After Years of Telenovela Twists, Jane the Virgin’s Mastermind Says Good-bye

One last porch cry for the Villanueva women.
One last porch cry for the Villanueva women. Photo: Lisa Rose/The CW

The finale of Jane the Virgin is a glorious wash of tears and celebrations. It’s the result of the show’s complicated, messy, often surprising, melodramatic, emotional story, steered over five seasons of twists and shocks, and it’s a way to give everyone in the Villanueva family a happy ending. But it’s also the result of careful, painstaking planning by showrunner Jennie Snyder Urman, who has known much of what this finale would look like from the very beginning.

When I profiled Urman earlier this year, she showed me the pitch she’d written for the whole final season, beginning with Michael Cordero’s dramatic return from the dead and sketching the story all the way through to the finale. A few days before the last episode aired, we talked again about Jane, the challenges of bringing the show in for a landing, and the things that surprised her about the final season. We also discussed the experience of making Jane from the start, and what Urman figured out early in the show’s run that informed what it would become.

The end of Jane the Virgin is a story about its protagonists figuring out how to say good-bye, and Urman told me that writing the finale was also about her figuring out how to say good-bye to the series. It felt like completing a marathon, she says. “Like, oh my God, we fucking made it.”

The big storytelling moves at the end of this season were split between the two final episodes. In the penultimate episode, you got rid of all the dramatic Sin Rostro stuff and had this triumphant moment for Jane’s writing career. In the final episode, it’s all about the wedding with very few twists or surprises. Can you talk about that decision? 
I didn’t want there to be huge jeopardy in the finale in terms of, Is something gonna go wrong with the wedding, are they not gonna make it there? or big crime and all that. I really wanted it to be about the anxiety of ending something. How do they say good-bye internally within the show, and how do we, as a show, say good-bye to our audience? How do you hold onto something, even as it ends? That’s what the Villanueva women are going through and what we’re saying to the audience: You’ve had this experience and now it’s ending. I wanted that to all feel warm. I felt like if I added big telenovela jeopardy, that would then take over the plot and not allow enough time for these good-byes.

As we talked as a room about it, we felt like the episode before would be about the bigger plot moments, the resolution of good versus evil, and the villain getting what she deserves. Then we would clear out space for the audience to breathe and bid farewell to the show and to the characters in the last episode.

I know you’ve planned a few big moments in this finale for a long time. Did you know what you were working toward? What ended differently than you may have expected? 
I knew this telenovela was gonna end with the wedding of Jane and Rafael. I knew they were gonna get there somehow by bus. I knew I wanted Petra to have her happy ending, or an ending with JR. And I knew that I wanted it to be thematically about how you end something. I knew I wanted Jane to be going through that as an author, just as the authors of this story were going through it. I liked that parallel, and I knew the end of the show was gonna be about making it into a telenovela. I knew I wanted it to be warm.

The things that were surprising to me were in the episode before. I wasn’t sure about a confrontation between Rose and Jane. I’ve always kept Jane separate from Rose, and I was talked into having that big penultimate showdown. The other big thing was Rafael’s parents. The absence of drama is its own drama within the world of the show a lot of the time, so the question was, how it would reflect back on where he is now? How can it land in a way that would feel connected to the family they’ve built?

One other big debate was how Luisa and Rose would end, whether Rose would die or not. What kind of redemption did Luisa need? Did we want to end them both in jail? Or did we want to end it the way we ended it? That was a big debate in the writers’ room. It really came down to the deciding factor that she’s caused so much harm and pain in Jane’s life. Villains in telenovelas get what they deserve — that’s just such a basic trope of it. Then wanting Luisa to have a chance at a different kind of happiness. She was the one who spurred this all into action, and having her come out having redeemed herself and moving forward felt good for her character.

Were there alternatives for Rafael’s parents? Or did you always know that that would be a non-drama story?
Back in seasons three and four, we debated it a lot. We landed on this early on in the fifth season. There never seemed to be a shocking reveal that felt like it was built into the beginning for his parents. Because I hadn’t built that! Who they were, anything that would mean something, it felt a little retrofitted. All the other options never felt true enough to me, because they hadn’t been planned.

