At first glance, "Jane The Virgin" seemed ridiculous. Did anyone believe that a show about a young woman who gets artificially inseminated would last 22 glorious episodes? But as we've learned, you should never count Jane Gloriana Villanueva out.
From its very first episode "Jane The Virgin" has been an absolute delight -- endearing, emotional and engaging -- which is a pretty impressive feat for a freshman series. Loosely based on a telenovela, the feel-good show has struck the perfect balance between whimsy and realism, and Monday night's (May 11) season one finale was no exception.
The episode capped off an incredible first season with the birth of Jane and Rafael's baby boy, Mateo Gloriano Rogelio Solano Villanueva (say that five times fast, Narrator -- we dare you). And as we look ahead to season two -- Mateo's kidnapping! Sin Rostro's return! Rogelio and Xo's surprise marriage! -- we can't help but wonder, how the heck did "Jane The Virgin" pull that off?
MTV News chatted with showrunner Jennie Urman ("Emily Owens, M.D") after the emotional finale to get to the bottom of the show's remarkable success. How did she and her team of eight talented writers pull off a near-perfect first season? Here's what we learned:
The magic starts in the writers' room.The CW
"We have a very deep bench of great writers," Urman said. "For us, it was about just plotting a lot at the beginning so that we knew where we were going so we could devote the most time of our story-breaking episodically to all of the fun and whimsy and the nuance. So we took care of all of the math first, in terms of the plotting and where people were going to get together. Then, we could really build it, emotionally."
"The key has always been to have these big, telenovela swoops but then have our characters process them in small, realistic emotional ways," she added. "Constantly remembering that balance has been so valuable to us in the writers’ room. And you also have that magical quality that nobody can anticipate, which is the cast and their chemistry. As the season went, we just uncovered more and more of their talents and obviously, I feel so lucky."
Build up towards emotional character moments.
"I try to take every script and make sure that I take a path through every character's point of view. You don't want a character who's just there to service the plot -- that might be what they're doing in that episode, but they have to have a point of view, a reality to it," she said. "I feel like the writers have found a rich life of conflict and emotion that can drive every character in situations so that they don't feel generic. That's been our goal in the writers' room, just to make sure we understand why everyone's doing what they're doing, so you can have Petra doing something awful as long as you understand why she is, where she's vulnerable and what her hurts are and what her past is. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves in the writers' room to make sure we authentically understand our characters."
Balance the crazy with a whole lot of heart.The CW
"It's really making sure that making sure that when these crazy things happen, these telenovela swoops, more fantastical storytelling, characters react as we would react -- like, 'What? Holy s--t!' They have to process it in an understandable, relatable way," Urman said. "It's also finding out what the fun, comic set pieces are, how the fantasies are going to function and feeling the balance of the episode."
"I feel like each episode feels a little different," she continued. "If you have Jane worrying about whether her baby is going to have some genetic abnormality, it's not going to be our lightest episode. But if you have Jane teaching at a Catholic school and battling evil twin former stepsisters, it's going to have more comedy. We try to look at each episode, and you want to make sure that there's comedy and drama in all of them, but the balance shifts episode-to-episode depending on where the emotional stake is for Jane. You always want to tell those stories through her and make sure the characters are growing and changing and learning and adjusting as it goes by. That's the fun part of doing episodic TV -- you really get to dig into characters."
Find the right tone and stick to it.
"Fun was always the goal. I wanted it to be an optimistic show," she said. "I feel like we have so many anti-heroes, and they're so interesting and I love a lot of that TV, but I wanted to have a show where there was a fundamentally good person at the center. Good people can be interesting too! They can be complicated and have intense moral dilemmas. I wanted it to be fun, I wanted it to be brighter -- I wanted you to flip through the channels and know you were watching 'Jane The Virgin' because the colors and the tone and the music. Even our murders a little bit more fantastical. Someone's impaled in an ice sculpture! They're light murders [laughs]."
"I wanted it to have smart women," added Urman. "I wanted it to have this strong matriarchy. We played a lot with fantasy versus reality in the first season, as a theme -- that you would ultimately realize the fantasy of Rafael and his world. The real fantasy is Jane and her mom and grandmother and the Villanueva house. I think every audience member who watched it would rather be there than at the crazy Marbella. We have these optimistic, hardworking people who are going after their dreams. That's what it's all about."
Bonus: cast the most talented baby actor of our time.The CW
"The baby that we had was such a magical baby," Urman said. "He was so sweet and he bonded so instantly with Gina [Rodriguez] -- he'd touch her face on set. It was just so amazing. It was a six-week-old baby, but I think it was born seven weeks early, so its due date was the week after we filmed."