Though the identity of Jane The Virgin’s velvety-voiced narrator is one of the show’s biggest secrets, the bilingual actor who plays him is poised to become a big star after having nabbed the hit series’ sole Emmy nomination. Here, Anthony Mendez — who studied cemetery architecture in college and worked in radio production before pursuing a voice-over acting career — talks to EW about receiving a nomination in the Outstanding Narrator category, his celebration plans, and what he hopes to see from his character in Jane’s second season.
Congratulations on the nomination!
It’s unbelievable. I think I’m still in shock.
It’s incredible — you’ve landed Jane’s only Emmys nomination.
I know. That makes is a little weird, a little bittersweet. I hope that my nomination is reflective of the show overall. I’m going to represent for everybody. I think that’s the only way to do it. The narrator is nothing with [showrunner] Jenny Snyder Urman and [lead star] Gina Rodriguez, who’s amazing, and all the other actors and people behind the scenes too. I can’t say enough about everyone else, but I’ll carry the torch for them.
How did you find out that you had been nominated?
I first heard about it from my publicist, and then oddly enough, a Windows desktop notification I got when CBS tweeted about it. That’s how I found out. I was in shock. My wife, I think, woke up the entire neighborhood. [Laughs] But she’s always been my biggest cheerleader. From the moment we couldn’t even afford to pay for our cellphone to the birth of our son to now, she’s always been my number one fan and supporter.
The Outstanding Narrator category is a new one. Before it was created in 2014, narrators used to be nominated in the Outstanding Voice-over Performance category. That being said, did you expect to be nominated? You’re also the only fictional program narrator represented on the list of nominees that includes Neil deGrasse Tyson, Miranda Richardson, Peter Coyote and Henry Strozier.
Not really, no. It was a weird thing, because historically the animation guys used to run away with all the nominations it until they split it up for narrators. But even then, the narration nominations have been pretty restricted to documentary work — your standard, stereotypical narrators. I thought maybe they’d think that my part is too much of a character. I’m still in shock. They don’t even announce this category and I’d say that 99.9 percent of people don’t even know this category exists. [Laughs]
You had an entirely different career until you decided to become a voice-over actor in your late 20s. How does it feel to be recognized by The Academy for a job that at one point wasn’t even a realistic possibility?
It’s amazing. It seems almost like an “I told you so,” to all the people that would ask my wife, “When is Anthony going to get a real job?” It is really, almost a vindication of that. But in the same token, it’s more than that, because that feeling will fade in a few hours. So to me it’s more about recognizing the entire voice-over community and those actors who nobody has ever heard of. This really puts the spotlight on what we do.
Who was the first person that reached out from the Jane The Virgin cast or crew to say congratulations?
It was so simultaneous. I got texts from Justin [Baldoni], and tweets from Jennie and Yael [Groblas]. I’ve also had a bunch of tweets I haven’t even read yet, since I’ve been reading the tweets one by one and trying to reply to everyone. I’m so grateful for everyone’s support.
What aspect of your performance as Jane The Virgin’s narrator do you think was the clincher in terms of getting nominated by The Academy?
I think it’s the fun that this narrator has. Jenny has created an amazing character — he doesn’t take himself too seriously and he criticizes people in the show in a humorous way. A lot of people compare it to having a buddy sit down on the couch during the show with them. So I hope that connected with everyone that voted for me.
The CW created a high-profile Emmys campaign around Jane, and fans were rooting for Gina to receive a nomination. What does the snub say about The Academy?
I don’t know if it says anything about The Academy. I’ve heard all the criticism but when I saw the nominations for Lead Actress in a Comedy, I thought “Oh wow, they did go a little bit outside what people were expecting.” But to not hear Gina’s name there … I know it’s a tough category both for the show and for lead actress. They so deserved it. That’s what I think I’m even more proud of being able to carry this nomination, because in a way I want to do it for everybody.
Will you go to the Emmy Awards in July?
Hopefully, if work permits. I’m more of a hermit, but there’s no way I’ll be able to keep my marriage if we don’t go out there. [Laughs] Especially now being the only nomination for the show, you kind of have to represent.
Is it weird to think you, the anonymous man behind the anonymous voice, might become famous?
I hope I can maintain some level of anonymity and I think I will, because the good thing and the funny thing is that some people think Jaime Camil is the narrator. I hope that continues a little bit. [Laughs]
Production on the second season of Jane begins next month. What do you want to see from your character?
I’m looking forward to seeing how they approach him. Knock on wood, hopefully we’ll get some new eyeballs on board, but I want to see how Jenny approaches bringing new people up to date while at the same token, giving a nod to people who’ve been there from the beginning. I’m excited to see how she approaches that.
Will you make an appearance on the show?
I hope not. And I don’t say that because I’m ungrateful, but I think Jenny at some point wants that to be one of the final reveals. So I think me making a cameo is a hint that the show is coming to an end of the road, and I hope that’s not next season. [Laughs]
Will we learn the narrator’s identity or learn more about his backstory in season two?
It would be fun anyway to drop some more hints in terms of the relationship of the narrator to not only Jane, but all the other characters
Do you know anything about the upcoming season?
I can tell you honestly that I do not. We don’t get anything until the table read or the day before, and I like it that way because it keeps it fresh.
On to more pressing matters: What are you going to do tonight to celebrate your nomination?
My family and I are probably going to visit my brother. We were invited to get together with him anyway. I intend to steal a little bit of his thunder and hopefully he’s ok with that. [Laughs]
What’s on the menu?
I don’t know. I asked my wife, “I can have anything I want today, right?’” [Laughs] I just got a look.
What would you want to eat?
For the appetizer, flan [A Latin egg custard with caramel syrup]. For the main course, flan and for dessert, I want flan. I’d have no problem with that. Oh my god, I live for flan. Unfortunately the cholesterol doesn’t allow me to eat too much.
You told me once that your wife gets turned on by your narrator voice. Will the narrator making an appearance tonight?
[Laughs] I have high hopes, Nina.
Last question: What do you hope happens now, professionally speaking?
I hope I can inspire other people, especially everyone who didn’t realize that “Hey, this is a category” to pursue this amazing career. And I’d really like to be part of an ongoing animated series. I’ve always wanted to do that.