There’s a gut feeling you have when you’re running a show and when you’ve been living with the characters for so long. Nothing was feeling right until this pitch. Also, within the structure of the show, there’s a lot of buildup. Sometimes, the most dramatic things in their lives now is this absence of drama, because they’re so used to these big crazy telenovela twists. He realizes he has everything he needs in front of him. To me, that through-line emotionally resonated more deeply than any surprising twists or turns we could throw at the characters at this point.

There are a couple moments in the last episode that are meant to be little telenovela surprises, right? The reveal of Petra’s triplet brother Pyotr made me laugh so hard. How long have you been planning that? 
We’ve been talking about this triplet since the end of season three, honestly. I couldn’t quite commit to doing a lot of stories with him, but I couldn’t let it go either. I wanted the finale to feel like a good-bye hug, but it had to have a few little things that have that telenovela flair. This is not gonna affect their lives in any deep way. It’s not gonna get in the way of Petra’s happiness. But potentially down the road, you know, you might have to vanquish a triplet.

You also have a cameo in the finale.
[Laughs.] I do, oh my gosh, reluctantly. I had some of my friends, my kids’ friends, and parents from school there, so I was like, “All right, I’ll do it.” Now it’s done and I will never do it again. But I’m happy I did.

Who talked you into it?
Brad [Silberling, the director] and Gina [Rodriguez] were like, You should do it. So I fought myself to not cut it out.

I can imagine that filming it would be hard, but editing it would be really hard.
I was like, Let’s just cut this part! But I had some other people I knew in the shot, so I kept it in.

Who else snuck into the finale episode? 
Justin [Baldoni’s] parents are guests in the wedding. My assistant Hannah is a guest in the wedding. Justin’s wife is one of the runners in the marathon. So there’s some cameos of people near and dear to us in the finale.

Oh, that’s so nice. 
It is nice.

The thing I loved about your cameo is that you’re shouting “Keep going!” to Gina.
You know, it felt like a marathon. It really had. It felt like the right thing to say in that moment. “You’re almost there! We’ve got this!”

Meanwhile, the wedding itself almost feels like a concession to how impossible it is to put words to such an important moment, with Jane and Rafael being unable to say their own vows out loud. I have to imagine a lot of actors were actually crying in those scenes.  
We’re all actually crying. But the question was, what’s the one thing that’s going to articulate how relieved and happy and emotional this is, having watched a five-year journey? This felt like it, like, Oh my God, we fucking made it.

Also, through the arc of this final episode, we had so many emotional moments of people telling each other how much they loved them. We didn’t need it in that vows moment, because you hopefully would feel it by the time they got there. So it became something more euphoric and more visceral.

I noticed that the wedding rehearsal looks like a backstage space for This Is Mars, but I’m pretty sure it’s actually a backstage space for Jane the Virgin?
Yes, it’s supposed to be a soundstage for This Is Mars. But, you know, we are revealing the bones of the show at the same time.

So it is? It’s right behind where the Villanueva house is filmed, yes? 
Right behind where part of the house is, yeah.

What was the last scene you shot?
The last scene was the bus sequence of getting Jane dressed. We ended the pilot on the bus, and we ended our season finale on the bus, which felt nice.

What did it feel like at the end of the last shoot? 
Oh my God. We would drop off people when their parts were done, and every time somebody left, they’d be wrapped and it was very emotional. It felt like the feeling when you finish a marathon: Holy shit, we finished, I can’t believe it, let’s sit down on the grass on the drink. That full body exhaustion, but also pride, and a sense of connecting with everyone and reflecting on the journey you’ve made together.

One of the silliest moments at the end of the season is when Rose finally dies by being impaled on the tail of a Rogelio statue. How many different statues did you look at before you found the right one? 
So many, oh my God. He had to be kneeling, or else he couldn’t support her body fully. I had wanted him standing up with the tail at full attention, but then it would’ve been too high, and also the tail couldn’t hold somebody. The whole season had more tail design that I could’ve ever imagined.

