Photography via Greg Gayne/The CW

Jane the Virgin’s Jaime Camil on Plot Twists, Representation, and Saying Goodbye to Rogelio

The show's final season premieres tonight.

Jane the Virgin has had more than its fair share of plot twists, improbable yet somehow plausible storylines, and dramatic cliffhangers over the last four years, but nothing can compare with the big reveal on season 4’s finale when Jane’s late husband Michael turns out to be NOT DEAD. (Straight out of a telenovela, right?!)

So there’s a lot to look forward to with this next season of Jane the Virgin, which premieres today. There’s also the bittersweet reality of knowing we’re entering the final season of this beloved series. For a show that thrives on big, meandering, unpredictable narratives and mile-a-minute drama, its core is a cozy little nugget of love, sincerity, decency and good intentions. Its characters—even when they’re being awful (hey Petra!)—are full of humanity and complexity, and you can’t help but root for each of them.

Jane’s father, Rogelio, may have started off as the vain and selfish one on the show but he, too, by the power of the Villanueva women and his own growth as a human, has blossomed into a generous, kind and loving father, grandfather and husband. (Crazy, right?!) Ahead of the show’s season premiere, we caught up with Jaime Camil, who plays the legendary Rogelio de la Vega—actor, producer and lover of lavender—to talk about the final season, the crazy journey of the past five years, and what this show has meant to him.

Let’s start with the big, shocking reveal from Season 4’s finale.
As actors on the show, we are equally as surprised as you guys are when you watch the episode on air. We have never been allowed to be in Jennie Urman’s circle of trust, because she doesn’t like to share what’s going to happen. I remember how we found out that Michael was alive. We were reading the script for the last episode of season 4 [at the table read] and there was a page that says, “The narrator goes: ‘And friends, this is the moment when Jane saw…’” And we’re like, ‘Are we missing a page here?’ And then Jennie Urman takes out a page and continues to read: “This is the moment when Jane saw Michael for the second time” and we were just like WHAT the…!

And then Brett Dier walks into the room. So we get as surprised as you guys do. I swear to God. I’m not making this up. Now Jennie cannot get away with that because we are just three episodes away from finishing shooting the series so now we know what’s going to happen.

Is there anything you can tell us about Season 5 and what’s in store for us?
I don’t know if you know already, but it has been established that it is Michael, he’s not an evil twin or anything crazy like that. And as you know, Rogelio thinks that the true love story of the show is not Jane and Michael, it’s Michael and Rogelio.

Yes this is a special storyline for you, given Michael and Rogelio’s bromance!
Exactly. That bromance is going to give the audience a lot of comedic moments when Rogelio finds out that Michael is alive.

Let’s go back to the start of Jane. On paper, the show is a big risk. It’s a primarily Latino cast, with a Latina lead, and a script that’s a mix of Spanish and English. What was the energy of the show going in, knowing that it wasn’t really the typical formula for a successful TV show at that time?
You know, I don’t think that’s a risk, and I think that’s a problem we have in Hollywood: looking at having a Latino cast, or a cast that speaks English and Spanish, as a risk.

But that’s how the entertainment industry works, it takes them forever to take the smallest of risks, and once they know that it pays off, they want to jump all in.
I agree with you 100%. My only point is that the day we stop seeing that as a risk, I think that will be a very happy day for all of us. But the risk, yes—can you imagine this pitch? “Oh you know, the show’s about a virgin girl who gets artificially inseminated by accident…” It’s a risky pitch, a risky premise.

I think it’s a risk until you actually do it, and realize there’s such a market for it. It’s just taking that first step.
Exactly, there’s a market for well-written shows, no matter what story you’re telling, no matter what the demographics or ethnicity of the leads, I think if you have a well-written story and a human story to tell, based on the humanity of the characters, not on their ethnicity, I think you’ll have an audience. And kudos to Jennie Urman and her amazing team of writers. You know we don’t change a comma, we don’t change anything. It’s powerful material, everything is there. You don’t have to ad lib, or change anything of the book.

