7:00pm PT by Kate Stanhope
'Jane the Virgin' Star Discusses Petra's Shocking Discovery, Newfound Independence
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Monday's episode of Jane the Virgin, "Chapter Forty."]
Double trouble or double the fun? After the most recent episode of Jane the Virgin tricked viewers into thinking Petra (Yael Grobglas) had run away from motherhood and the Marbella for greener — or should we say more brunette? — pastures, the true owner behind the suitcase and the brown hair was revealed in the shocking final moments. It was not Petra at all, but her long-lost sister, Anezka.
Separated at birth when their mother stuck Anezka in an orphanage, Anezka traveled to America after seeing Petra's picture in a magazine. Although the two share genes and nearly identical facial features, that's where the similarities end. While Petra is cold, guarded and polished, her heavily accented sister is wide-eyed, warm-hearted and rough around the edges.
"It's really a dream come true because who gets to play two different characters in the same show? It's a chance to do something so completely different and show different things that I enjoy doing that maybe wouldn't come out as Petra," Grobglas tells The Hollywood Reporter. "There was a lot of physical comedy, which I love, so for me, it's been an absolute blast."
The moments of humor come after a dark few months for Petra, who has been struggling with postpartum depression after giving birth to twins, and has also had to deal with cutting her mother — once her closest confidante — out of her life for good.
The Hollywood Reporter spoke with Grobglas about the surprising inspiration for Anezka, her newfound appreciation for Orphan Black and Petra's "shaky" new friendship with Jane (Gina Rodriguez).
So how long have you known about Petra's secret twin sister? What was your first reaction hearing about this long-lost sister?
I actually found out when I was reading the script of the episode that just aired. The one where Petra's running away, I was like, 'Wait a minute, why is Petra running away? What do you mean she's running away? Do you think that they kill me off the show or send me away and not tell me about it?' And then at the end of the episode, it's the long-lost sister. At first, it was a sigh of relief and then I was like, 'Wait a minute — what?!' (Laughs.) And then I went into this whole process of developing this other character and it was incredible.
Take us through that process. How did you find the tone and the rhythm of this other character who is so different from Petra?
The writing is already giving her this different way of speaking so that helps a lot. …. It was important for me to make her very different from Petra, obviously, almost the polar opposite, so that's part of it. And just playing around with it and finding what works and having fun. Her voice is different and her body language is different. She's actually — a little secret — she's based on a few of my cats. (Laughs.) That's what I drew inspiration from: different character traits form different cats I've had.
How difficult was it to jump into this character and adopt this different body language when you were on set?
Well, I think the main thing was for all of us to figure out how to do two characters in the same scene. So I'm working with doubles who are playing both Petra and Anezka to figure out how to act with myself without actually reacting to someone who is acting with me. You have to plan a lot more in advance exactly what you're going to do. Especially for those moments like when they're hugging, you have to figure out your body language and how one of them hugs and how the other one hugs and then you have to teach it to your double of how to play both. It's fascinating. It's this whole process that you don't even think about until you have to do it. It really makes me admire people like the people who are doing Orphan Black, there's so much work going into that. … For example, in the episode, actually a week passed before we filmed the Anezka part of all those scenes. First we filmed all the series of scenes where Anezka's telling her story, we did the Petra side of that, and then eight days later, we filmed the Anezka side of it. You really have to remember exactly what you did and what you're reacting to.
Was it then harder to step back into Petra after you spent all these days filming the Anezka side of it?
It's written so well that it makes me job so easy to go between the two of them. Each one of them is written so incredibly differently because of our brilliant writers. Going between the two has been made easy for me, thankfully. This couldn't be more fun.
There was a similar storyline early on with Zazo and his secret twin brother. Did you have concerns that this was coming too soon after that surprise twin reveal?
No. What I think is great about our show is that anything is possible and it can go there and it goes there. Everything's open, everything's possible, I think that's what's so great about having an ode to a telenovela genre where you can really go as far as your imagination can take you, so it makes perfect sense to me. Also, what I love about it so much is Petra's reaction to Anezka's showing up because Petra is kind of a straight guy in a way because she doesn't think things are funny. She takes things very seriously. All these crazy things are happening around her all the time; she doesn’t think it's funny. The audience may think its funny but she takes it very, very seriously so her twin showing up; she doesn't think it's funny. Her reaction when her twin hugs her is she's just in shock. She needs to figure out how to handle this now. That's what I love about it. Yes, crazy things happen but the characters are actually very realistic and very grounded and try to deal with it like normal people would deal with it.
How will Petra deal with this going forward? This is a huge thing to learn. What is the next step?
It will be interesting to see because it could go a few ways for her. Either she finally has a friend or she could get on her nerves. I don’t know. It could go quite a few ways. We'll see. I think its nice for her to have somebody in her life that is not her mother because, basically poor Petra has had these series of unfortunate relationships and they never worked out, and the only other stable person she had in her life was her mother and I wouldn't exactly call her stable.
