The 2016 Emmy race has begun, and Vulture will take a close look at the contenders until voting closes on June 27.
The second season of Jane the Virgin ended with a shot right to the heart — or at least, right near the heart. Michael Cordero, beloved husband of Jane Gloriana Villanueva, was shot in the chest on their wedding night. For anyone — even passionate #TeamRafael viewers — it was a devastating cliffhanger following an episode packed with tears, joys, and a celebrity appearance by Rogelio's third best friend, Bruno Mars. Vulture spoke with showrunner Jennie Snyder Urman about Michael's fate, love triangles, and the gendered dismissal of the romance genre.
Yael Grobglas spoke to us last week about the table reads, and they sound like a lot of fun. I can only imagine what it would have been like for the finale.
It was amazing. I look forward to them more than anything. It was a pretty big one. The cast hadn't read it before the table read so everybody's reactions were probably like people's reactions watching it. Lots of tears during the table read and lots of gasps and shrieks and standing up.
I wanted to talk a bit about Professor Donaldson's character because I really love her, and she feels like a way for the show to address outside criticism. Do you see her that way?
Our show definitely has a meta layer. And Jane's dreams of being a romance novelist feels like an area where she would be questioned. I like that she has to defend her belief in it as a genre, and I also like that it's being challenged. I really like the character, and I feel that she's invested in Jane becoming a better writer; a victory with her would feel like a real victory. She did like Jane's final pitch for what her novel will be next year and was excited about it. Having somebody who's really critical makes the moment when they do like and appreciate your work that much more valid. When Jane had her idea for what she'll be working on next year, Professor Donaldson was trying to get her to dig deeper and she pushed her to a place where she can have all of that romance, but she can also deepen the story and make it more personal and more significant. And that's something we're excited to explore in our next season.
And because the show operates on such a meta level, it very much feels like a defense of the romance genre.
A little bit. You always get people saying, it's a guilty pleasure. The feeling is, why would you feel guilty? Why isn’t it just a plain old pleasure? Part of that is that romance is seen as more female genre. It doesn't have all the signifiers of deep, meditative, thicker work that we normally give more weight to. And I don't feel like that is either accurate or fair. Jane's defense of genre is the show's defense of genre.
I think that's why it's so brilliant, and it pisses me off when people dismiss the show as a guilty pleasure, because the criticism is very gendered.
I think so. And it's like when you hear people say, Oh, I saw your show, it's so cute. I don't know why, but is it cute? That also feels like a very specific response that you'd have to a work that is predominantly centered around women, more than it would be around men. We try to look at that and also unpack it in our show and in our character. The moments of romance on our show, you know when Michael said his vows in Spanish, are so moving. So part of art is moving people and causing them to feel things. A moment like that I think is as significant as, you know, a moment where something may be bloodier and more traditionally masculine. It's as effective, so we defend it from within.
I was sobbing during that moment. How did that decision come about to have Michael say his vows in Spanish?
That was a moment that came late. We'd already broken the episode, and one of the writers Carolina ran up to me right after the table read. She was bursting with ideas. She said Michael has to say his vows in Spanish. It was one of those ideas you hear right away and you're like, Yes, that's exactly right and that's exactly the moment that we need. There was no debate. It was just one of those great ideas I'm grateful to have. That's why you have a big team of writers.
So we have to talk about Michael's shooting. How much did you discuss the placement of the bullet?
[Laughs.] We discussed it a lot.
Were you running through a lot of other options? Because it seems clearly it's supposed to be hitting his heart. Or near his heart, I assume.
Near his heart. It was the place we needed the bullet to go in for events to begin. [Laughs.] Is that vague enough?
There have been a lot of fan theories suggesting Michael would die. Do you pay attention to that?
Yeah, I definitely pay attention. We definitely put in a warning last season in episode ten when we said that he was going to love her as long as he lived. So there have been hints of events that will happen. Whether he's dead or not, it will be really traumatic for fans who built all these stakes in Jane and Michael's relationship. We were priming people for the fact that something bad could happen. That's how I thought about it. We put those little things in the show so that you were watching and then all the sudden, you're completely blindsided. Part of the fabric of the show is that it's a telenovela — extreme highs balanced with extreme lows. So it wasn't a surprise to me that people were speculating that, because if we wanted to keep it a big giant secret, we wouldn't have laid out any of the foreshadowing at all.
How did you get Bruno Mars?
It's really one of those magical things that came together so easily and smoothly. He was a fan of the show, and Philip Lawrence, who writes songs with him and performs with him, is someone that I knew. It just sort of came together. We were able to keep it a secret, which I loved — the audience reacted as Jane reacted, which was that, Oh, my God, really? Is he really singing?
I don't think I'd even heard that song before.
No, no, it was a song that they had written years ago and put aside. And then he said, I think I know the perfect song for the Jane and Michael dance. I heard it and was bawling. It was just such a beautiful song for them to dance to. So tonally right, and I loved Gina's reactions to having him there. I thought she was able to show how shocked and starstruck she was, but also find her way into this really emotional dance with Michael.
