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'Jane the Virgin' star: There should be more diverse roles for Latinos

"Jane the Virgin" premieres Monday at 9 p.m. on the CW. "Jane the Virgin" premieres Monday at 9 p.m. on the CW.
Credit: Greg Gayne, the CW

The CW’s freshman comedy “Jane the Virgin” doesn’t simply stand out on the new fall TV schedule for its quasi-provocative title and out-there premise. Based on the Venezuelan telenovela “Juana la Virgen,” the American series tells the story of a 23-year-old Latina in Miami who has vowed celibacy until marriage — and then finds herself knocked up via artificial insemination after a mix-up at the gynecologist's office. Get past the quirkiness, and what truly makes this series notable is its celebration of Latino culture and its heroine Jane Villanueva, played with plucky spirit and pure heart by Gina Rodriguez. It’s the kind of role Rodriguez had been waiting for her entire career, even turning down some high-profile gigs for an opportunity like “Jane.”

“The way I grew up, I never saw myself on screen,” says the 29-year-old Chicago native. “I have two older sisters. One’s an investment banker. The other one is an actor, and I never saw [Latinos] being played as investment bankers and actors.”

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So when the opportunity to star in Lifetime’s “Devious Maids” came around, Rodriguez decided to pass based on principle. “I found it limiting that [“maid”] was the one [role] that was available to me,” she says. “I found it limiting for the stories that Latinos have. Our stories have been told, and they’re not unmoralistic; being a maid is fantastic. I have many family members that have fed many of their families doing that job, but there are other stories that need to be told.”

The media, Rodriguez says, is an important venue for delivering those stories of real Americans from all backgrounds — and she couldn’t be happier to be a part of the movement toward more diversity on television. “Jane is strong and independent, and she’s striving to make her dreams come true,” Rodriguez says. “And the mishap that happens in her life is just a beautiful example of what we face in real life."

Well, we won't all experience something quite so outlandishly life-changing as Jane. But how we deal with those unexpected curveballs — and how Jane deals with hers — is what makes this series so endearing and relatable, says Rodriguez. "It's going to be really exciting to go on this journey with this girl and see the way she chooses maybe not the popular choices in life, i.e. her virginity. And I think that’s a really awesome thing to put out into the world right now.”

 
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