During the Jane the Virgin PaleyFest panel on Sunday, Golden Globe-winner Gina Rodriguez stepped up to answer an audience question about just how their showrunner, Jennie Snyder-Urman, depicts Latinos so accurately, despite not being one herself.
First up, Urman had this to say:
I set out to create very specific characters and create situations that were specific and the things that they wanted were specific. The more specific you get with characters, the less they become stereotypical… I thought about Jane a lot and, I’ve said this before, I have more trouble writing men than I do a 24-year-old very driven, type-A woman who wants to be a writer. And then I thought about who’s this 24-year-old virgin and from that I started to think about who were mother was and who her grandmother was. We all have friends that are multicultural. I’ve been in houses where, when they don’t want me to understand, there’s another language. It’s about writing characters and writing people, and not writing race but at the same time understanding that is one of many components that makes a character–their ethnicity, their socioeconomic standing, how religious they are, all of those things…
I remember we had our first table read and we had Gina and Andrea talking back to abuela [who was speaking in] Spanish and there’s a moment where I was like, ’Should Andrea be replying in Spanish?’ And they were like, ’Nope, this is exactly how it’s like in my family.’ That’s a big part, finding people who have the specific experience and asking them questions, and having Latinos on staff is important. And it’s just really trying to write characters and really loving your characters.
After a roaring applause from the audience, Rodriguez championed Urman, adding:
[Jennie] hit it…I felt the exact same way when I read it, this is really on point….As an actress and as a woman of color, I have been talking about this subject so much because it seems like such a algorithm, like ’How do you do it? How do we get into the Latino community? It’s different!’ And I was like, ’Oh, is it different? Is my life different? Because I don’t feel any different.’ But that’s what it is at the end of the day, it does seem like this big subject to conquer.
And I think there’s two parts to it. There’s one, you have to write human beings, and that goes for any ethnicity… We all want the same things. We all want success. We’re afraid of failure. We want people to like us…We’re all afraid of death…That’s cracking the code, right there, for any ethnicity. Write for a human being…Cast the best actor and I bet you they will explode.
Within her answer, Rodriguez then directly addressed the Latino community, stating:
Secondly, if I have a moment, because I’m gonna do. the Latino community in this country is composed of multiple cultures, and so the industry says, let’s hire a Latino. And then Latinos say, ’Well, you want a Mexican, and I’m Puerto Rican,’ ’You want a Guatemalan and I’m from El Salvador.’…So let’s have a conversation of, if they’re gonna put us under one umbrella, and now I’m speaking to the Latino community in this country, that means your ancestors spoke Spanish, right? That’s what makes you Latino. If we want to be considered, and we want to show and use our power to the fullest, we need to unite. They see us as one community, we need to be one community…
We celebrate each other, we celebrate each other’s cultures, we celebrate each other’s religion, but we also unite as human beings, so let’s do that. Let’s use our power as human beings, as Latinos, as whatever subculture you identify with and at the same time celebrate being human, and that’s what [Jennie] did…And now Latinos, we can unite and get viewership just like Empire because where you at 54 million-plus viewers?!
At least one audience member in every row of the Dolby Theater was moved to tears at the cast’s genuine affection toward each other and their belief in the power of the show. Rodriguez, herself, was teared up multiple times during the panel, prompting her co-stars, Andrea Navedo, Brett Dier, Ivonne Coll, Jaime Camil, Justin Baldoni, and Yael Grobglas to all clap for her in support.
Clearly, moderator Jarett Wieselman, Entertainment Editor at BuzzFeed, hit the nail on the head when he called for a Jane the Virgin motivational speaking tour.
[Photo Credit: The Lippin Group/Rob Latour for Paley Center for Media]