Halfway through its third season, Jane the Virgin lost a key figure in what many expected to be Jane’s happy ending — including Jane (Gina Rodriguez) herself.
“It was the worst experience literally to date as an actor in my life,” Rodriguez says of the death of Jane’s husband Michael (Brett Dier), as well as the on-set goodbye to the actor who played him. But the resulting three-year time jump, which aged up the young actor playing Jane’s son, did soften the blow.
“I lost [Dier] for a 4-year-old, which is like getting another version of Brett.”
And here’s something else to ease the transition into life after Michael: Dier will make an appearance in Monday’s season finale, as confirmed by showrunner Jennie Snyder Urman on Saturday at Vulture Festival in New York City, where she was joined by stars Gina Rodriguez, Jaime Camil, Andrea Navedo, Yael Grobglas, and, yes, the very-much-alive Dier. (Fellow series regular Justin Baldoni was unable to attend due to his wife’s pregnancy; Dier joked, “He’s at the gym.”)
The cast recalled an emotional table read for Michael’s final episode — Camil described it as “a lake of tears” — but also supported the showrunner’s decision to put Jane through this tragedy. Dier told EW before the panel that he was sad to leave the series but “excited for the show to do something so intense,” and he later echoed his costar’s praise for the devastating twist.
“It’s almost as though Brett’s beautiful talent and his heart — he helped sacrifice for the bigger journey of Jane,” Rodriguez said. “It really is beautiful to see somebody go through this transformation, as we do as human beings, where we go from being kind of naive and so in love with this romance and this idea that nothing bad in life happens if you just play it by the book. One plus one equals two. And that’s not the way life works, and that’s not a bad thing either.”
Jane the Virgin was already no stranger to this kind of shakeup. Jane’s wedding to Michael in the season 2 finale did away with the love triangle that helped define the show’s early years, and that was fine by the cast, who noted they had all been on Team Michael. “That character’s the one you’re going to live with forever,” Rodriguez said. Of Rafael (Baldoni), she added, “When you’re younger, you’re like, ‘That’s the one I’m gonna mess with.’”
But Rafael has grown up, and Urman acknowledged that “the idea of ‘meant to be’ is something that we look at and construct and reconstruct all the time.” To that end, every member of the cast has a different opinion on the show’s ultimate couple.
“The real love story is between Michael and Rogelio,” Camil declared.
Grobglas had a different take: “I think Jane and Petra need to run away together.”
Here’s what else went down at the panel.
The Future Is Female
Jane’s political commentary was more overt in its third season, and Urman did acknowledge one change she made as a result of the current climate: Jane and Michael’s first kiss. Initially, the script painted the couple’s first liplock as more reluctant; Jane said she didn’t want the cop to kiss her, and he went in anyway. Urman recalls, “It was when Trump was like…” Rodriguez cuts in: “Grabbing things?” Rather than enforce that paradigm, the showrunner asked the actress to make the first move.
Rodriguez says that Jane the Virgin’s female-driven world is “where we’re headed,” and its commitment to putting the ladies in charge is one the writers don’t take lightly.
“At one point somebody was pitching something,” Urman remembers, “and they were like, ‘Could a doctor be a man on this show?’”
A Love Letter to Latina Girls
The cast also praised the show for its representation of the Villanueva women and their Latina culture; Navedo teared up thanking the showrunner for the way Jane’s mother is written.
“Xiomara could easily have been the stereotypical sexy vixen Latina,” Navedo said. “But for the little girl inside of me and for all of the little girls out there who are Latina, it means so much to them and to me that Xiomara is dimensional, that she has flaws and that she has positive traits, and they’re all mixed into one, and she’s evolving.”
When it came time for Grobglas to embody Petra’s long-lost twin, Anezka, she found inspiration in a surprising place: “This is I think how my cat would speak as a person.”
When taking on what she called the “gendered” idea that Jane the Virgin is a guilty pleasure, Urman took gentle aim at the kind of TV show no one would dare call guilty. “We’re taking seriously tortured men who only speak in, like, soft tones.” And since the show dabbles in fantasy, the showrunner has an idea for how they might address that double standard on screen: “I’d like to do some magical realism of a dark and gloomy anti-hero.”
While they were on the topic of guilty pleasures, the cast owned up to some of theirs — and when Navedo pulled up a photo of former One Directioner Harry Styles on her phone, the conversation took a turn. Apparently, the Jane the Virgin cast loves Harry Styles. Rodriguez praised his new single “Sign of the Times.”
“I think that’s the one I like,” Dier piped up.
Here’s What’s Next
While Urman wouldn’t say much about the season finale beyond confirming Dier’s appearance, she did tease that season 4 will see “Jane recapturing joy and having breakthroughs personally and professionally.” The showrunner also promised a big surprise for Ro and Xo.
And she does have a plan for how the series will eventually wrap, though fans — and the cast — shouldn’t be too eager to find out what that plan is. “That means we won’t have jobs,” Rodriguez said.
Earning a high-five from his former onscreen wife, Dier shot back, “Welcome to the club!”