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The first time Jane the Virgin star Gina Rodriguez and creator Jennie Snyder Urman spoke to reporters at the Television Critics Association press tour in 2014, Rodriguez stunned critics by speaking about how important her role on Jane the Virgin was in terms of onscreen representation.
On Thursday, at the duo’s final TCA panel, they both teared up talking about the things they’ve learned on the critically acclaimed, award-winning series.
Urman told reporters she’d truly learned “how much representation matters, what it feels like to be seen, because that’s something I did not understand in my body until this show.”
Rodriguez, though, realized her role in Hollywood has changed. While she’s hoping to continue acting, she also wants to produce and direct so that she can do more than just provide a role model for young women who haven’t really seen themselves onscreen before — she can provide jobs and creative outlets for them.
“I used to believe that seeing myself onscreen was going to help so many young girls feel seen and visible and heard and capable, and I do believe that happened. I do believe that Jane helped me accomplish that part of me that didn’t see that community reflected onscreen in a positive light,” she said.
“But what I realized is my reflection of me wasn’t really where the power lies, and I needed to shift my energy and learn about the spaces in which I could really create change, the kind of change that I think does make a young child feel capable and worthy and valued, and I’ve been able to see where I can use my creativity, that which I feel like I was given in other spaces: directing, producing, and really hopefully doing for someone else what Jennie did for me. That’s what I’ve learned the most, is how to make that possible, how to create change in a positive way and how to create opportunity. Jennie taught me how to create opportunity.”
The pair’s extremely close relationship is not typical for a showrunner and lead actor, but both Urman and Rodriguez said they didn’t think the show could continue without each other.
“She’s just helped me see the world in different ways, and really also I always want to write something that’s worthy of her. She can do anything. You couldn’t write a seven-minute monologue for [just] anyone,” Urman said.
“You changed my life,” Rodriguez told her boss, and teared up as she said, “Jennie’s my sister, my role model, my muse. She makes me want to try harder and be better as an actor.”
The final season of Jane the Virgin will bring a close to the love triangle between the titular character, now a widowed mother of a preschooler in a serious relationship with her son’s father by artificial insemination — and whose husband returned from the dead in the season four finale (a twist worthy of the show’s telenovela roots).
Each season focused on one aspect of the triangle in an attempt to prove each man was worthy of the show’s heroine, and the final season will hopefully bring closure to the story.
“The theme this year is coming full circle, so I want to revisit some moments … that feel similar in some ways and mirror where we started, but show how these characters have grown and changed,” Urman said.
She later added, “I want the real sense of closure at the end. … Our philosophy in the writer’s room is how can we have our cake and eat it too. … I’m really trying to push that into our last season where we can have it all and really have these big family moments. I want to say goodbye in the right way. I want to stick the landing, and that’s a lot of pressure.”
The season premiere, directed by Rodriguez, features a seven-page monologue that the star had already memorized in full when she showed up to the first table read.
“It was a phenomenal challenge, especially because we wanted to do it in [one long shot]. First it was about attacking it technically,” Rodriguez said. Memorization clearly wasn’t an issue; instead, “It was figuring out the choreography, figuring out the beats, making sure that I hit all the beats Jennie wanted me to hit.”
The series itself presents unique challenges outside of massive monologues.
“It opened up a space of creativity I had been holding onto and I was able to unleash,” Rodriguez said. “We do 70 pages in seven days. We do visual effects and split screens and magical realism and dance sequences. … It’s a lot of hard work, but so worthy.”
Urman and Rodriguez could team up again in the 2019-20 season — the network is currently producing a pilot for a spinoff series, in which Rodriguez would play the narrator.
“The spinoff is a different conceit because they’re Jane’s novels that she’ll write in the future,” Urman explained. And while Rodriguez will not try to fill the shoes of Jane’s award-winning narrator, Anthony Mendez, she will be asking him for pointers.
No other existing characters would appear in the spinoff — at first, Urman said. “It’s imagined as an anthology, because telenovelas are close-ended,” she explained. She wants to establish the new characters before she revisits the old. “Then we can see what comes.”
Jane the Virgin returns to The CW on Wednesday, March 27.
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