Gina Rodriguez Has the Perfect Solution to Hollywood’s Diversity Issue
It’s really quite simple.
It’s probably safe to say no one has had the amount of career growth Gina Rodriguez has over the last two years. After years of small roles in TV and indie films, including a stint on The Bold and the Beautiful, Rodriguez finally got her big break as the titular character Jane on The CW’s Jane the Virgin and she’s been on everyone’s “One to Watch” list ever since. The award-winning actress, whose show just got picked up for a third season and has three films coming out this year, opened up to Celebuzz about the road trip that changed her life, why she’ll never feel like she’s made it, and how to solve the diversity issue in Hollywood.
After years of studying and performing theater in New York City, Rodriguez decided she was finally going to pursue her dream of being a film and television actress. So at 24, after being scouted on the set of an indie film, the actress decided to pack up her Toyota Corolla and set off a cross-country trip to L.A. with her boyfriend at the time. “So many New Yorkers are like ‘Don’t go to LA,’ ‘You’re not going to like it,’ but I wanted to pursue film and television,” she said.
“It took us like six days. It was brutal. We went the Northern route through Colorado, it was so scary, it was terrifying. And then we came to an apartment here in LA, and there was no bed and fell right to sleep on the floor,” she remembered. Despite the hardships, Rodriguez insists the trip was very much a metaphor for her life, and her soon to be burgeoning career. “It’s not always going to be easy, how it is going to be a challenge, how you do have to go through obstacles, but when you arrive how glorious that feels.”
“But for me to make that journey across country, and it not be easy, it really was challenge to get to LA and for me to have overcome that challenge, through a natural disaster, through the weather, through the arguments between me and my boyfriend at the time, through my fear of just kind of wanting to give up,”she told us remembering the fateful trip. “It felt like what I went through for many years in my career, and how if I can get through that cross country trip and survive and not get into a car accident, and me and my boyfriend not kill each other and make it, it was like I got this, I can do this.”
After arriving in L.A. Rodriguez worked for five years before the pilot from Jane the Virgin ended up in her hands and while many people were skeptical of the show’s premise (for those who don’t know, virgin Jane becomes pregnant after she is mistakenly artificially inseminated), she says the show was a no-brainer. “When I read the Jane The Virgin pilot I knew this was something different,” she told us wistfully. “There was just not one script I had come across that jumped off the page the way Jane did. That was so authentic to the Latino first, second, third generation experience. That was the experience that I had, that exact experience, I mean besides the whole artificial insemination,” she joked.
Even though Rodriguez believed in the project from the start, there was nothing that could have prepared her for Jane’s astronomical success. “We never really arrive if you will, we’re constantly trying to do better, we’re constantly trying to get better, and our dreams get bigger and our goals get bigger, and that definitely is the case for me,” she admitted before adding, “I mean obviously you pray for it, and you think, ‘This would be great,’ ‘That would be awesome,’ but there’s just almost no way that you can imagine those blessed that have occurred, and in such a short amount of time.”
Although the show’s success took Rodriguez completely by surprise, she believes it’s due largely in part to the show’s multi-ethnic cast. “I think people have been ready for their television screens and their movies to look like America,” she insisted. “To me, it’s a sure bet when it comes to business, if you make a good product, it’s going to win. Like if the product is good, you’re bound for success. I think that we relate success to skin color and that is just completely false, completely false. I think that’s fear-based.”
She added, “After Jane came out, so many of the networks were looking for a Latina lead because they said, oh look, it works! And we’re like ‘yeah, of course, it’s going to work because it’s good!’ If you don’t have a good product it doesn’t matter what ethnicity you put in there, it’s never going to work.”
Not only does she believe a project can be successful no matter what the ethnicities of the cast, she has a foolproof way to make sure everyone in Hollywood gets a fair chance. “Have a good project and cast the best actors, not because of color and you’re bound to have a success. If we could do some color blind casting the way they do on The Voice, I think we’d be surprised at what these cast’s would end up looking like, because there are some damn good actors out there of color, that blow people out the water.”
Before Rodriguez goes, we can’t help but try and get a few Jane spoilers out of her, but it’s a no go. “Honestly, I know absolutely nothing, they don’t tell us anything in advance which is bananas,” she confesses. Even though she has no idea what to expect from the next few episodes, she does have some really conflicted feelings about how she’s like to see it all play out.
When asked if she’s Team Michael or Team Rafael she replied, “I don’t know, I miss acting with Justin [Baldoni] so much. I miss acting with him so much, I really do. So selfishly I kind of want to go back to acting with him, but Michael is so great for Jane. That’s the man who patiently waited and fought for her, and there was nothing that really stood in his way to fight for her, and that’s just so romantic.”
Jane the Virgin airs on The CW Monday night’s at 8:00 p.m. ET