I had such a great interview with Jane the Virgin star Gina Rodriguez that she gave me a high five [I’ll indicate where in the interview the high five came]. She spoke on a Jane the Virgin panel for the Television Critics Association this summer about turning down Devious Maids after her Sundance hit movie Filly Brown, and representing more diverse types of beauty on screen. After the panel, I met up with Rodriguez in the lobby bar for a private conversation and we hit it of famously.
Rodriguez plays Jane, a traditional girl saving herself for marriage. A mixup at a doctor’s appointment leaves her impregnated with Raphael (Justin Baldoni)’s baby. Hey, it’s based on a telenovela. It turns out Jane has had a crush on Raphael all along and this is actually the first chance they’ve had to properly meet. Jane the Virgin premieres Monday, October 13, 2014 at 9pm ET/PT on The CW.
Showbiz Junkies: After the whirlwind of Sundance, did Jane the Virgin come immediately or was it starting over, going on auditions?
Gina Rodriguez: “I had an ABC holding deal after that. ABC financially changed my life. Thank you, ABC. We love you. Then the year after that, I booked Wild Blue with Fox. Fox helped pay my existence. Thank you, Fox. We love all the networks. At least, I personally do. Then I booked Jane so I waited patiently for Jane because I didn’t want to just — Filly Brown, I had so much love and so much heat and so many interviews and so much of me telling the way my heart is about what I want to do for Latinos and how I want to change perception for girls and change social norms for beauty, that I couldn’t go and just eat all my crap by taking [any part]. I was raising maybe too much pride, but I wanted to make sure at the end of the day that my integrity was intact. The only person that was going to make sure that happened was me. I got offered other hip hop movies but I had done Filly Brown. It was done and it did well and it was a success for what it was. I didn’t need to just bank on that. I knew I wanted to fly, so it wasn’t rejection of any other hip hop films. It was, ‘All right, we handled that, I get it. I’m not going to play a hip hop artist my whole life.’ Then I was back to the game. It was back to the auditions. So many people were like, ‘You’re the it girl. You’re going to be Jennifer Lawrence.’ I was like, ‘Wouldn’t that have been nice?'”
Did they offer you Step Up 5?
Gina Rodriguez: “Oh my God, they should have. I’m a dancer. Why didn’t you offer me Step Up 5?”
Would you have done that one?
Gina Rodriguez: “I think that would’ve been fun.”
When you see a story as wild and crazy as Jane the Virgin, was it important that it have the heart that it does?
Gina Rodriguez: “Yeah, it was vital that it did. That was actually what jumped off the page immediately. This girl’s amazing. This family’s amazing. These characters are so well thought out. This writing is so damn good. Let’s live in this world and let’s make it as grounded and real as possible.”
When you imagine that Jane and Raphael are in such different worlds, is this traumatic circumstance almost a blessing that it brings them together?
Gina Rodriguez: “I mean, I think that it’s going to end up being that. I think it’s going to end up being a blessing. I don’t know what the writing is because they haven’t told me but in my eyes, I look at the two love interests that are in the pilot. Jane is studying to be a teacher but Jane has dreams of being a writer. You see that little scene with her and Justin [Baldoni] and she’s like, ‘A writer. Oh my God, I’ve never said that out loud. I’m sorry.’
I think she sees the men like that. Brett [Dier] is her teacher, playing Michael, is her teacher. He is her straight path, that scheduled plan of life. And then Raphael, Justin Baldoni, ends up being that dream. That dream of being a writer. What if? What if I was strong enough? What if I thought I was pretty enough for him? I’m not his type. I think that’s the same kind of thing she has with being a writer. There’s no way that can happen. That’s not real. But I think you slowly start to see her dreams come into reality, and you see her fight, maybe start heading towards that way. Again, I’m not the writer, but in the pilot I really see the two men like that: The dream of being a writer and the teacher. The scheduled plan and the whimsical nature.”
You talk about social norms of beauty, but I hope men don’t think they’re some sort of media hero for thinking you’re pretty because I mean, come on. Look at you. You’re still in the top 1% of attractiveness.
