The untold truth of Jane the Virgin

When it debuted, Jane the Virgin could easily have been viewed as the dark horse on TV. A modern telenovela in which the female lead gets artificially inseminated before she ever has sex? This wasn’t a new take on old tropes — it was totally new! Fresh, funny, and original, the show quickly became a fan favorite. Series star Gina Rodriguez even won a Golden Globe award for her work on the very first season, giving the CW network their first Golden Globe in history.

As could be expected, audiences just haven’t been able to get enough of the series. Watching once a week barely scratches the itch, and that feeling was never more true after executive producer Jennie Snyder Ulman announced that the fifth season of the series would be its last.

So, to help ease the pain of Jane the Virgin ending, here is a collection of behind-the-scenes trivia most fans don’t know. Keep reading for insight into how long the hunt for the show’s lead actor took, Justin Baldoni’s secret pre-scene weapon, and much more.

Casting Jane happened quickly

When it came time to cast the title character for Jane the Virgin, executive producer Jennie Snyder Urman anticipated the search would be long and arduous. After all, Jane is unlike any other character on TV. But when Gina Rodriguez auditioned for the role, no one could deny she was perfect for the part.

“You expect it to be a really long search, and to see someone come in, literally the third person [to audition], it was amazing,” Urman told Time in 2014. Urman was so impressed, in fact, that she rushed home immediately to gush about Rodriguez to her husband. “She’s 100 percent genuine and 100 percent fun. Sometimes I feel like I’m hanging out with one of my college friends.”

As for whether or not they wanted to tweak Rodriguez’s approach to the role, Urman insists there was no need — it caught everyone off-guard because “there was just nothing to change” about how Rodriguez approached the part.

Gina Rodriguez stays humble

Following the show’s first season, Gina Rodriguez experienced a meteoric rise to fame. It seemed as though everyone knew her name, and it certainly didn’t hurt that she was nominated that year for a Golden Globe for best actress in a comedy, which she went on to win. Becoming a Golden Globe award-winning star overnight didn’t change Rodriguez, though.

“I have a one bedroom apartment … and I flew my parents in from Puerto Rico for the Golden Globes. I wanted my parents nearby, so I gave them my bedroom. It was VERY humbling getting ready for the Golden Globes and sleeping on my couch the night before!” Rodriguez shared with Biography in 2015.

Rodriguez noted that she doesn’t put much stock in fame or celebrity status outside of one particular way it has changed her life. “But what has changed is my ability to help people,” she said, choking up, “to financially help my family, that means a lot to me … to help my grandmother, to help my sister move to L.A., to help my nieces and nephews go to better schools … that is the best blessing.” 

The breast cancer arc was personal

It’s no secret that Jane the Virgin is a comedy — the kind that will make you laugh out loud. However, the series also holds space for more poignant emotions (yes, you’ll cry out loud, too). Although the show has dealt with some pretty deep issues, arguably no season was more wrought with heartbreak than season 4. Discovering Jane’s mother, Xiomara, had breast cancer proved difficult for both the Villanueva women and the show’s fans.

Perhaps the reason the episodes centering on Xo’s journey felt so personal and authentic was that they were. Not just in relation to the characters we’ve all come to know and love, either. The creative team pulled from their own lives in creating this arc — executive producer Jennie Snyder Ulman and the director of one of those episodes (and Jane the Virgin star) Justin Baldoni both have a connection to the disease. Ulman’s mother and Baldoni’s aunt are survivors (via Vulture).

“I was just really grateful that Jennie allowed me to direct an episode like this and bring a little bit of my own perspective and viewpoint into it, especially for my aunt,” Baldoni told Variety of directing “Chapter Seventy-Eight.”

Nobody wanted Michael to die … ever

It was brutal enough thinking Michael had died in the aftermath of the whole gunshot-to-the-chest cliffhanger. But to get him back only to lose him due to an unforeseen health complication? That was almost unbearable — which is precisely why executive producer Jennie Snyder Urman and the writers kept putting it off.

“Well, I’d been hinting [since] season 1 that it was going to happen,” Urman told People in 2017. “The question was, ‘When?’ It’s a combination of wanting to put it off as long as possible because I loved Brett [Dier] so much as an actor and a person, and because we still had more story to tell and wanting Jane to go through all those firsts with him.” Urman further touched on this in a lengthy Facebook post after Michael died, explaining that they included the line from the Narrator about Michael loving Jane until the day he died “to make sure we went through with it.” 

So, while Urman doesn’t outright say — spoiler alert! — their love for actor Brett Dier inspired bringing Michael back from the dead at the end of the fourth season, it’s a safe bet that their fondness for him played a part.

You'll never guess what Esteban does in real life

While many characters on Jane the Virgin are lovable, Esteban Santiago is not. Rogelio’s arch nemesis, this rival telenovela star only ever seems to stir up trouble and find a way to insert himself into Rogelio and Xiomara’s life. Many fans don’t like him, and that’s perfectly normal. Understandable, even.

So, what you are about to hear may throw you for a loop: Esteban is actually a decent guy. Or, to be more accurate, his real-life counterpart, actor Keller Wortham, is. How decent, you ask? Well, when he isn’t acting, he’s a practicing physician.

“So I went to medical school at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., I did my residency in internal medicine in Pittsburgh, and then moved to LA to pursue an acting career, or as my parents said, to enjoy the circus,” Wortham told Talk Nerdy With Us. “And it was really that desire to get back to a creative and performing life that I was missing so much.” 

