This week's eventful episode of Jane the Virgin [spoiler alert] revealed that Rose (Bridget Regan) is the criminal mastermind who goes by the alias Sin Rostro. Showrunner Jennie Snyder Urman took a moment to talk to Vulture about where the show goes from here, its foundation of strong female characters, and why no two episodes are alike.
How long have you known who Sin Rostro was? Was this your plan from day one?
Yeah, this was our plan from our first week in the writers' room, when we got together and were trying to figure out what the crime would be that was going on in the hotel that led to the surveillance of that in the first place. This was something that we planned from the get-go and then next week's episode we go back through all of the clues that were laid in along the way.
It's interesting that so many of your characters who have the most agency on the show are women. Was that a conscious choice in choosing Rose to be your big bad?
I think it's a conscious choice in that I am a woman, and I like strong women. When we started talking about the big bad, it just automatically feels like you'll assume it's a man. So why not take that assumption and build it into the surprise? I always like women who are not what they seem. It's a very female-driven show, in terms of it has a matriarchy, the internal villain, if you will, is Petra, and then our big bad was a woman. That is definitely part of, I think, my agenda as a writer in general, to have more interesting parts for women.
In the overall scope of things, and this is a question more of long-term planning, do you know what the endgame for Sin Rostro is and is this something that fans can expect to see sooner or later?
I feel like we play on a few different levels. We have the comedic, we have the romantic, we have the telenovela, and they can't all crescendo at the same time. So we've had some big romantic episodes; this was a big telenovela episode where a lot of the soapier more murder-y things came to light. In [episode] 13, the mystery twists one more time; in [episode] 14, we unpack it a little bit comedically. We get into how Rose and Luisa first met, which is one of my favorite sequences coming up, how that started, how she became in love with her. By the end of the season, there'll be another Sin Rostro–esque twist, something that's more soapy and telenovela-y, and you'll see it's all to the same end, but I think then it twists back on itself unexpectedly. Which is a very cryptic way of saying we like to go one way and go really far and deep into the telenovela and then bring it back around to more personal and quirky moments, because even Sin Rostro has feelings.
Even though you embrace that telenovela aspect, everyone is a well-rounded character with human emotions and urges. When you say that we're going to see Rose and Luisa and how they met, does Rose have genuine feelings for Luisa even now, or was she always that pawn?
Yeah, I think she really does, and what we try to do, even through our broadest characters or even our most telenovela-esque ones, you have to know what they hope for and what they want and what they wish for and something true about them. And for Rose, the something true is that she unexpectedly fell for Luisa and that threw a wrench into her whole plan, and that's going to have emotional ramifications, obviously, on Luisa but also on Rafael and on the story as a whole. It'll set other things into motion, but it comes from that real place. I really do believe that Rose loves Luisa, that they have this sort of wacky, wild love affair.
You have so many balls in the air and so many moving parts at any one time. How do you, as a writer, balance all of those things you have going on? How do you balance the telenovela with the romance, with the comedy, with the social activism elements of it? How do you decide how much of each element needs to be in each episode?
A lot of it is dictated with where we are in story. We did really, really, really careful arcs in the beginning. The reason the show takes so long for me in editing is each episode has a little bit of its own feel. We don't really have a formula. We have things that we do all of the time, and we have a tone that we're trying to set, but each episode is dictated by what the big emotional movement is of the piece and where our characters are and where the plot is. I believe that this is a show where you want to pay things off, where you want to set things up and pay them off and not leave the audience waiting forever. So if we're in an episode that has these giant two death scenes and the fake-out death of one character and then the reveal of Sin Rostro, you can't go into the lightest comedy at the same time. It has to balance. Next week is a much more emotional episode, and then [episode] 14 gets back to a more straightforward comic energy. So it's really just dictated by where we are in the story and what we favor.
Jane was much more sidelined than usual this week because you have such a deep cast and so many plots to braid in. How do you measure how much Jane is going to be in a particular episode? And were you ever expecting to build a show where it wasn't necessary to have that title character playing center stage in every episode?
I always thought that for the sustainability of the show and for the telenovela as a whole you want to build a deep bench of people who can bring drama and complications to Jane. I like episodes with more Jane. The more Jane, the better, because I love Gina [Rodriguez] and I love what she does. This was an episode where we had to pay off certain things and we had to make sure that the plot also had payoff and that if you were tracking Sin Rostro, you had an exciting reveal of who that is, and it had all of the excitement. But then I think you'll see the next [episode] is a real emotional story with Jane and then after that [episodes] 14 to 17 really get, to me, a lot of the great comic and emotional Jane episodes. That's where my heart is. I didn't get as much Jane as I wanted [in this episode]. I feel that. It's something I'm very conscious of. It doesn't happen frequently in the show that she's more on the sidelines. It’s every once and awhile.
I love Jane. There's never enough Jane. But I was impressed that you were able to do it so effectively.
Thank you. I think it's the actors; we really do have a really deep bench of people. What I loved in this episode, I loved Jaime Camil's death scene. You think he's kind of buffoonish in his acting, but you felt like when he was dying, for me anyway, I felt like when I was editing it, "Oh, he's good. He's good at the role, and this means so much to him." I like learning about that, and then the heart of that moment is Jane calling him Dad. We always bring it back to her.
A lot of shows struggle when they have a "good" character. How do you temper how good Jane is? How do you balance that virtuousness, that "Saint Jane" image, with still portraying her as a realistic protagonist, who may do the right thing but doesn’t find it easy?
I think you'll see she continues to struggle with what is right. She's a little bit of an overthinker. She doubts herself. She tries to plan things too much and often at her detriment. And we really start to get into a lot of Jane's, not her faults, but her humanness, for lack of a better word, especially as we get deeper into the relationship between Jane and Rafael, who are a couple that really started their relationship backwards. They're having a baby, and then they started to get to know each other, and then they had this whirlwind romance. And you can see when the petals fall from your eyes, and all of a sudden, you're in a relationship with someone you're really, really different [from]. Reality comes in. Jane and Rafael are going to feel that, and part of those are character flaws in Rafael, and part of those are character flaws in Jane. I'm interested in when there's no right answer, so in order to do that, she's got to be wrong, too, and I think that brings, hopefully, a good level of complication and relatability to her character.