‘Jane the Virgin’: ‘Ugly Betty’ meets ‘Gilmore Girls,’ co-creator says

‘Jane the Virgin’
Producers Ben Silverman and Jennie Snyder Urman (top) and actors (front from left) Jaime Camil, Ivonne Coll, Andrea Navedo, Gina Rodriguez, Justin Baldoni, Yael Grobglas and Brett Dier discuss “Jane the Virgin” at the El Rey Network panel of the TCA press tour.
(Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images)

“Jane the Virgin” is the adaptation of a hit Venezuelan telenovela that’s bringing a different flavor to the CW palate, which is used to a diet of superheroes and vampires.

The series, based on Venezuela’s “Juana la virgen,” stars Gina Rodriguez as Jane, a hardworking young woman who is accidentally artificially inseminated during a routine gynecologic exam. Cue the telenovela stare of horror!

The series comes from co-creators Jennie Snyder Urman (“Emily Owens, M.D.”) and Ben Silverman (“Ugly Betty”), who found themselves addressing how the series might echo the sensibilities of a certain other telenovela adapation that found success on broadcast television, “Ugly Betty,” during their appearance with the cast Friday at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Beverly Hills. 

“I mean, you know, that’s definitely there, I think, and I loved ‘Ugly Betty,’ ” Snyder Urman said. “Ben here is from ‘Ugly Betty.’ This show is a little bit less broad, I think, in terms of I wanted it to sort of have a fairy-tale, whimsical quality. I sort of try to describe it as somewhere between “Ugly Betty” meets “Gilmore Girls” because ... the mother-daughter relationship was so central in that show. So, to me, it’s that sort of the two of them together is the strange mark I’m trying to hit.” (Snyder Urman wrote for “Gilmore Girls.”)


The hourlong series is built around a Latino-family — and yes, Spanish will be spoken, largely by Jane’s grandmother (played by Ivonne Coll).  The pilot featured some subtitled dialogue, and that will continue, Snyder Urman said. That aspect adds truth to the show, Rodriguez stressed.

“When I read it in the script, I was like, ‘Jennie’s in my house.  Jennie knows my life,’ ” Rodriguez said. “I do not speak back in Spanish to my grandmother at all.  My grandmother only speaks to me in Spanish.  She knows what I’m saying, but she refuses to speak English back, and I refuse to speak Spanish, and there’s a moment in the show where I’m describing to my grandmother how I got inseminated and say, “I don’t even know how to say this in Spanish.’ We’re talking to 50 million people in this country when we say that line.

“It is outrageous how on point” Snyder Urman is, Rodriguez said, saying she encompassed the culture and that first-, second- and third-generation story of people who hear Spanish at home, have the traditional food at home, then have hamburgers and hot dogs outside the home and speak English. “It’s pretty awesome. I never watched telenovelas growing up. I watched “Growing Pains” and “Family Matters,” and those were like telenovelas to me. I was the one who with “The Cosby Show” was like, “What are you doing, Rudy? Why?”

But will “Jane the Virgin” elicit the same passion from viewers? Speaking to the idea of finding a following on the network now largely associated with supernatural and sci-fi fare, Silverman said he hopes the show finds its footing.


“I’m hoping [the CW] will have the patience with this show to allow it to find its audience and to grow, because it’s a show that I anticipate hopefully coming out the gates strong,” he said.

“Jane the Virgin” premieres Monday, Oct. 13, at 9 p.m. Eastern and Pacific time.  


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