Gina Rodriguez: “Oh, you’re very, very kind. That’s very kind. I’ve embraced not being afraid of my beauty. I think we’re all beautiful but I think growing up, I was definitely a little funny looking growing up. My mom says that all the time. ‘You really grew into yourself, Gina.’ I’m like, ‘Thanks, Mom.’ I definitely had this image of what I thought a Latina was supposed to look like: Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz. I mean, it’d be great if I woke up one morning and I just had the breasts of Salma Hayek and the curves of Jennifer Lopez, but I just felt like it was an image I didn’t think I was going to be able to attain. I didn’t think I was going to be able to attain that. I didn’t think that was going to be me. What ended up happening was I started to really fight for my talent. I started to really push the strengths that I had because you think that that was a natural strength I had and I rejected it. I was like, ‘Well, that doesn’t matter because I can be talented and I can be strong and I can be intelligent,’ and stuff like that.
I think it happened a few years ago, maybe right after Filly Brown where I play a tough chick that’s always wearing sweaters and no makeup and all this stuff where I felt very comfortable in that world. And I started getting dressed for red carpets and I said, ‘Why am I so afraid of looking at myself and saying I’m beautiful? What is it that’s been telling me every day of my life that I’m not? How can I make sure other girls don’t feel that way?'”
I certainly understand if you go to auditions and certain boxes they want to put you in. I guess my perspective is they can only sell us this if people buy it.
Gina Rodriguez: “Thank you. [High fives me] Yes, yes, because people say, ‘Oh, when the show goes you better walk outside with makeup to go get a coffee.’ I’m like, ‘I’m not going to do that.’ People need to know that this is put on. Little girls need to know that size 0 is great if you can be a size 0 and if you’re not, it’s also frickin’ great. There is beauty in embracing who you are. You’re right, if we don’t buy it… I remember being told, I didn’t book a movie and one of the producers said, ‘Oh, we love her. She’s one of our favorites, she’s one of our favorites but we can’t put her on the cover of Vanity Fair.’ And I turned around and said, ‘What the hell is that? You know how you put me on the cover of Vanity Fair? Grab a photographer. Get a backdrop and you put me on the cover of Vanity Fair. That’s what you do.’ Don’t act like there’s some kind of test I need to pass, some kind of obstacle course I can’t fight through in order to get that.”
Is that a movie that ended up getting made with somebody else?
Gina Rodriguez: “Made with somebody else and didn’t do very well, so there you go. I’m not bitter, I’m not bitter.”
But as much as I want to celebrate how beautiful I think you are, I worry that I’m also part of the problem because I should be talking about your acting and the work you do.
Gina Rodriguez: “No, listen, a woman never, never denies a man their compliments, or a woman their compliments. So compliments are amazing and I say thank you because now you’ve pepped me up and now I feel even more beautiful than I did this morning so thank you.”
You’re welcome. So now that Jane already ended up pregnant, is she maybe going to reconsider her virginity?
Gina Rodriguez: “I think so. They don’t tell me anything, Fred, because I’ve got a big mouth, clearly, and I’ll tell everybody. I just have no filter. I’m just not afraid.”
This isn’t a big spoiler show like Lost, is it?
Gina Rodriguez: “I think they’re really holding it pretty tight like Lost. We were actually just telling US Weekly that it’s kind of like Lost. They don’t tell us anything. They don’t give us any information.”
Have you started trying on pregnant tummies?
Gina Rodriguez: “No, but I played pregnant in one show before, Rizzoli & Isles, and I loved it. I loved it. I thought I looked so good. I was like, ‘Hey, I’d make a really hot pregnant woman.’ So I’m excited.”
I’ve heard that those prosthetics can smell bad though.
Gina Rodriguez: “Well, hopefully mine won’t.”
Did it on Rizzoli?
Gina Rodriguez: “No, it did not smell bad. It was a really, really expensive one. It was, like, one of the ones that weighted really well. Maybe they’ll buy me a really expensive prosthetic.”
– By Fred Topel
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