WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK
Today was a dream come true for my Jane the Virgin obsessed heart. I had the opportunity to attend the Jane the Virgin panel at Vulture Festival, a two day pop culture festival held right here at the Hollywood Roosevelt hotel for the very first time. The weekend-long event covered a wide variety of screenings and performances for a number of genres of art — books, movies, tv shows, and more.
Being the die-hard Jane groupie that I am, I wormed my way to the front and center of the seating area because there was no way I was going to be in a room with all of the incredible screenwriters and Jaime Camil, who plays Rogelio de La Vega on the show, without being able to SEE them up close and personal. And let me tell you — the panel did not disappoint. I was genuinely entertained the entire time by the writers’ witty humor, passion for the show, and love for one another.
The panel members from left to right were as follows: Jaime Camil (series star), Jennie Snyder Urman (executive producer), as well as screenwriters Valentina Garza, Carolina Rivera (a UCLA alumna!), Liz Sczudlo, Chantelle Wells, Madeline Hendricks, and lone male Rafael Agustin. An incredibly talented group with phenomenal chemistry and camaraderie, the writers engaged the crowd in an exclusive behind-the-scenes conversation led by Camil himself, punctuated with his Rogelio-esque input every so often. Delving into topics like the creative writing process, how they stay true to the characters and their storylines, and all the ways in which the show has awarded them the chance to be a part of something so meaningful, the writers bounced ideas and stories off one another for the entirety of the hour long panel, and it was so cool to witness. It was very clear that an essential aspect to the show’s ongoing success has been the collaborative effort and energy each and every member of the team puts into its creation.
Camil began the panel by directing the conversation to the show’s origins. Jennie revealed that the inspiration for the show was actually a telenovela in which a young girl gets accidentally artificially inseminated, but the similarities stop there, as Jane took off in its own direction. She said about the early stages of the show’s development that she intended to focus on “the story about mothers and daughters, and how complicated that relationship is…this generational story started to emerge and I got really excited.”
When asked how the episodes come together, Carolina described the writing process essentially as “Jennie coming in and telling us all what to do,” eliciting laughter from the panel. She went on to describe that Jennie has such a clear vision and leadership when it comes to the show, and Liz chimed in to say that “having a showrunner who knows her world and her characters and has such a strong sense of what it should be is what makes this show spectacular and different from other shows on TV. It’s amazing how Jennie knows who these characters are, what they want, what’s driving them, and then we get to do the fun part, which is flesh out the details.” I wholeheartedly agree; having seen every episode of Jane up until the cliffhanger season 4 finale (I’ll dish on that in a minute), it’s amazing how developed these characters are, and that is no accident. Genuine thought and awareness went into creating these profound characters so that you’re able to sympathize with them, love them one day then hate them the next, and really feel it in the pit of your stomach when something bad or good happens to them.
Speaking of horrible things happening to our beloved Jane characters, how surreal was the season 4 finale? To finally create a world in which Jane and Rafael are happy together and so in love, only to bring back her dead ex husband?? One press member in the audience said it best when she asked the writers in all seriousness, “First of all, how could you do that to me?!” Though they didn’t spill many details, they teasingly circulated theories — one of which painted the whole Michael-returning-fiasco as a ploy by Sin Rostro. Interesting. Carolina did reveal that they have begun filming the new season and that the show’s ending has been decided, so we’ll have to wait until March until the final season airs to see what becomes of Michael’s untimely surprise reappearance.
Finally, my favorite part of the panel was the writers talking about the love cue. The all too familiar Spanish guitar piece that plays every time Jane encounters romance on the show is revealed on the show to have originated from Jane’s childhood boyfriend, Adam, but in real life, it came from a musical clip that Jennie was shown for the pilot. From then on, Jennie said that she kept going back to that clip every time Jane found herself in a romantic situation, and it became her signature love cue. Madeline laughingly recalled her surprise when she attended her cousin’s wedding and the love cue was playing as the bride walked down the aisle, which I may or may not have noted as a potential addition to my own dream wedding.
At the very end, I had the pleasure of meeting Jaime Camil, who by the way is an absolute angel. He took the time to meet and greet everyone who came up to him, even though it was clear he had to leave soon. I got a picture with him, accompanied by the sweetest shoutout video to my mother, who loves the show almost as much as I do. I love to make my mom cry at every opportunity I can get, so if you’re reading this Jaime, thank you, mission accomplished!
All in all, I’m forever grateful to have been a part of the conversation about how Jane the Virgin is so much more than a show, and to see just how powerful writing and storytelling can be. Hearing the writers reveal personal ties to the show including: Liz sobbing when Michael died even though she helped write the scene and knew it was coming, Valentina implementing her personal struggle with breast cancer into Xiomara’s own breast cancer storyline, and Rafael’s pride in Alba’s road to earning her US citizenship when he himself grew up an undocumented student was so special and changed the way I now view Jane the Virgin. It was the experience of a lifetime to learn about my favorite show on such an intimate level and witness the magic that goes on behind the scenes, and for that, I thank the writers and producers of Jane endlessly.