8:00am PT by Danielle Turchiano
'Jane the Virgin' EP Talks Midseason Finale Payoffs, Post-Baby Plan for Jane
As a genre, telenovelas are larger than life and move their stories along very quickly, so it is only fitting that a comedic play on the genre, like The CW's Jane the Virgin, would be fast-paced and full of twists as well.
Created by Jennie Snyder Urman, Jane the Virgin started when a young virgin was accidentally artificially inseminated, setting off a chain reaction of events tying together two very different and distinct families. Through its first eight episodes — a third of the overall season — relationships have dissolved, started anew and dissolved again (and again); characters have embarked on new career paths; a lawsuit was filed and resolved; and a seemingly "simple" murder-mystery has been revealed to include drugs, false identities and international affairs.
It's an ambitious series that demands Urman, whose credits include The CW's Emily Owens, M.D., and 90210, to perform a regular juggling act to keep stories moving and executives (and talent) happy. The Hollywood Reporter caught up with the busy showrunner to discuss the scope of the show so far, using Jane's pregnancy as more of a plot point and what to expect from Monday's midseason finale.
Jane the Virgin's first season order was originally 13 episodes, and you were planning to get to a certain point by that mark. How did your plan for the season change when you were given the back nine?
The plan didn't change because we knew where we would end episode 13, and we knew where we would end episode 22 if we got that. We got the pickup rather early; we were on the second or third episode, so I didn't have to do too much adjusting, but if we were going to end the show at 13, I wouldn't have ended with the one huge surprise that we have happening that is really the thing that launches the back nine. We had plotted really tightly and had taken two weeks before we had gotten into anything else to set up the specifics of the plot because there are so many twists and turns in each story. We did that in order to set it up so we had time to really mine the emotional material. So the plot pretty much follows what we pitched to the studio and network at the beginning of the season.
The story lines do move so quickly, and you introduce new big moments and twists in every episode rather than waiting for a midseason finale, as many other series have been known to do. How does your approach to crafting those benchmark episodes change?
You definitely want to make sure you have big things that you're leading off on, and you definitely take a look at your air dates and make sure that you know, "OK, we have a big break here for a month, so where are we going to leave it?" We definitely do that, but I think, really from episode nine through 13, they're all kind of big and "Oh my gosh!"-ish. We really built to 13 in the beginning, and I wanted there to be payoff for the mystery. So you'll find out who Sin Rostro is by 12, and we're not going to close that off as a dramatic route for us, but we're not going to be wondering who it is [anymore]; we're going to be wondering how it will play out and how much will come after. Season one is designed to give a bunch of answers at 12, 13 and then a bunch more answers at 22. And more questions along the way, as well!
The midseason finale, "Chapter Nine," is still a few episodes away from those, though, so what can we expect in that one?
You'll learn what Petra (Yael Grobglas)'s backstory is; you'll learn who Milosh is, and then we end on both a soap twist and an emotional twist. The soap twist has really real, awful ramifications for Jane (Gina Rodriguez). It always has to come back to Jane. But it takes place in a very soapy, telenovela-esque way.
The show is a play on a telenovela, but we haven't seen much of the telenovela within the show lately. Are you bringing it back?
I love Rogelio (Jaime Camil)'s telenovela world, so we do a big story line with it that culminates in episode 12 with something shocking happening, and from there there are more complications that come. It's a big part of the show going forward. I love the character of Rogelio, and I love the way Jaime Camil plays him with so much warmth even though he's a gentle narcissist, so that's a character and a world I like to go to. It just helps our tone to have that as one of our plates in the air.
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What can we expect from the timeline within the show — how much does Jane's pregnancy begin to drive the plot around milestones like ultrasounds and birthing classes?
That's the back half of the season: all of those milestones, like the 20-week ultrasound where you find out if the baby is structurally [OK], if everything looks as it's supposed to. We start to get into Jane's fear of what her life is going to be like as a mother, and how do you become a mother — especially when she hasn't given up her dreams, because a lot of what Jane is, is dreaming and what she's going after. That's going to be a struggle. We're [also] going to hit all of those, "Oh, my God, we have to register for baby gifts, and do we get two cribs; do we get one crib?" All of those sort of practical questions, as well as the emotional questions, start to come in. We start to feel the baby kick around episode 11, and that's really when it becomes more real. Well, I can only speak for myself, but that's when it became more real that I was having kids! Before that, it's just like you're going through your life, and I didn't have morning sickness, but for some that's the connection to it, that's the first beginning. But then all of a sudden the baby's kicking, and it's like, "There's a baby in there! We've got to get moving!" And so Jane will have a moment like that as well, and it will motivate her in different directions for the back half.
