When considering primetime’s fresh new talent, no one’s having a better season than Jane the Virgin’s Gina Rodriguez. Whether it’s in film or television, the actress effortlessly plays with comedy at her own expense. In her new TV series she plays the title character—an intelligent woman, balancing the awkwardly lovable flubs any inexperienced person might go through. While the premise of a virgin getting accidentally inseminated by her gynecologist may have turned people away at first, critical praises over Rodriguez’s quirky yet relatable protagonist has quickly gained momentum with fans. Simply put, it’s the CW’s best answer to the next generation’s Ugly Betty.
This isn’t the first indication that Rodriguez could charm her way into our hearts. Before she took on the role of Jane, she played Alexis Fish, a 31 year-old widow whose life is falling apart in Los Angeles after she unexpectedly loses her husband (and her mind). She’s stuck drowning in dead-end jobs, when a funeral brings her back to New York where her family resides. Returning to the close quarters of her old surroundings, Alexis is forced to deal with more than just keeping her head above water.
Gina Rodriguez spoke to Paste about Jane the Virgin and Nicole Gomez Fisher’s Sleeping with the Fishes.
Paste Magazine: Going into a project you always hope that it resonates with people. Are you surprised that audiences are taking so strongly to Jane the Virgin?
Gina Rodriguez: I absolutely love this project. From the brilliant mind of my creator Jennie Urman, to the crew who steer the production everyday—I believe in our project, and it does not surprise me that the public can feel our hearts. We pour love into Jane everyday, and I truly believe the viewers can feel it. Does it feel like the best blessing in the world? Absolutely!
Paste: The show itself has a serious underdog quality to it that people are falling in love with. What first hooked you on the idea of playing Jane?
Rodriguez: The script. Jennie has written—and has an incredible staff of writers who continue to write—episodes that get better and better. They are brilliant, and I am the luckiest girl to get to play Jane.
Paste: The series has all the makings of a telenovela, but also touches on themes of family and love. Despite all this, the show pulls tone off effortlessly—why do you think that’s the case?
Rodriguez: Again, I don’t want to sound like a broken record but Jennie and Brad Silberling have created this tone from the beginning. Then they got Lowell [Peterson], one of the best DP’s and a magician at lighting and cameras, to come in and realize this vision. And as actors we respect the writing, and do not laugh at ourselves or characters but instead respect their journey.
Paste: Is it tough to transition from film to television? I imagine the hours are very different.
Rodriguez: The hours are similar in that we work anywhere from 12-18 hours a day, but how long we shoot is very different. Well, it’s like shooting a trilogy or epic series because we are shooting for 6-8 months for one season. It’s tiring, but when you love what you do, it’s impossible to complain!
Paste: You seem to be very comfortable with comedy, sometimes at your own expense. Is that something that comes naturally, or was there a learning curve?
Rodriguez: I’ve always been comfortable with being put into situations that others may find humiliating. Hey, if you can’t laugh at yourself, it’s hard to let others do it.
Paste: Your character in Sleeping with the Fishes is having the worst year. Is that something that drew you to the script?
Rodriguez: During the time of Sleeping with the Fishes I had just had my heart broken. I had a tendency to play badass chicks prior to this film and thought, “If there is any time to be vulnerable, life just told you it’s right now.” I found Fishes to be therapeutic, and it was an opportunity for me to play a girl I was uncomfortable with—as I was very uncomfortable myself. It gave me an opportunity to relate to women in a time in my life where I needed to be related to, I needed to not be alone.
Paste: Alexis’ family tries to meddle with her life, out of love for her, which is a very common trait in Latin and European families. Could you relate to that?
Rodriguez: [laughs] Actually, my family stays out of that portion of my life. I’m the youngest of three girls, so by the time the family got to me. they were spent!
Paste: There’s a vast difference in the Latin culture in terms of old school and the assimilation of second generation Latin-Americans, which is touched on in a beautiful scene between you and Priscilla Lopez. Was that a challenging scene?
Rodriguez: Truthfully, working with Priscilla was a blessing, and I learned so much from that super-talented woman that it wasn’t too difficult. It also hit so close to home for me, as my parents went through very similar situations. So it was nice to play such an authentically-written scene.
Paste: Was there another scene that was especially memorable to film?
Rodriguez: Fishes is so different, it’s such a breath of fresh air in its depiction of mixed cultures that I enjoyed all of it! But if I had to choose, I would say the club scene with Ana Ortiz. Or better yet, any scene with Ana Ortiz!
Sleeping with the Fishes is out on DVD now. Jane the Virgin airs on Mondays at 9 PM on the CW.