For the past five months, there’s been one big burning question on the minds of every single Jane the Virgin viewer: Is Michael dead? After a long hiatus, that question will finally be answered The CW comedy returns Monday for its third season.
Seeing as this is Jane the Virgin known for its telenovela-esque plot twists and turns, however, Michael’s fate is far from the only pressing matter at stake. There’s also Xo (Andrea Navedo) learning she was pregnant with Esteban’s baby after breaking up with Rogelio (Jaime Camil) because she didn’t want children. Then there’s Rafael (Justin Baldoni) deciding not to tell Jane (Gina Rodriguez) that he still had feelings for her and then sleeping with Petra (Yael Grobglas), or at least who he thought was Petra. Which brings us to the final big twist, Petra’s long-lost twin sister Anezka rendering Petra paralyzed but conscious and then switching places with her more polished sibling.
Suffice it to say, there’s a lot of ground to cover. The Hollywood Reporter spoke with showrunner Jennie Snyder Urman about the Michael cliffhanger, the difficulty of balancing all those plot threads and the challenges she faces in season three.
What can you say about the Michael cliffhanger? Where does the premiere pick up and what can you say about that first episode back?
It’s a direct pickup. Jane finds Michael moments after he’s shot, and then the journey and drama of the first episode is whether he will live or die. That is juxtaposed with a story about Jane and Michael at the beginning of their relationship that audiences didn’t know about. So we kind of juxtapose the past and the present stories so that the episode can have the emotional heaviness for what’s happening to Jane in the present but we still can get lighter moments by going to a story in the past and. Hopefully, you’ll see how the past impacts the present. … There’s a real extended flashback in this where we are learning about her and Michael’s relationship at the beginning so that gives her an opportunity to play out different things.
What is Jane’s headspace in the first episode? How does Michael’s shooting impact her?
In the present, her headspace is just panicked, filled with real terror and wondering if Michael is going to live or die.
How much time does the first episode span over? A day or longer than a day?
It’s around a day. It’s coming into the end of that night.
There are a lot of big plot threads that were left up in the air at the end of last season, particularly in regards to Petra as well as Xo. How do you juggle, or not juggle, those various cliffhangers when you have to deal with such a big one, the fate of a character, in the first episode? How did you figure out how much weight to give these other stories?
That was the biggest challenge I would say of the first episode and the thing we thought about the most in the room. Having to be faithful to the events that are happening and how people react in ways that they would react and be honest and truthful about that, but at the same time, know that our show is a comedy. Even though it can go heavier at times, I did want to inject a little bit of lightness. When people are in the hospital, there’s nothing you can do to that sense of waiting and futility.
Rogelio wanting to do something for his daughter and his best friend Michael leads him into a situation that gives us a little bit of levity in the mixt of all of the heaviness. There’s certainly time for Xo’s story in the premiere, but everything in the present is centered on what’s going on with Michael. We balance it, I think, with this really robust past story. I think, I hope over able to balance the heaviness of what’s happening in the present with real weight but still keep the tone of the show intact.
The person who shot Michael was none other than Rose (Bridget Regan), who was presumed dead. How does her return impact the show? What is her intention going forward?
She’s not gotten everything she wants. She’s gotten the money she was after, so really what she’s wanted was Luisa, who has now fallen in love with her twice. So Rose really believes they’re meant to be together and loves her and is going to be promising her that she won’t give up if they can maybe possibly be together. So you’re going to see Louisa struggle with that decision. I’m interested in seeing if we can, in our quirky way, turn this villain into a love story. It’s a good challenge to have, where people will be simultaneously rooting for this couple even though they know all the things that Rose has done and how awful they were so that’s something that we’re trying to deliver.
It must be interesting too, because this past season there was a lot of talk about Bury Your Gays trope and Rose’s death was lumped into that discussion. It must have been difficult to know she was eventually coming back.
It was hard for me during it because we always knew that she was Susanna the whole time but you can’t say that. (Laughs.) I think Rose and Louisa have this really… everything in our show is blown-up and big and has fun, crazier stakes… so we had these two characters: Louisa is the catalyst for all the telenovela drama in the show and then Rose who’s been on the other side, causing all of the other drama and yet they love each other and they’ve always had this really crazy, magnetic, can’t-stay-away-from-each-other vibe. I’ve been really excited to get into a little bit more of — we couldn’t do it last year because she was somebody else – to get into a little bit more of their personal story. I also just love Bridget and Yara [Martinez] so much and I love them together so much. I think they bring this really bizarre, other strand of humor that we can mine from, so that was part of the calculus of keeping Rose around. I want to be able to play with Bridget and Yara as well. They have so much chemistry and they have so much kookiness to their relationship. (Laughs.)
Another big part of the drama at the end of season two, was Petra and her long-lost identical twin. What can you say about that storyline?
Again, we’re going to pick up very soon after. So we’ll find out, as you go through, that Petra is at the same hospital that Michael has been brought to so there’s a sense that everybody is around but nobody knows that it is Petra in the bed. So a lot of the drama and her storyline is that Anezca has to keep giving her these shots to keep her paralyzed and now the hotel is of course crawling with police because Michael was shot so you’re sort of watching and waiting, hoping that Petra will wake up. … Anezca has a very specific agenda and she’s worried of screwing it up because of all of the events at the Marbella but she’s focused on that agenda.
It was clear in the finale that Rafael still had feelings for Jane but he reunited with who he thought was Petra. What are the obstacles coming up for?
He has a great storyline that I’m really excited about. Of course, we first have to play out the Anezca-Petra storyline. Anezca had a huge crush on Rafael so they’re sleeping together meant certain things to her. in the first episode, he’s obviously most concerned with is Michael OK and how can he help. Beyond that, there is this new relationship that he has to deal with.
He makes some pretty specific choices at the end of the first episode. This is a great year for Rafael because he watched Jane walk down the aisle and marry someone else and there is a real shift there. In terms of, he had these feelings, he chose not to say it, but is it time to move on? There’s been enough time.
I’m excited to get back into it and see how that affects their relationship – the negotiating, the co-parenting. He was in love with her and just wanted to make her happy and was pretty obliged to say yes all the time and now, he’s going to try to come out of that and that’s going to make all their interactions richer and more equal and deeper and allow for new dynamics in their relationship and also makes certain things more difficult and we’ll be playing that out; Rafael definitely has some big romantic moves this year.
It’s been awhile since he had a proper romance on the show…
Three kids, not a lot of sex — he needs it. (Laughs.)
There’s also the Xo news about her learning she’s pregnant after being clear all season that she doesn’t want kids. What can you say about her struggle with that news this season?
She doesn’t want a baby; she’s been very clear about that. It broke her up with Rogelio who’s the love of her life so that is not going to change overnight. She has very specifics feelings about the pregnancy, she’s going to make decisions and those decisions will then definitely complicate her relationship with people in her family.
Jane the Virgin airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on The CW.