THE SUNNY SIDE OF LIFE
American actor Gina Rodriguez knows what it means to have to struggle – in life as well as in her career – but she‘s the first to admit that it makes the good times she’s now enjoying all the sweeter
ina Rodriguez’s face is plastered on billboards and on buses across Los Angeles. The Hollywood Reporter has dubbed her “The Next Big Thing”. But just a year ago, the 29-year-old was facing a career and life crisis. On Christmas Eve, she got the call her big lead break starring in Fox’s navy drama Wild Blue had been cancelled. Rodriguez was devastated. While she’d notched up plenty of guest roles over the years – Happy Endings, The Mentalist, The Bold and the Beautiful – money was tight. She was living “cheque to cheque”, working “17 odd jobs” and squeezing in auditions between telemarketing, waitressing and helping babysit her sister’s kids.
“There were some things happening in my life where I was like, ‘Wow, it’s raining!’ “she says. “I cannot wait to see the rainbow because this is a heavy pour.”
But in one of those rags-toriches tales Hollywood loves, the sun came out again just a few weeks later, when a producer who’d seen her playing a rapper in Sundance flick Filly Brown offered her an audition for Jane The Virgin.
To be honest, the project sounded a little strange. A frothy American take on a Venezuelan telenovela (an over-the-topstyle South American soapie) about a mix-up at a hospital that sees a 23-year-old virgin artificially inseminated?
“I was like, ‘ Jane The Virgin? That is quite the title!’ ” the friendly actor says of reading Jennie Snyder’s script.
For her part, showrunner Snyder was almost more delighted than Rodriguez. “It was like meeting ‘The One’!” she says.
The outlandish premise is just the launching pad for numerous fun storylines: biological donor Rafael is a married man and playboy who not only owns the hotel where Jane works but was her former teenage crush. Jane’s father’s identity, long kept secret by her mother, is revealed to be famed telenovela star Rogelio de la Vega – performed with relish by real-life telenovela star Jaime Camil. The series has become one of the year’s critical hits, named as one of the 10 best shows of 2014 by the American Film Institute.
Growing up in Chicago in a household struggling for money, she says she watched her two sisters work “their tails off” to become an investment banker and a doctor. So when Rodriguez became an actor she was determined not to take stereotypical Latino roles as maids, gang members or drug addicts. Sadly, that was just about all that was on offer.
Rodriguez has battled other obstacles too, including a serious thyroid condition she developed at 19.
But Rodriguez believes everything happens for a reason. She even appreciates Wild Blue’s cancellation last Christmas. “It helped me realise the kind of woman I wanted to be. Jane, I love her, and I want to be with her for life, but she will end. And I think the best way to prepare for the future is to love and embrace the present.”