Welcome to the third annual Women in Television issue, which celebrates some of the industry’s most incredible women and asks them to debate the problems facing females working in TV. From fair pay to power imbalances and speaking up on set, they get vocal in this unmissable interview…
Rodriguez, 34, rose to fame as the titular star of acclaimed comedy Jane the Virgin, which is currently in its final season. In 2015, she was the first actor on the CW Network to win a Golden Globe, and this year donated the money that was set aside for her Emmy campaign to pay for the college tuition of an undocumented Latina student. She set up I Can & I Will Productions to tackle the lack of Latinx representation on- and off-screen
My favorite TV show growing up was Martin. I love comedy and Martin Lawrence was revolutionary in that time because there weren’t many people of color on screen. He lived with his wife Gina in a small apartment… It just felt much more relatable than, say, Full House, which definitely wasn’t the way I was raised at all.
Growing up as a Latina in the United States, I didn’t see us portrayed positively on TV. When you see certain images repeated so often, the reflection of representation on screen makes you feel a certain way about yourself. You tell somebody over and over again that they’re something, eventually they’re gonna believe it. I just wonder how much more tolerant our society would be if there weren’t such stereotypical roles portrayed for so long. If Latinos weren’t always portrayed as the villain, would we really feel a particular way about that community? If Muslims weren’t portrayed as the terrorists, would we feel a certain way about that community? I don’t think so. Art does, I believe, create tolerance. It can be responsible for healing so much – when it’s a reflection of reality.
I grew up economically challenged. We did not have much, at all. When I would do small short films or things for barely any money and I could barely pay rent, my father would tell me: “Don’t worry about the money you’re making now. You prove to them how much you’re worth!” And I used to think, “Do I know how much I’m worth? Have I been taught how much I’m worth?” Now, when I get blessed to be the lead or get a big film, do I know my worth? And do I know how to ask for my worth? How do you get that when you’re not taught it?
When I get the chance to watch television, I love It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – they’re really awful people and they remind you that there’s funny in the world of awful. I started watching Vida, which is very cool – I’m really proud of [screenwriter] Tanya Saracho for creating something new and revolutionary. And The Good Place brings me so much happiness and light-heartedness right now. But if I was going to award anything, I’d say Black Mirror. We should be using it as a guide to what we shouldn’t do in our culture.
I feel extremely listened to as a woman on set. Very empowered. Very respected. Jane the Virgin is female-led – 70% female writers, 70% female cast, 70% female directors – so it’s very common to see women in high-powered positions on our show. I know that’s not common, so I don’t take that for granted. At all.
The TV show of my life would be called I’m Just Trying.
Watch Season 5 of Jane the Virgin on Netflix now