Anezka has a totally different background and a different outlook on her life. How do you think she may influence or change Petra?
It will definitely have a big impact on her one way or another. We'll see where it takes her.
In another very telenovela-like twist, Anezka seems to be developing feelings for Rafael. How will that complicate things going forward?
Like the narrator says, "It does promise to be awkward." (Laughs.) I don’t actually know where it goes yet so we'll see.
It's been an interesting year for Petra and Rafael with the birth of their twins and his breakup with Jane. Where do you think they stand now and what do you think her feelings are for him at this moment?
She's always going to have a soft spot for him. He's the first guy that she ever really fell in love with, whether her mother was approving of that or not. What I like about their relationship is its obviously extremely complicated, but they've managed throughout the years to kind of develop a mutual respect for each other, especially when it came to everything having to do with the hotel and their business. I think Petra has found herself to be very business savvy and has gained a lot of respect for herself especially, as you saw a few episodes ago, when she turned Rafael down actually, which I thought was an amazing move for Petra to make because she decided she's not the second choice. I love her for that. Go Petra! It's about time. I think that they respect each other on a business level. Now they're raising children together, so that's going to be a whole new chapter in their relationship.
You bring up a good point about her knack for business. Why do you think it was important to show that side of her and have her get involved at the Marbella?
It’s a way of developing the character and that's what Jennie is brilliant at. As you can see all the characters have grown up so much since season one, and I think Petra is growing and finding new things that she's good at and developing more self-respect and maybe coming to realize that she's actually brilliant at certain things. I think the hotel is something solid in her life that she can finally hold onto and that she doesn’t need anybody for. She can do it herself, and I think she's quite proud of herself for succeeding in that.
Especially with everything that's gone on with her mother this year, because for a long time, her mother seemed to be one of the few reliable people in her life and obviously now that's gone.
She was the only one, but that proved to be wrong, yeah. (Laughs.)
How do you think its impacted her losing that person in her life?
I honestly think that losing her mother had a huge effect on Petra, more than we even saw. Her mother was the only thing she had from the beginning. Her mother was the only one who knew her before coming to the States and coming to Miami and, as you can see with some of the flashbacks, they have a long history of trying to work together and building a better future for themselves. She was always sure that her mother might be a little loopy but always had her back. The bottom line, she was always still doing what she thought was best for Petra until she tried to turn Petra in and I think that really was a gut-punch for Petra. That was really the point where she was like, "Oh, my God, she actually is looking out only for herself and not for me." Petra decided that she has to start looking out for herself. And she did.
Petra has also been dealing with postpartum depression, which has been a very poignant storyline. Why do you think that was an important story to tell?
I think its brilliant that they wrote that in because its more common than most people think, and its another side of motherhood. … I love how Petra's pregnancy and then experiences of motherhood are so very different from Jane's. It's not telling you what you should or shouldn’t do. Its just showing somebody's story.
You bring up the differences between Jane and Petra in motherhood, but Petra has also really leaned on Jane as she has been going through everything. Why do you think they've been able to make a friendship work in spite of their past obstacles?
I really love the relationship between Petra and Jane because I think it's a very interesting one. It's not a relationship where they just loved each other off the bat and they were friends and that's it. It's a very, very shaky relationship. I think from the start, Petra had a lot of respect for Jane, and that's something that never wavered. There might be competitiveness or she might be furious at Jane from the start for getting impregnated with her husband's sperm, and everything that happened. In her book, she thinks that Jane kind of stole Rafael from her, but I think there was always a lot of respect. She knows Jane is a strong, smart girl and respects her, and she kind of likes her in spite of herself. You can see that even when she's angry at Jane and everything that happens between them, she knows that Jane is a trustworthy person and she can't help but like that.
An episode that really made me cry was an episode that you can see Petra really trying to be friends with Jane. She had decided that she was going to be friends with her and that fell through because of her mother, obviously, and that really broke my heart. But I love this relationship because it’s a complicated one, and I always think that’s so much more interesting.
How do you think Jane has influenced Petra?
The moment that we were speaking about earlier, about Petra deciding she's not a second choice, has a lot to do with her friendship with Jane. That self-respect and just seeing how Jane lives and how Jane treats people has a big effect on Petra, whether she admits it to herself or not.
Why was it important to pair her with different characters in season two? We didn’t see that as much in season one.
Let's not forget that a big part here is that they're technically now family. So they are more in the same circle now than they used to. So I'm looking forward to seeing more of that.
That's going to make for an interesting Christmas card next season.
Oh, my God, I did not think about that. That would be brilliant. (Laughs.)
Jane the Virgin airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on The CW.