Gina Rodriguez, the star of the CW's new comedy, talks to TIME about the telenovela-inspired show
The new CW comedy Jane the Virgin, premiering tonight, has one of the most over-the-top premises on television right now. In the show, a religious 23-year-old named Jane is accidentally artificially inseminated when a frazzled doctor mistakes her for a fertility patient. Complicating the situation are the reactions from Jane’s grandmother (a conservative Catholic horrified by the news), her boyfriend (who’s eager to get married) and the accidental donor (who has a surprising history with Jane).
In the latest issue of TIME, Jane the Virgin‘s breakout star Gina Rodriguez told us all about her character and what viewers can expect from the show. Here are a few things to know before you tune in.
Rodriguez only takes roles she feels portray Latina women in a positive light.
The actress says Jane the Virgin was love at first script. “To read a story about a young girl where her ethnicity wasn’t at the forefront, where her dual identity was so integrated in life that it didn’t feel like a separate conversation, was such a breath of fresh air,” Rodriguez says. The Chicago-born daughter of Puerto Rican parents says she has turned down high-profile roles when she needed the money because she thought the characters were too stereotypical. “I have fought so hard to not take roles,” Rodriguez says. “I had to fight [myself] like, ‘Gina, you can’t pay rent. Are you really going to say no?'”
Rodriguez made an instant impression on producers
Executive producer Jennie Snyder Urman says “there was just nothing to change” about Rodriguez’s audition for the show. “You expect it to be a really long search, and to see someone come in, literally the third person [to audition], it was amazing,” says Urman, who remembers rushing home to tell her husband about Rodriguez’s talent. “She’s 100% genuine and 100% fun. Sometimes I feel like I’m hanging out with one of my college friends.”
Jane the Virgin features an international cast
“The integration of having stars from other countries here is really cool,” Rodriguez says. Jane’s father, for example, is played by Mexican actor Jaime Camil. Colombian crooner Juanes and Mexican pop star Paulina Rubio are both set to guest star. And Rodriguez is hoping the show can also snag Daniela Alvarado, the lead actress from Juana la Virgen, the Venezuelan telenovela upon which Jane the Virgin is loosely based. “We got in touch with each other very early on,” Rodriguez says. “I love her. She’s fantastic. She promotes our show and loves us, and we’re obviously praying that we have some awesome crossover where she’ll join our show for a few episodes.”
The show is in capable hands
As a former Gilmore Girls writer, Urman knows a thing or two about crafting great multigenerational families for the small screen. And fellow executive producer Ben Silverman knows a thing or two about adapting foreign TV shows from his work on Ugly Betty (also based on a telenovela) and The Office. “[Silverman] saw the title and was like, ‘I want that one,'” Rodriguez says. “He literally picked it off of the title.” When Urman was approached, she was a little more hesitant. “I got the logline and was like, ‘Whoa, I can’t do this. What?‘” she says. “It just seemed so outrageous.”
The show strives to be universal
Rodriguez hates it when people call Jane the Virgin “a Latino show.” “It’s mind-blowing to me,” she says. “Why, because I’m brown-skinned? It’s not a Latino show — it’s a human show! We talk about love, we talk about sex, we talk about dreams, we talk about failure, we talk about life. There’s nothing about that that’s different from any other ethnicity.” And though it has some sensitive subject matter, Rodriguez hopes interested viewers with strong beliefs about sex and virginity aren’t turned off by the show’s frank discussions. “There is no commentary on right and wrong,” she says. “[We’re] not saying we’re pro-life, we’re pro-choice, those who are not pro-life are going to hell, nobody’s commenting on anything.”