Should we expect the baby by the end of the season?
Yes, by 22! We take some leaps; we take some jumps; there will be a few episodes that come back two weeks later, three weeks later [so] we move time along. But I do want the baby delivered at the end of 22, because there's a big moment there that would launch the second season. A lot of people ask, "What happens when she has the baby? How does the show continue?" Which to me is kind of crazy because it's sort of saying that once you have a baby you're not an interesting woman anymore — you're not still sexual, and you're not still conflicted, and to me, once she has the baby, we get a whole host of new problems. It's not that Jane is going to have a baby strapped to her in every moment in her life; she's going to have to find the balance. What does her life look like as a young woman — a young mother? She's only 23, and I think there's a lot to tell depending on where she is with Rafael (Justin Baldoni). There are so many questions that come once the baby is actually there. I'm excited [because] to me that would bring in a fresh energy for a second season.
Jane made a pretty drastic decision in her personal life when she broke up with Michael (Brett Dier) in order to see her feelings for Rafael through. Did you ever second-guess the timing of that decision?
I did second-guess a little bit, but I felt like we were going in with a really strong connection that Jane was feeling for Rafael, and I just started to get tired of the idea as a storyteller of continuing to play those same beats. You know, her being with Michael but feeling something for Rafael, it's not authentic to who Jane is as a person. She's been really honest about her emotional life, and I think she would have been really bothered and thrown. She got accidentally artificially inseminated, and when I have to go back in my mind to remember why things are so drastic, this is a girl whose life was going one way and now she's pregnant, and things couldn't be more opposite. That shakes you up, and that makes you do drastic things.
I think for Jane, in a lot of ways, she almost goes through her teenage rebellion late in life. Things were so carefully planned, and then this thing happens that threw all of her plans into flux, and it was like, "Well, what was the point of all of that planning?" I think it's an earthquake in her life, and it shakes all of her foundation, and she felt this really strong connection to Rafael, and we made sure Michael had all of this bad behavior from Jane's point of view that would sort of justify [her decision]. From Michael's point of view, it was an awful thing that happened in his life, too; the woman he loved got pregnant by another man! So, you can understand where everyone is coming from, and if you can understand where everyone is coming from, you can feel the extra pressure of "Well, in six months I'm going to have a baby, and this is my last moment to explore me." That's how I got underneath that plot point for Jane.
Should we be comfortable with Jane exploring a relationship with Rafael now, or is another shake-up coming?
I think you should be comfortable with the fact that she's going to explore it, without necessarily knowing what the outcome is going to be. These are two people who have done everything backward. We have a scene in "Chapter Nine" where they're at a sonogram appointment, and Jane is hoping the baby's healthy, and she's praying, and Rafael goes, "You're Catholic, right?" And the sonogram person is like, "Don't you talk about this before you get into a sonogram?!" These are people who don't know these most basic things about each other, and they are going to come up within the relationship.
[But] you can never count Michael and history and all of that out, as well. I try to go really far down a path with one person and then try to understand the other pole as well. I know that we're leaning really hard toward Rafael [right now, but my approach is,] "How can I complicate that without going against his character — without him making a terrible mistake? How can we just make the actual decisions more complicated and with more back and forth?"
The show has not shied away from acknowledging Jane's continued devotion to her virginity. Do you feel the title has to remain literal for the long haul?
I don't want to do too many stories of why Jane is a virgin, [but] I think she is going to wait until she gets married. That hasn't been tested [yet], but it's the plan as of now. And when she loses her virginity, we have a very interactive style of typing on-screen and stuff like that, so I think we'll just put a line through "virgin" in the title. It goes with our style of changing the typing as we go, so that would be the new title. It would be Jane the
Speaking of style, the voiceover narration on Jane the Virgin is as unique as the onscreen text. Is that narrator someone in the world we will actually meet soon?
You know, I know who the narrator is, I just can't say really much more than that. I'll give it a "maybe." The narrator does have a connection to the narrative; the narrator is specific, and he is a person, and as we go on, we do experiment more and more with his point of view, and there is a link, but I'm not ready to get into it yet.
Jane the Virgin airs on Mondays at 9 p.m. on The CW.
What are you looking forward to seeing? Hit the comments below with your thoughts.