Feeling faint all of a sudden? Well, if you live near Glendale, Calif., you can book an appointment with Dr. Wortham to get yourself all checked out.

Justin Baldoni does this before every scene

Playing Rafael means Justin Baldoni has been emotionally and creatively all over the place on Jane the Virgin. He has acted entitled, selfish, egomaniacal, and reckless. He’s also acted kind, genuine, selfless, and truly loving. But Baldoni has a secret for staying grounded, no matter in which direction his character pulls him.

“My little secret before I do every scene is I say a short little prayer,” he revealed to Backstage in 2014. “I’m Bahá’í and the Bahá’í faith says the reason we’re in existence is to be of service. The prayer is ‘Oh God, make me a hollow reed, from which the pith of self has been blown so I may become a clear channel through which thy love flows unto others.'”

According to Baldoni, actors suffer from intense insecurity and often feel like they’re “faking it all the time.” His prayer gives him a way to counter that by reminding Baldoni to “be of service in some way.” 

Yael Grobglas had Petra pegged from the start

Jane the Virgin boasts some of the best writers working in television, so they’ve naturally tended to keep fans guessing throughout the seasons. Just when you think you’ve got an idea about what’s to come, they artfully switch directions and surprise the heck out of you. But at least one person predicted a major storyline: Yael Grobglas, who plays Petra.

Speaking to Assignment X in 2016, Grobglas admitted she rarely knows what’s happening ahead of time on the show. Still, that definitely didn’t stop Grobglas from guessing one of Petra’s most dynamic arcs to date. When asked what Petra was up to next, Grobglas replied, “I would love to see what it’s like for Petra to deal with being a mother, what happens. Because she could either be terrible at it and have no maternal instinct, or her maternal instincts can kick in and she could become this lioness of a mother, which I think would be extremely interesting for me.”

And, well, she basically nailed it on both accounts. After Petra artificially inseminated herself and gave birth to twins, she started out as a mess before becoming a badass mama bear.

The beloved narrator nearly rejected the job

Sure, you never see his face, but the show’s Narrator is basically as beloved a character as anyone else on Jane the Virgin. Can you imagine the show without his cheeky commentary? Some people assume the voice you hear queue up each episode is that of Rogelio. However, that is not the case — Anthony Mendez actually voices the charismatic narrator.

And not to be overly dramatic (although that is the way of the telenovela), the show nearly missed out on having this Narrator. “I got the script and it said, ‘Latin Lover narrator with a Hispanic telenovela accent,’ and it was a little off-putting,” Mendez explained to Cosmopolitan in 2015. “I was like, ‘I don’t want to do this s**t,’ until I read it.”

Once Mendez dove into the script, he came to appreciate the character’s personality and realize this wasn’t a reductive, one-dimensional role. The rest, as they say, is history.  

An actor got a little too friendly with Britney Spears

Listen, every ’90s kid dreams of meeting Britney Spears. It doesn’t matter if you listened to her music or not — she’s iconic. Fellow celebrities aren’t immune to Spears’ star power either. Just ask Jane the Virgin star Justin Baldoni, who admits he was perhaps a bit overeager to meet the pop idol when she guest-starred in season 2.

“A few of us who weren’t in scenes with her came to watch one of her scenes. Because I had tweeted her and she had tweeted me back … I had gone up to her. So in my mind we’re friends, but we weren’t. I went up and … gave her a big hug, and I think I scared her,” Baldoni confessed to Fuse in 2017. “I just had this awkward moment of, ‘Did I just harass Britney Spears?'”

By all accounts, Spears’ episode went off without a hitch, so Baldoni was probably overthinking the whole interaction. Can you blame him, though? It’s Britney Spears, y’all. 

One costume turned Gina Rodriguez into a total diva

In the show’s early seasons, Jane worked at Rafael’s hotel, the Marbella. Her job as a waitress often entailed wearing slightly silly, themed get-ups. Case in point? The mermaid ensemble Jane was required to wear for a special poolside event at the hotel one evening.

If you ask Gina Rodriguez, who plays Jane, the costume wasn’t all bad. “I didn’t realize that was going to be so popular. I also didn’t know how sexy you’d feel in a mermaid costume,” she told Vanity Fair in 2014. Having said that, the mermaid outfit did have its drawbacks. Namely, Rodriguez insists it was one of “the most uncomfortable things you can possibly imagine” wearing.

When wet, it would stick to her body to the point that other people would have to peel it off and towel-dry her. “It was, like, an 18-hour night of shooting, at, like, three in the morning freezing in Long Beach. I couldn’t walk in the mermaid suit so someone would carry me around. I felt like such a diva,” Rodriguez shared. 

The show turned out exactly as it was envisioned

With a show as original as Jane the Virgin, you may wonder if it even has any modern influences — any connections fans might sense. As it turns out, the series was ever-so-slightly modeled after another show. Two, actually.

When asked whether Jane the Virgin could have gleaned some of its sensibilities from Ugly Betty, executive producer Jennie Snyder Urman admitted it was possible. It wasn’t just Ugly Betty that Urman sort of emulated, though. “This show is a little less broad, I think, in terms of I wanted it to sort of have a fairy-tale, whimsical quality,” Urman told the Los Angeles Times regarding the Ugly Betty comparisons. “I sort of try to describe it as somewhere between Ugly Betty meets Gilmore Girls because … the mother-daughter relationship was so central in that show. So, to me, it’s that sort of the two of them together is the stranger mark I’m trying to hit.” 

Mission accomplished, Urman. Mission accomplished.

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