Gina Rodriguez, the star of the hit dramedy Jane The Virgin on the CW Network, made a surprise visit to the Philippines last November.
The promising actress touted as “the next big thing” in American Television met with the select members of the media, including PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal).
Sony Channel Asia arranged for a special meet-and-greet with Gina at the Fairmont Suites and Raffles Residences in Makati City. PEP was there to have one-on-one face time with one of Hollywood’s rising female stars.
“I am so honored that the people here wanted to have me.
“This is the best place to celebrate Thanksgiving.
“I am so very thankful for Jane The Virgin. I am so thankful for the love I have been receiving since I got here.
“Plus adobo is way better than turkey!
“I had adobo for lunch and I would love to have it for Thanksgiving dinner. You can give me adobo all the time!” says the cheerful actress as the conversation starts.
Gina just arrived the night before and she was just in the country for less than 20 hours. But already, she felt the warm welcome of her Pinoy fans.
“Your people are so generous, so loving and so kind.
“Everywhere we go, people here are so nice, selfless and giving.
“It’s pretty awesome!
“I want to explore your country more,” she smiles.
Gina’s father, Genaro Rodriguez, was the referee in Manny Pacquiao’s fight with Chris Algieri held recently in Macau.
According to Gina, this will be her dad’s last fight as he is going into retirement.
“That was the reason I chose to take my two week vacation in Asia.
“My father has been a referee in two other fights with Manny Pacquiao. I wasn’t able to see them and with this fight in Macau, I told my father that I will be flying over there to watch since it’s his last time to be a referee.
“Pacquiao is my favorite boxer of all time. And I am so glad he won. That was the first time I met him in person as well and it was really awesome.”
Since she was in Asia, CBS (the network partner of CW) asked Gina if she would love to visit the Philippines. She instantly said yes.
“I said since I’m coming over there, let’s meet some people.
“I personally requested that.
“And I wasn’t disappointed. The Philippines has welcomed me with open arms.
“Even if it was last minute for everyone, I am glad lots of people came,” says the 30 year-old actress.
DISAPPOINTMENT OVER LIMITATIONS. Gina Rodriguez was born in Chicago, Illinois on July 30, 1984 to a Puerto Rican family.
Growing up in an American environment, Gina says that she grew up much like the same way as any American girl.
It was not until she got into college that she felt that there was something “differently special” about her.
“It wasn’t any different growing up in my family.
“It was not until I went out in the world and got into college and people tell me, ‘Oh you’re brown’
“I said, ‘Yeah I know, I’ve always been brown’.
“To me, I wasn’t any different.
“It was only until I got into an industry where there are selective roles that I can play because of my color.
“That was a very good motivator in the roles I chose.
“It was a big thing for me because I have dual identity. I have American and Spanish in my house as does anybody else’s home.
“But the idea of having a dual identity in our house is a blessing.
“It makes you full. We have a richness—you have flavor!” she points out.
Gina admits that there was a downside of having that certain “flavor” most especially when it comes to her work as an actress on TV and film.
“It was disappointing at a point when I was told I couldn’t play certain roles because of that flavour.
“That did not make sense to me.
“I grew up in a house where we have everything. We had full cultures. I had Spanish and English.
“I have two sisters who works as an investment banker and a doctor. And they are very, very successful.
“And onscreen I rarely see Latinos play investment bankers and doctors.
“And with my art, I want to make sure that the world will see that we can break down barriers.
“I think every culture wants to do that. Especially in America where there are so many immigrants. Everyone has multiple cultures.
“For us, it was very specific to have a sense of pride in that and I want to show that in my work.”
And to show it is what Gina did.
At age 16, she was accepted into Columbia University’s Theatrical Collaboration. She also attended NYU’s Tisch School for the Arts and had four years of training at the Atlantic Theatre Company and Experimental Theatre Wing.
She was able to perform at the American Stage Theatre playing the role of Frida Kahlo in a play titled The Last Moments In The Life Of Frida Kahlo.
In 2011, the 30-year-old actress landed a role as Beverly in the daytime American soap opera, The Bold and the Beautiful. Three years later, Gina got the title role as Jane Villanueva in the hit dramedy, Jane The Virgin.
As Jane, she plays a simple young woman who is saving her virginity for her future husband Michael (portrayed by Brett Dier) was accidentally inseminated by a doctor who was the sister of the sperm donor, Rafael Solano (portrayed by Justin Baldoni) that was meant for his wife, Petra (portrayed by Yael Globglas). Critics have hailed her as “the next big thing” and was recently included in the list of 35 Top Latinos Under 35.
“It’s overwhelming. It motivates me to work harder.
“To hear and read all those positive things about my work it only makes me want to work harder in order to deserve that honour.
“It’s gratifying that you work so hard to make your dreams come true and it’s nice to have someone saying, ‘You did a good job buddy,’” Gina says with a smile.
ON BEING COMPARED TO AMERICA. Jane the Virgin is dubbed as “the new Ugly Betty” and Gina is being compared to its star, Golden Globe and Emmy-winning actress America Ferrera.
