Spoilers ahead for Monday night’s episode of Jane the Virgin.
Though he knew that his character, Michael Cordero, would die on Monday night’s episode of Jane the Virgin, Brett Dier, like many fans of the show, is still working through his shock. Michael — loyal, kind, with a dorky sense of humor — seemed to have found happiness and peace with Jane, only to collapse, suddenly, as a result of complications from a gunshot wound. Michael’s death gives Jane the Virgin forward momentum, as showrunner Jennie Snyder Urman explained to Vulture, but it also leaves a hole in the middle of the show. We caught up with Dier to talk about what he learned from playing Michael, awkward interactions with fans who are Team Rafael, and the emotional experience of shooting his last scenes on the show.
So, let’s start from the beginning: When did you find out that Michael was going to die, for real this time?
I found out at the end of season two, officially by Jennie, but I had an idea as early as season one that that was going to happen. No one told me, just that narrator thing [the narrator says that Michael will love Jane “until he drew his very last breath”] made me go, “Wait a minute, what?” And he’s a cop, so being a cop and having that line said about you, I was like, Okay, I feel like I’m not going to be on the show for very much longer.
Was it a relief to finally get confirmation of when, specifically, it would happen? Or just shocking?
I was shocked. I was really shocked. You know when actors are like, “I felt like Michael, this character that I played, was such a big part of me”? I always thought that was wishy-washy and I was like, “Eh, shut up.” But … I get it. It makes so much sense. Michael does feel like a huge part of me and having to kill him off was very difficult for me to do. I felt like he was a friend of mine, or something. It was very weird.
What did you learn from playing Michael? What felt like such a big part of you?
Just the love he has for Jane and the sincerity. You know, he’s a hardworking guy. Also, playing him 15 hours a day, nine months a year, for almost three years, he starts becoming a part of you.
It must have been hard to say good-bye to the rest of the cast and then the crew as you were shooting that last episode. When I talked to Jennie, she said you shot the Ferris wheel scene last?
Well, that was at five in the morning. So I was extremely tired. That whole week of filming, it was a lot of tears. I love them so much, the crew and the cast. They’re incredible. And we all got along. We have a group text that we’ve been doing for three years, and we’re always sending each other love. It’s just so weird not being physically there in that family anymore.
I also saw that Gina posted that video you sent in character to Gina as Michael. What inspired to you to record that message specifically?
There was a scene that Gina had to do when she broke down after she finds out that Michael died — you remember the scene on the phone where she falls down to her knees? Well, she asked me to do something, so that she could watch it before she shot that scene. So I filmed that on her phone, it helped her, I guess, get there.
She didn’t need it, though, ’cause she gets there all the time, but I’m glad it somehow helped.
You spent all these years playing Michael. Were there things that surprised you about his character or aspects of him that you really grew fond of playing?
The little goofy side that he had that comes out with his friends or people that he feels really close with — like just his stupid, really bad impressions that he does. I thought that was fun. Also, the part that he used to steal cars when he was young with his brother — that was said in the first season. That was interesting, too. He was always living on the edge. He needed that adrenaline rush almost.
Then, when he got to try out doing stand-up and those impressions — were those impressions that you told the writers you could do, or were they coming up with crazy suggestions?
I think there were two that they had written in originally, and I said, “Okay, cool, but I can also do a SpongeBob impression, if you wanna put that in.” Oh, and the Godfather thing. I could do the Godfather, like a really corny Godfather. The rest was written, for sure.
There was no real indication before the episode aired that Michael would die. What has been the reaction from fans after the episode came out?
Well, it’s the most tweets I’ve ever gotten in my life. It’s been a lot of sad people tweeting about how much they loved Michael and stuff. It was heartbreaking to see how much it affected people. I didn’t know that Michael made people feel that. I cried a couple times at some tweets that people sent out, so it was very overwhelming for me.
Were there any specific ones that really stuck with you?
Did you see the letter that Jennie wrote about me? That was something I wanna keep forever. I want to print that off and frame it.
She mentions in the letter that Jane the Virgin can be associated with a lot of lightheartedness. Is it hard to deliver this, a darker story about death and grief, to the fans?
I had a lot of anxiety just because it was super dark, and I knew that the people that are diehard Team Michael fans would really be heartbroken, and I mean that’s kind of sad. That’s kind of sad to do that to them, but it’s good television [laughs].
At least it makes the story interesting?
It does, because you can’t just have Jane and Michael be happy for five years on the show and then it ending. There has to be some crazy stuff happening at all times, especially in this show.
Talking about the Team Michael and Team Rafael fans, what is the experience of playing a character in a love triangle like? Does it feel weird to be debated over?
People scream at me on the street, “Michael!” One person didn’t even say hi, they just came at me, “By the way, Jane should be with Rafael. Okay, bye.” Then they walked away.
What’s your reaction when that happens? Do you respond, “No, it should be Michael,” or is it more “At least they’re enjoying the show”?
I guess I was a little offended. I was like, “Why couldn’t you just say hi first?” But it’s good that people get into it that much. Some of the debates are intense, man. People get super intense.
After Michael’s death, the show jumps forward three years and it seems like a lot has changed. But what do you hope that the characters remember about Michael?
He was a very devoted person and he grew a lot throughout those three seasons. I think the characters will remember him being a great guy and that’s, I hope, what the audience takes away. Hopefully the Team Rafael fans go, “Oh, yeah, maybe I will miss Michael now.”
There’s definitely the possibility of having you come back in flashbacks or fantasies. Do you hope to stay in touch and involved in the show?
I hope I get to come back just to see them again, and I think if I do come back, it’ll just be like fantasies in Jane’s head or something like that, which is cool because the show can do that. It won’t be just an excuse to have Michael back. It’ll actually make sense for the show.
Were there any scenes that you especially loved shooting?
I loved shooting the Rogelio and Michael scenes. We both had a lot of fun with those because they’re so over-the-top but also grounded in that reality of Jane the Virgin world. Michael didn’t really have that many friends in the show, so seeing him with a bro, like Jane’s dad, was really cool and fun to play for me.
What do you say or what have you been saying to fans who are shocked by this? Do you have any advice on processing the news about Michael?
Well, I posted an Instagram yesterday just thanking everyone for the support and all that kind of stuff. I would say, just thank you for supporting my character and me throughout the journey and being so loving. I mean, if you miss Michael you could always just rewatch it on Netflix or something.