CW‘s new series Jane The Virgin, is not a straight adaptation of the Venezuelan telenovela Juana La Virgen – more telenovela meets Gilmore Girls, writer Jennie Snyder Urman told TV critics attending Summer TV Press Tour 2014. Jane The Virgin chronicles the story of aspiring writer Jane Villanueva, a virgin, who accidentally is artificially inseminated at a hospital, and subsequently struggles to navigate her relationships with the biological father, her boyfriend and her mother and grandmother.
“The show is a little less broad [than ABC’s telenovela adaptation Ugly Betty],” Urman explained, calling it “the strange mark I’m trying to hit….I wanted it to have a fairy tale, whimsical quality.” At the same time, she hopes to use the tropes of the telenovela — “Evil twin” and things like that, while keeping the characters “grounded and relatable” which she acknowledged, is a “tricky tone” to pull off.
She veered from the original on which it’s based because “I did not want to do a straight exact adaptation” and yet “did not want to do a satire. I just kept reminding myself I’m writing a love letter to telenovelas.”
Exec producer Ben Silverman acknowledged the series is off-brand for CW which its superheroes and vampires, and hoped word-of-mouth would create an audience for the series. To that end, when a TV critic asked him if he anticipates push-back from conservative groups knicker-knotted about the show name or premise, he said with a smile, “if they want to react to the title without seeing it, as many groups like to do, hopefully it will generate some noise and attention.”
Speaking of push back, the cast and producers came in for a certain amount of same during the Q&A.
One critic jumped on a statement star Gina Rodriguez made about the character making a “positive” choice to go ahead and have the baby, asking, “do you think it’s negative” if the character had decided not to have the baby. “No, on the contrary” she said, spotting the quicksand and calling that a “miscommunication.” Unwilling to let it go, the critic wondered why “we’ll never see on television a show in which somebody makes a choice in which they do not have an unplanned child.”
Urman jumped in, explaining that when you’re writing TV, you’re constantly writing complications “and pregnancy is a really good complication.” If there was no baby, the complication goes away, she said, adding “I can’ only speak to this show.”
Rodriguez got asked why she reportedly had turned down a role on the series Devious Maids before taking this role. She said Jane was the role she’d “waited” for, because “there are other stories that need to be told” about the Latino community, “and media is a venue to educate and teach our next generation.” Currently, she said unhappily,, the pictures of Latinos are as “maid, landscaper, and pregnant teen.” Oops.
“I didn’t become an artist to become a millionaire – to wear Louis Vuitton,’ she continued, adding, “I have to give this dress back when we’re done…“I never saw [Latinos] being played as investment bankers and actors. .. Every role I’ve chosen have been ones I think push forward the idea of my culture and women.”
When asked if Jane would sue the hospital or, telenovela-like, that point would be ignored, Urman said that while the Jane character is supposed to be “a really good person, and she will struggle with that,” she polled her writers room — also filled with “really good people,” and they said they would sue the hospital – so it will be in the series.
Another critic seemed to think they were owed an explanation why the show is set in Miami. Urman said there’ a “specific energy and vibe” to Miami, and that when she’s sitting in her back yard in Sherman Oaks, Miami seems great.