able to plot the banana in episode two that's going to pay off in episode nine. That's not a spoiler. There aren’t any bananas, but theoretically. (Laughs.)

The show has such a specific style with the narration, the text on the screen and the text messages. Is there any new element this season or change to that part of the formula?

We just continue to explore what we can do with it. I'm someone who gets bored easily. If we've done the same trick a few times, I want new ones. So there's some, I think, new ways that the texting is going to come up and the graphics on-screen – you'll definitely see new ones. In the second episode, we have some pretty new fun stuff. We have a magical realism marionette show with marionettes of our characters. Who's playing whose strings is the theme of the episode so we had puppets made, which was very cool. For us, it's always about continuing to push our characters forward and make sure they have the movement, and sometimes the movement is plot-related and sometimes it's emotional. We just hold ourselves to a few rules in the writer's room and that characters have to learn, grow, change – something has to happen – so that we can go through the episode and not end up in the same place that we started, emotionally.

You have some great guest stars coming up this season: Britney Spears, Kesha. What made them good fits for the show and how did you figure out their roles?

People come in different ways. Kesha — the role was written before and we were looking for somebody to move in next door as the rocker girl next door who clashes with Jane. She'd prefer them not to play their music so loud at night, and they'd prefer her to keep her howling baby from crying in the middle of the night. The part was written, and then she came in and did a great read and killed it. She's hilarious in it. Britney  we had heard that she was a fan and we all had that in our heads. First, we freaked out: 'oh my God, Britney watches our show.' And then you just file things away and people away and then we had this idea for this storyline about Rogelio and his nemesis. So we sort of broke that story just thinking, "Maybe. Maybe there's a small chance that she'll say yes." Then when she did, we were thrilled. But we want to make sure always that the guest stars are a part of our world and they fit into the particular whimsy and wackiness of Jane. Britney's backstory with Rogelio, which is revealed as the show goes on, plays into our world really well and is funny and adds dimension. Jane's got a great magical realism with Britney that I just love. I think its pretty fun. We wanted to make sure that we broke a story that we loved before going out to her to see if she would do it.

The show has received so much critical acclaim last season but the ratings have been modest. How concerned are you with trying to attract new viewers going into season two? How much do you pay attention to that aspect?

I do and I don't. I want more people to discover it. And I want them to be able to find it easily. I'm really really excited that it's going to be on Netflix because I think people will discover it that way. At the same time, the studio and the network have been so supportive and like the show so much that they haven’t put pressure on [me]. I don’t feel every Tuesday morning that we live and die with the ratings. I know that they are proud of the show and love it enough. Of course, I want more people to watch it, for sure. I want people to discover it. I just feel like our ensemble is so strong and Gina, obviously, is just a really special, special actress and I think its hard to watch the show and not fall in love with her. I do hope more people find it.

How easy do you think it will be for new viewers to dive in fresh beginning with the season two premiere?

I think you can. I did a very long recap at the beginning just taking you through what happened and then we have a narrator so we can set up who people are and we really do. We make sure that we’re resetting and expanding at the same time. So you can certainly hop into this one because this one starts with the challenge of how to get the baby back and from there you're into the story and we're launching fresh drama for season two so it is an easy place to step in.

Jane the Virgin airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on The CW.

comments powered by Disqus