Interview with a virgin
Raymond Lo (The Philippine Star) - January 25, 2015 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - There are two breakout stars in 2015. One is a virgin and the other is a real person.

This writer is referring to the hit comedy-drama Jane the Virgin, which resumes airing on Sony Channel tonight at 8:50 after a brief winter break, and to actress Gina Rodriguez, who is portraying her in the highly-acclaimed new series that premiered earlier this season.

The show was recently named by the American Film Institute (AFI) as one of the AFI Television Programs of the Year.  The People’s Choice Awards also named it the Favorite New TV Comedy of the Year. It also won for Gina a Golden Globe for Best TV Comedy Actress.

The series resumes with episode 10 coinciding with the US. For those who’d want to catch up with the story, here’s a brief backgrounder. It is set in Miami and tells the story of Jane Villanueva, a virginal, would-be bride who discovers one morning that she has been artificially inseminated by mistake — and her religious and Latina roots would not permit her to eliminate the pregnancy. Her story takes a more melodramatic turn when it is revealed that the sperm that was used to inseminate her belongs to a guy that she had a teenage crush on and who happens to be her new boss and who also is unfortunately married to a socialite who may have ulterior motives in the marriage and may have evil designs against poor Jane.

Jane the Virgin is loosely based on a Venezuelan telenovela titled Juana la Virgen. It was adapted and developed by seasoned producer Jennie Snyder Urman. Joining Gina in the cast are Andrea Navedo, Yael Groblas, Justin Baldoni, Ivonne Coll, Brett Dier and Jaime Camill.

The cast met with the international journalist in a series of press conferences in mid-November last year. Gina and Jennie were paired together. We asked them the origin of the series, their thoughts on the breakout success of the show and I think I even made Gina cry for a bit when I asked her if she has reflected on the show’s success and what impact, if ever, has it had to her personal life.

“Wow,” she responded immediately to my question but would later pause occasionally to wipe her tears. “So, a few years ago, I did a film that went to Sundance and I was younger obviously and I thought it was an awesome success. And it was a great journey and it was like, kind of, the beginnings of what this was or this has been. And I was like, ‘Oh yeah, Sundance! I’m going to be Jennifer Lawrence. Yeah! I’m going to be a superhero tomorrow.’ And that didn’t happen and life didn’t look like the way I thought and you know my favorite saying is to tell God your plan. You know, if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.”

Gina, 29, is one of the sweetest and most grounded stars one would ever meet. I first met her when I was introduced to her after a screening of a movie during the Los Angeles Film Festival two years ago. In January 2012, she had a film at Sundance that received quite a good buzz. Filly Brown was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize and Gina received numerous awards for her performance in the film. But it wasn’t the breakout role she expected it to be. She had to return to doing auditions, failed TV pilots and all that until Jane the Virgin came — and another opportunity came knocking again.

“That is my favorite saying because you know in this industry you can get caught up as an actress,” she added. “I think when you’ve had a beautiful blessing like this, your life changes very quickly. I really thank God for that last experience helped me realize the kind of woman I wanted to be while being an actor or while being in this industry.”

Her initial experience has made her realize that in show business success can come and go as it pleases. She related that when she started working on her character she made sure that she would never allow herself to drown in the promise of having a successful show. “The posters will come down,” she remarked. “Jane, I love her and I want to be with her for life but she will end. And I think the best way to prepare for the future is to love and embrace the present. And so every day, I wake up thanking God for Jennie and Jane and my cast and being able to do what I love — there is not a day that goes by that I don’t. And so all of it is surreal and it’s that moment of like you’ve prayed about this since you were a kid, so really enjoy it, yeah. The best way to celebrate a miracle is to fall in love with it — and I’m in love with Jane, so thank you.”

But it was not all drama at the presscon. Like Jane the Virgin, where humor is key to navigating the hysterical melodrama that Jane’s life has become, our conversation with Gina and Jane has their share of lighter moments, too.

Gina was asked on what’s it like to become the most famous virgin on TV and just what sort of reactions she got. Did her boyfriend find it weird?

“Luckily, my boyfriend has a pregnancy fetish so I’m winning there,” was her quick reply. “So that’s really interesting I probably just put him on blast. My boyfriend is also very, very supportive and he’s an actor as well so he finds it endearing and he thinks it’s hysterical and sometimes, we get free bagels so he’s happy — it’s not a lie, we got free bagels the other day and we were very excited about it!”

She added, “I think I’m the only virgin on television right now. It is awesome, it is awesome to be able to play a character that I would want my daughter to look up to, you know.”

Is the show trying to set an example on how young women should treat their sexuality?

“I don’t think that there’s one right way or another, you know. I think taking care of yourself and being you know, protecting yourself and having right decisions is a good thing. So, I’m not saying like everybody should be a virgin until they get married. But I think Jane is really awesome to look up to. She’s strong, she’s confident, she’s not afraid to say no, she sticks up for her decisions in life.”

She does not consider her character a saint either “but she is somebody that I think is a great role model. And with images that we have nowadays, it’s nice to brighten it up once in a while and I think that Jane is somebody I would definitely hang out with and kind of wish I was a little bit more like.”

And as an actress who is already a household name not just in the US but also in other countries, including the Philippines, Gina cannot be grateful enough for the blessings that she’s received courtesy of Jane.

“I just love Jane. I love playing Jane. I hope I get to play her for… I thank God we got 22 episodes. I’m going to play the s--t out of those 22 episodes. So, like I’m going to give it my all in those 22 episodes. But yeah it’s awesome, I love being a virgin again.”

Two months after our interview, Jane the Virgin was renewed for another season. Gina will get to enjoy being a virgin far longer than she thought.

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