Gina Rodriguez Advises Actors to ‘Love Yourself First’

“Jane The Virgin” star Gina Rodriguez visited New York City’s SVA Theatre May 19 for her SAG-AFTRA Foundation panel, moderated by Backstage Editor-in-Chief Mark Peikert. The Golden Globe winner discussed her CW series’ Season 2 cliffhanger, how she chooses film and TV roles, and reinterpreting what it means to be a woman in 2016.

Sporting a new haircut for her current project (the sci-fi film “Annihilation” from “Ex Machina” director Alex Garland), Rodriguez got candid about her journey to success, talking about the days when she would sustain herself on little more than ramen while working as an extra and later as a guest star on shows like “Happy Endings.”

“They say you’re a master after 10 years? I say give it a lifetime,” she told the audience of actors. “You never know when your story’s going to be ready to be told, and more important, when you’re going to be ready to tell that story.”

Rodriguez won a Golden Globe in 2015 and was nominated again in 2016 for her portrayal of titular virgin Jane Villanueva in the comedy series based on a Venezuelan telenovela. The ensemble-driven series also stars Justin Baldoni, Andrea Navedo, Yael Grobglas, Jaime Camil, and Brett Dier, among others. Reflecting on “Jane The Virgin,” she admitted to crying at the table read for the shocking Season 2 finale and spoke about immediately being grabbed by Jennie Snyder Urman’s writing.

When asked if Jane influences how she approaches new roles, Rodriguez credited the show’s dual dramatic and comedic elements with allowing her to be comfortable in either space. In addition to the London-based “Annihilation,” dramas coming up for the star include “Deepwater Horizon,” about the BP oil spill of 2010, and “Sticky Notes,” starring Ray Liotta and Rose Leslie. It was while being away for four months filming “Deepwater Horizon,” Rodriguez recalled, that an apartment sitter accidentally broke her Golden Globe statue! But she remained cheery, lightheartedly joking about not being concerned for the item itself: “It’s about the memory!”

The actor also discussed her time studying drama at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. While there, she was diagnosed with an underactive thyroid gland at 19. “I thought I was cursed,” she said before adding she didn’t consider herself an ingénue type for many years. It took practicing self-love and focusing on her craft to change that notion. She encouraged young actors to “drop the knife” instead of figuratively turning it on themselves. “Love yourself first, mama,” she emphasized.

Further speaking about what audiences can expect for Season 3, Rodriguez hinted at creator Urman’s desire to delve deeper into themes of motherhood and women’s rights. The show has previously tackled immigration issues and what it’s like to be second- and third-generation Americans—Urman doesn’t shy away from bringing hot-button topics to her prime-time dramedy. When speaking about why she thought the entertainment industry needed this show and a character like Jane, Rodriguez responded, “[For me, it was about] changing the face of what I used to see when I was a kid, and changing the idea of what it means to be a woman in 2016, and changing the idea of what it means to be Latina and multicultural and multilingual.”

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