I want to talk a bit of the timing of the show. Obviously it came out in 2014, long before there was an American president talking about a wall and saying things like ‘Mexicans are rapists.’ When the culture of America sort of started to shift, in terms of the rhetoric, what was it like for you at the time knowing that you were working on a show filled with so much positivity, when such negative things were being said about your culture and your community?
Well, listen, we are the other side of the story, right? We have to keep on fighting to show love, and giving love and tolerance and acceptance, because there’s so much hate on the other side. We have to keep the balance. We don’t shy away from those subjects. Jane the Virgin touches on those subjects but not like, ‘okay, we’re going to educate you on what’s right and what’s wrong.’ No. We just talk about issues the way you might talk about them over coffee with friends, we don’t mean to lecture anyone. But Jennie Urman does touch those subjects on the show.

With viewers from all over the world, do you feel more of a pressure when it comes to how your community is represented, like ‘we have to get this right!’?
We are very privileged to be working with a network and producers and a showrunner that understand that a minority doesn’t need to be portrayed as a caricature. They should be portrayed as normal human beings. And I think that’s a win itself. Now we are Latinos on Jane, but our walls don’t need to be painted shocking pink, and we don’t need to have piñatas hanging from the ceiling. And we don’t need to say ‘siesta Paco ratatatata!” We are normal people. Again, we go back to the same ideology, that we have to do shows for humans, embrace humanity, and embrace that we are all equals, that there are no differences between ethnicities or demographics, and I think that’s the key.

Looking back, now that your journey on Jane is wrapping up, what did you love the most about playing Rogelio?
Absolutely everything. I love that Rogelio is a well-balanced character. He can be perceived as comic relief, but he will also connect with you via the heart. And I think that’s an amazing achievement from the writers because Rogelio could have gone horribly wrong. But it just works. And not just Rogelio, but Petra. Petra’s sort of an evil character but she’s a fan favourite! The key of Jane is that every actor approaches their character with sincerity and honesty. So whatever stupid thing comes out of our mouth, like the incredible one-liners Rogelio has, he really believes them. Petra believes them and Rafael believes them and Jane believes them. So we connect with the audience via the heart, we don’t connect via a slapstick joke or stupid one-liner. Those are just to embellish or decorate our characters, but there’s a deeper connection with the audience and I think that’s the key.

From Jane you’re moving on to a new show. Tell us a bit about Broke.
I think it was going to be called Riches to Rags, and now we are Broke, which I love. It’s a property owned by RCN which is a Colombian network, and it’s a property that I did in Mexico actually, I was the lead of that show in Mexico. And one day I was talking to Jennie about it, she loved the idea and because she’s a brilliant woman, she decided to adapt the story for a 30-minute multi-cam and she did it brilliantly with Alex Hershlock, who will also be the executive producer. As you know, he executive produces Will & Grace, so I’m very lucky. The team behind this project is just a dream. I’m very happy and extremely grateful to be embarking into this.

You mentioned that you played this character in Mexico, and I know you’ve also previously done telenovelas. So what’s it been like for you now working on a show that’s both an homage and sort of a parody of that genre?
To be honest I did work on two classic novelas at the beginning of my career but I didn’t get them. I was like ‘What is this? I don’t get it.’ Like, you know, (dramatic voice): “Don’t ever call me AGAIN” and then the camera stays on you, for like TWO MINUTES! And I’m like dude, breathe, blink, do something! I never got the genre of how to do telenovelas. I mean I got it, I did it, but it never felt natural to me. So the other projects I did after the two very classic novellas, they were like sitcoms. I mean, they were labelled as novellas because they were every single day, Monday to Friday, one-hour format, so as a format they were identified as novellas but the content, the backbone, was a sitcom. I did Ugly Betty Mexico, I did [one] which was a Tootsie/Mrs Doubtfire kind of project. You can imagine me as a woman! I did a lot of comedy, I never stayed in that box of the super dramatic telenovela style. But of course I know it, I grew up in a country that lives for those projects so of course I know very well the genre, and I know very well how it works. So it was super fun to pay an homage with a lot of respect to that genre of television.

You won’t like me saying this, because I know you’re Team Michael, but I’m Team Rafael all the way.
Guess what! I think Rogelio has evolved and now he’s Team Jane! He only wants what’s going to make his daughter happy. Personally, I would have loved to see more of the rivalry between Rafael and Rogelio. Of course Rogelio loves Rafael because they’re equally handsome (laughs) but Rogelio does realize that Rafael has changed, has evolved from this empty playboy to a good father and he loves Jane so much, so of course he’s going to be Team Rafael eventually. He kind of is already, right? I mean, Michael died! He didn’t have a choice.

By default, you’re on that team now.

Exactly, by default he had to be on Team Rafael! (laughs)

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