The fan response to the final season has been pretty intense, especially related to bringing Michael back. Has the response been about what you expected? Has it surprised you at all? 
I expected it to be intense. I think it ended up being more intense than I expected. The strange through-line is, Michael’s such a great guy, why would you bring him back if he wasn’t going to end up with her? Two things that are interesting about that. One is I brought him back for the propulsive nature of the storytelling, and I wanted to look at how people and characters change. And you know, it’s a telenovela. It’s about the surprise and the shock and the unpacking afterward about what would you do in that situation. It was worth the telling.

The other part of me is a little confused about all these people who love Michael so much but wish he stayed dead. That’s a little bit harder to parse. You know, Michael got a happy ending as well. I feel better knowing that he’s alive and out in the world and has found love and has moved on than if he had just stayed dead and buried. So that was an interesting tension. I understood it in terms of how viscerally people rooted for the characters, and I always know you’re never going to please everyone. That’s part of putting a show into the world that people feel passionately about. You have to allow them to have the space and the breadth of their feelings.

There was certainly a lot of feeling. 
A lot of feeling.

A lot of feeling. In the aftermath of bringing Michael back, Jane was also more out her depth than we’ve ever seen her. It’s hard to watch the heroine be so off track! 
Exactly. And that was part of the impetus of that storytelling. We’ve seen Jane in one light, being pursued by two terrific options and making choices, and then having tragedy and calamity befall her. She works her way out of it, but she still has these really faithful men and family members rooting for her. The aftermath of this was something very different. We wanted to make her work hard and convince Rafael that she loved him and was never going to hurt him again.

At the same time, I wanted there to be a point in this season where she says, You can’t keep punishing me for this. My husband came back from the dead, it’s an impossible situation. I’m sorry I didn’t act the way that you wanted me to act. But that’s how I acted. And I couldn’t have turned my back on him, or I wouldn’t be me. I’m always interested in finding things to explore about Jane as a person, and the plot twists that get thrown her way are only interesting in that they afford her to respond to them, to dig deep into her emotional register and figure out how she feels. The more murky and complicated those feelings are, the more interesting the drama is.

She’s not ever trying to hurt anyone. She’s trying to figure out what she wants amidst all these impossible situations. So she had a little bit of a rough moment, with regards to Rafael. But at the end of the day, that’s the journey that we wanted her to take to find her way back to Rafael and flip the power dynamics a little bit. Who’s rich and who’s poor? Who’s going to stay home and mind the shop while the other reaches for bigger dreams? All of that was part of the calculus.

You planned an ending where Jane becomes the breadwinner and Rafael’s career takes a back seat. Was there any debate about making that even more explicit? Including a scene where he quits his job, for instance?
I think it’s built in there. He’ll do real estate, but there’s not room in this moment in their family’s life for two people to be away chasing something that’s so out of reach. His dream changed from where you saw him in season one. He’s going to be a flexible stay-at-home dad. He’ll show some houses, but his primary commitment is going to be his family. That’s so much of what the last episode is for him, too, recognizing that he got everything he ever wanted. It just wasn’t what he thought he wanted. When he gets there at the end — supporting Jane and cheering her on as she goes out into the world as an author, and holding down the fort at home to allow her to capitalize on the fruits of her labor that we’ve seen her working on for eight years in the life of the show — that’s about as romantic an ending as one could have. You know? He realizes that his happiness and fulfillment is not from franchising the Marbella, but that it was going to be about prioritizing his family. And in doing so, he allows Jane to reap the rewards of her hard work.

Can you talk a little bit about Mateo’s ADHD diagnosis and why that’s a part of the last season? 
With so much of Jane, personal [stuff] gets funneled into it. That was something I have a personal connection to, and one way I want to explore it is writing the nuances and the emotional fallout of different moments.

There’s all different kinds of ADHD. There’s hyperactivity-focused, and there’s more of an attention-focused. Mateo’s is more attention-focused. The juxtaposition of his mom being this writer and reader, and him struggling to read because he couldn’t focus long enough to put all the lessons together from school, felt interesting in its microspecific incarnation. And it felt like something you can say about parenting on a broader level, which is that these human beings are brought into the world, and you have to steer them and give them tools, but you can’t control everything. For Jane, who is a person who so clings to control, it’s a lesson she learns over and over, that she can’t control everything. Parenting is the biggest example of that.