What is interesting to me is the way in which you can incorporate big celebrities like this, and it feels totally natural, and it doesn't pull you out of the moment at all. Is that something you worry about?
Yes, it's something that we think about a lot. But we do have this vocabulary for Rogelio, who is constantly dropping celebrity's names. So it's helpful for him as a character that some of the names he's dropped do show up. You believe him. He's not just a blowhard. And again, it's all about Jane's reaction and everyone else's reaction. As long as she's acting like, Oh, my God, I can't believe Bruno Mars is playing a song for at my wedding — then that fits in for me with the world of the show, because that's how Jane would react to such a momentous event. We keep our reactions grounded, and our world heightened and larger than life.
You have managed to address so many serious topics this season, like Petra's postpartum depression, and Rogelio's reaction to his kidnapping. Were there moments that were challenging for you to write this season?
The difficult thing about Jane is just the balance and making sure that you have enough in every show that satisfies all these different elements. I like to have romance and comedy and heartfelt family drama and something more telenovela-esque and fantastical. That's the real difficulty. And writing Jane's emotional stuff isn't as difficult because we know the characters so well, and letting them process and react to the events is the fun of it. It's really just the math of all of the episodes and making sure that different stories are peaking at difference moments — that everything we're laying down we don't just leave on the floor.
Right. And I love how much you play with genre in general, and reference other genres throughout the show. Are there specific ones you'd like to do?
I have different moments of magical realism I want to reach for. I want to continue to explore romance as a genre. I don't think we have anything outstanding that I'm dying to get into. I'm more just open to where we are thematically and what fits in with those themes we've explored.
So you had, even in this episode, there was that brief musical interlude, which of course makes me wonder if you would do a musical episode.
God, I would love to! I would want to do it right, and it feels like the show is built for something like that. We would just have to get the right collaborators. We have such a talented cast. It's just a matter of planning and time and execution. And I wouldn't want to do it if we couldn't do it in a really strong, fun, and different way.
Right. Are we going to get a little more about the backstory of what exactly happened between Rose and Susanna?
Yeah. Well, Susanna was never Susanna. Susanna was always Rose. But yes, you'll get all of that unpacking since the beginning of the third season. What was going on, why it was going on, and ultimately what Rose hoped with her future with Luisa. And the question will be, can Luisa forgive the things that Rose has done, such as killing her father, in order to embark on this epic romance?
What else can we look forward to in the third season that you can share?
You know, definitely we'll be getting into the things about this unexpected pregnancy. We have Petra right now who is frozen, and her sister is going to start executing her plan. I can't really say that much about Jane because it all depends on what happens to Michael. But you'll definitely know very early on in the third season. There are some fun structural things I want to do next year, but I can't really say that. I feel like we have a big sandbox to play in because we have characters that we all know and understand, and we have the world of magical realism. With that, we can go anywhere.
By virtue of being on broadcast and doing so many episodes per season, do you feel like you're running out of track to lay down? Do you sometimes feel like you wish you were just doing ten episodes?
It's hard. Yeah. As a person who wants a little bit of balance in her life, of course less episodes could afford that. There's just a lot of burden in terms of generating so much plot. But that's the nature of being on a broadcast, and we've embraced it. I'm not nervous about running out of story. People are always changing and growing and I feel like we know the characters well enough to understand that if we put different pressures in front of them, they'll react in certain specific ways that will generate story. Jane is something that's always built with the endpoint in mind. So, as long as I know where I'm going, then we're free to explore lots of paths along the way.
Does that mean that you sort of have a specific season limit in your head of how much you would go to get to that end?
I have different alternates depending on specific stuff in the show and how much the studio and network wants, but I just know what the last season arc is. It's about when we start to get there.
Do you feel like the love triangle is a central engine of the story, or is it something you feel will eventually at some point get used up?
I don't think the love triangle is central, I will say. Jane's love life is essential. To me, Jane made a choice at episode 12 and she hasn't wavered. We really played ten episodes where Rafael was feeling disgruntled and unhappy and he still loved her, but Jane wasn't torn. I found those stories easier to break than the ones when she was continually torn, because we're watching them and thinking, okay, you have to make up your mind at some point. If a character keeps switching back and forth you start to lose faith in them. You start to not trust their judgment. That was really important for the character — that she wouldn't make that decision until she knew. Because she feels the human cost of both of her decisions and how hurt Rafael would be.
I was looking forward to getting to that point where she made a choice, because then you can start to look at, well, what are the complications that come with that choice? What is it like to co-parent with an ex? And you know, the ex is not friends with your current fiancé. What are the different pressures and difficulties of that situation? So I felt like once we had her choose, story breaking got easier. Because of that, I don't feel like Jane being torn is an essential element of the show. But her love life certainly is. We still had moments of romance, especially in 21 and 22, and a little bit of, what's going to happen? And is Rafael going to make this proclamation? Will that change her mind? But in the end, he didn't make it. And he let her be happy. Which I thought was really important for his character as well.
Just as a final comment, I really like the #Petrafied pun a lot.
Oh, thank you. [Laughs.] That came out of the writers room early on in the first two weeks of the season. We've been excited about that as well.