“Growing up I loved watching Ugly Betty. I wish the world will watch us as much as they did with Ugly Betty.
“America Ferrera had a nice and beautiful life playing that role.
“I was lucky to have worked with her in a movie titled Our Family Wedding. And she is such an incredible person.
“I wish that she would come to work on our show.
“Many have said that we look very much alike. That is a huge blessing for me.
“The fact that I am being compared to America, please give me the same blessing that she had.
“If I can have a career just like hers, that will be a great!”
Gina made clear that she did not turn down a role in Devious Maids (another hit series starring Latina actors) because of Jane The Virgin.
She explains: “I did not turn down Devious Maids because of Jane The Virgin. The offer came to me way back in 2012.
“I know all the women there and I love them like Ana Ortiz, who I had an opportunity to work with in an HBO film titled Sleeping With The Fishes. And Judy Reyes who did two episodes for Jane The Virgin.
“I respect and love all of them.
“But I just didn’t want my introduction to the world to be in a story that I already heard before.
“Especially having sisters who are an investment banker and a doctor—I want to play those roles.
“That is empowering to any young girl with brown skin playing the roles of a hero and something that is pretty powerful and independent.”
In one of her TV interviews, Gina describes her Jane role as “kind of a badass”.
“Jane is a badass. She is all of it.
“Jane tries to do what’s right and she falls like everybody does.
“Jane is not afraid to say no and she tells a boy, if he doesn’t like the decisions I make, then goodbye!
“And I think that is tough. It’s more difficult than carrying a gun.”
DEFENDING THEIR SHOW AGAINST RELIGIOUS GROUPS. And because of the title Jane The Virgin, a few people are giving negative feedback because of the use of the immaculate word “virgin”.
Gina responds to these allegations with positivity.
“I grew up Catholic. I have Jewish in my family and I attend a Christian church in Hollywood. I am basically all over the place.
“In regards to the show’s title Jane The Virgin, in the beginning, a lot of people like to assume that they’ve read the storyline. And because I knew the story and we all worked hard for it, it was never a commentary on religion. It wasn’t even about the Virgin Mary.
“Jane is human, she’s not a God. Everything that happened to her in the story was all a mistake—an accident that nobody wanted to happen.
“But I knew where these people are coming from. I understand them, but they should give our show a chance. Give it a shot.
“I believe that they shouldn’t be judging a book by just its cover.
“They should try reading it from cover to cover. They should see the whole thing.
“At first it was scary for me to have people say ‘Oh what is this about? Are you the Virgin Mary?’
“Religious groups are saying, ‘They shouldn’t be doing that!’ But they haven’t read or seen anything. And that is already judgment.
“One thing in religion that we all learn is not to judge.
“But that was very interesting for me, to have these people talk about the show.
“That for me is very human. I accepted it as being human.”
Awards season in Hollywood will soon be coming and because of the buzz that Jane The Virgin has created, it won't be a surprise that the show will get nominations on its first season alone.
For Gina, who has already won a handful of acting awards since 2011 (Imagen Award As Best Actress In A Feature Film for Filly Brown; best actress at the First Run Film Festival in New York; the Inaugural Lupe Award and an ALMA award for Special Achievement In Film), is not expecting anything.
“We’re happy that the show already got a People Choice nomination as Favorite New TV Comedy.
“Like what I said, I am not expecting anything.
“But I have dreams. I know that I will win a Golden Globe, an Emmy, a SAG Award, an Independent Spirit Award and even an Oscar. I dream big!
“I am just praying that we get some recognition because that would be an honour.
“CW is a smaller network compared to ABC and other networks. But we are hoping good things will happen.
“We will make things work for Jane The Virgin.”
This coming Christmas, Gina will be spending the holidays with his boyfriend (actor Henri Esteve of the hit drama series Revenge) and his family.
“I always spend Christmas with my family. But this year, I’m spending it with Henri’s family and relatives.
“He’s Cuban, so I’m going to have a Cuban Christmas.
“But my New Year’s will be with my family. My father’s birthday lands on January 2nd. So we all have to be there.”
Speaking of boyfriend, Gina reveals that Henri is not such a fan of Jane’s baby daddy Rafael. Especially when it came to the kissing parts.
“Henri is not a fan of Rafael. He tweets in a jealous way about me kissing Rafael.
“But I always assure him that he is my number one stud!” she laughs.
For Jane (or Gina), who is sexier between Michael and Rafael?
“For the first five episodes, I love working with Brett. He’s an amazing actor. I was on Team Michael.
“But when I read episode 6 where I left Michael and I kissed Rafael, I said, ‘What is going on here?’ I thought it was way too fast!
“But my writer Jenny, she makes it a point that things doesn’t go unseen.
“Jane isn’t moving too fast. She doesn’t give mixed signals.
“Now I am on Team Rafael... especially when he took his shirt off!” Gina giddily ends our conversation.