Looking back at the whole series, are there choices that surprised you? Things you really hadn’t expected to be a part of this story? 
Diving deep into Xo’s health was a direction that I didn’t see from the first. The ADHD story line, certainly. On a big sense, I could never have known that we would end up with Rose as our main villain for five seasons. It’s a testament to Bridget [Regan, who plays Sin Rostro]. And then, of course, Michael returning was something that I definitely did not know would happen in season one. I knew he was going to die, I didn’t know he was going to come back. That started to piece itself together in the third season.

The reverse of that question: Looking back, what are you really thankful became an early part of the show?
I’ve talked about this before, but in that second episode, giving Jane the time to process the accidental insemination on the porch swing with her mom and grandma unlocked the show for me. It taught me the importance of slowing down, centering, and then digging into the emotions. That second episode is really seminal to me in terms of figuring out how to keep creating the show off the pilot.

Then there are certain themes in the first season that we return to. Ending up in the bus in the finale. Having some sort of pregnancy in the finale. Really leaning into big cliffhangers at the end of each season. That’s all stuff that came in that first season when we created the math of the show.

When I think about why it was so important to me to not have huge telenovela twists in that final episode, it comes back to the fact that we’ve asked the audience to hang in there with us. We’ve ended each season with these giant cliffhangers — where somebody’s peeling off their face, and a baby is missing, and these big, huge things — and then telling them to hang on over the summer because there will be some resolution. Part of the promise of those big cliffhangers is that you’re going to thread things together at the end and tie it up with a bow.

For me, one of the biggest surprises of the whole series is Petra. She’s changed so much from where she started! 
I told Yael [Grobglas], when I was trying to convince her to do this show, that Petra was not going to be a one-sided villain, that she was the hero of her story. If you look at it from her point of view, she stood by her husband and he fell out of love with her. The root of Petra’s change is in that second episode too, where she makes this proclamation to Rafael about how much she loves him and she cries. The narrator tells us that it’s easy to actually cry when what you’re saying is true. So I was always interested in excavating her heart. She had to function as the catalyst for a lot of telenovela drama, but we quickly were bringing on people that were crueler than her in order to place Petra within the realm of sympathy. I don’t know that I would have anticipated how deep the friendship of Jane and Petra would go, but I did know that ultimately they were family.

You were developing a Jane spinoff, but I believe that it’s not going forward anymore. Is that still true? 
It’s true. It’s a difficult thing. I loved the spinoff, and I thought the writer Valentina Garza did such an amazing job. There’s so many different reasons that things do or don’t work for the studio and the network, and it didn’t work for them in this incarnation. I was disappointed, but there’s a part of me that’s also okay with just landing this plane, which has been a big one to fly. Letting it exist and moving on to something else. It taught me a little bit about spinoffs and the expectations of them as well. And it helped me really reflect on the end of Jane in a different way.

I imagine it was a little helpful while working on the last season to think some small part of Jane would still be going ahead. 
That was definitely helpful. The spinoff was going to be all the different books that Jane wrote, so it would be the same visual vocabulary, but the books would have a different tone and different heroes. It probably was even more soothing than I recognize to be working on. It allows a connection to the world to continue in your mind. But I have other ways of keeping it alive, for me, and thinking about the possibilities of things in the future. So I’ve been able to let it go. I’m just happy to have an end of the show that feels like an ending.

You promised your kids that you would get a dog at the end of Jane. How is that going?
We got a dog. The dog’s amazing. The dog is six years old, but he acts like a puppy. He came with the name Chance, and his middle name is Jane. He’s brought us so much joy.

You told me you were looking forward to life being less hectic for a while after Jane. Has that happened, or are you launching into other things? 
I’m launched into other things, but the drop-off from working on Jane to not working on Jane is so deep. I’m working, but it feels so manageable. Jane really consumed me for five years, almost six years with the pilot. Everything else, I feel like, Oh, I just have a regular job now, which feels totally manageable. I get to pick up my kids in the middle of the day if I want to. We just get to do stuff, which right away feels like a reward for having finished. I get the full embrace of my family and I get to enjoy them more.

Jane the Virgin’s Mastermind Says Good-bye