The massive sets for the CW Network series “Jane the Virgin” — coupled with a floor-to-ceiling mural of the Miami skyline —creates the illusion of a bit of Florida in this Southern California community. All that’s missing is the sound of waves crashing just off the shore.
It becomes even more convincing inside the set that’s made to look like a hot South Beach boutique hotel. Except for a few extra lights, the area looks ready to host guests.
Today, the area is filled with journalists and the cast of one of the network’s biggest hits. It’s just a day after series star Gina Rodriguez picked up the Golden Globe for best actress in a comedy series. It’s the first such award for the CW.
Just hours earlier, the announcement was made that a second season of the series had been ordered.
Both were reason to celebrate but the cast and crew had already returned to work. Series creator Jennie Snyder Urman wants to make sure that the energy that has captivated audiences doesn’t wane.
The secret to the pace of “Jane the Virgin” is that it follows the formula that has made telenovelas so popular. Outlandish plot twists — such as Jane being pregnant despite never having had sex — and exaggerated performances are the norm.
Urman is not quite sure how far she can push those elements.
“I haven’t found that line yet. You want to be able to do everything that you want to do and take crazy swings. But you have to be able to find it within the character and within what they want,” Urman says. “And it has to make sense within their story.
“I think we can go for a lot of things as long as we can make it make some sense in our room and with our characters and it comes out of motivation.”
So far, the writers have been motivated to make Jane’s real father a famous telenovela star, have Jane’s ex-fiance be a detective who also is a blackmailer and her rival be a member of a shady Czech crime family trying to steal the wealth of the father to Jane’s baby.
Urman says the telenovela design will work with U.S. viewers. She points out that programs from daytime soaps to “Dallas” have used a similar structure.
“I’m the hugest ‘Scandal’ fan in the world. But you have a president and the girl and they can’t be together. I mean, that’s a setup for a wonderful telenovela,” Urman says. “I’m hoping that people can see that this is just one of a huge library of amazing stories and storytelling.
“In this one in particular we’re trying to combine comedy and drama.”
Rodriguez says she’s very comfortable in the telenovela format because the stories can be grounded in reality but switch to outlandish comedy in a blink. “In the telenovela world, it’s limitless. And so I think that that’s really what’s been very, very lucky for me and very much so a pleasure to be an actress on it.”
Rodriguez says a big challenge is the combination of English and Spanish spoken on “Jane the Virgin.” The Chicago native says her Spanish is a little weak. The only real exposure she got to Spanish was through her grandmother.
Urman recalls childhood memories of friends speaking another language so that she wouldn’t know what they were saying.
That’s a big plus on a series with so many secrets.
The biggest secret will eventually have to be exposed when Jane gives birth. Adding a baby to a series has often been a signal the writers are grasping for different ideas.
Urman sees the birth as a bonus.
“What's interesting to me is that this is a character who is 24 years old and never planned to have a baby at this moment in her life. So all of this stuff and planning and getting into pregnancy, there’s another earthquake coming when the kid comes,” Urman says. “I’m looking forward to telling those stories. To me — it’s going to give us a whole bunch of fresh drama.
“I think moms can be interesting, and I think they can be heartbroken. And I think they can be passionate. And I think it’s going to add a layer. And there’s some funny baby stuff.”