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‘Jane The Virgin’ Boss on Season 4’s Exploration of Bisexuality and Releasing Jane’s Novel

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched the Nov. 10 episode of “Jane The Virgin,” entitled “Chapter Sixty-Nine.”

Jane Gloriana Villanueva (Gina Rodriguez) is all grown-up and about to become a published author. The single mother’s debut novel, a romance tale based on her relationship with Michael (Brett Dier), is about to hit shelves not only on the CW’s “Jane The Virgin” but in real life, as well, thanks to a partnership with Simon & Schuster’s Adams Media imprint. But given how much is changing in her life, a follow-up book may not be far behind.

She has plenty of material: Her new boyfriend Adam (Tyler Posey) just revealed that he is bisexual, something Jane struggled with, given her conservative upbringing. And then there are her parents, who are co-parenting with Rogelio’s baby mama and her new boyfriend, who also happens to be her father’s nemesis.

Meanwhile, Jane’s baby daddy Rafael (Justin Baldoni) thought he was finally going to get his fortune back, along with ownership of the Marbella Hotel, only to learn his sister signed assets over to Petra’s twisted twin sister Anezka (Yael Grobglas).

Here, showrunner Jennie Snyder Urman talks with Variety about why she wanted to explore bisexuality through Adam’s character, what struggles are still to come for characters like Rafael, and just how Jane’s novel came to be.

When and how did the idea of exploring bisexuality on the show come up, and why was it important that Adam be the one to identify that way?

We had huge discussions about who Adam was before we started breaking stories because we were introducing a character who comes with a lot of history, a lot of weight for Jane, and a lot of narrative propulsive energy for us. So that was something we discussed and decided on early on. I feel like you see a lot of bisexual women on TV because men think it’s sexy when women make out — so that’s become a little more seen on TV, and we felt like we hadn’t had a romantic hero who’s also bisexual. And also, it felt like an interesting place to explore because Jane would think she’s very progressive and Jane would think she’d have no issue with it — that would be the place she wants to come into the story with, but then she has to unpack a lot of stuff. Some of it is residual [because] she grew up in a very religious house and has certain ideas in her head that are based in telenovelas and based on romance writing. And she had to struggle with her own discomfort and get over it. It was more about Jane realizing that even though on paper she should be totally fine, there’s no issue, she had to accept the fact that things did not go down as smoothly as she wished it did. She had to confront what that meant and ask questions — and feel safe enough to ask questions because sometimes you feel like your questions are silly and you should know better, but ask them! So it gave her a chance to [do that] and then continue on with Adam, who is her romantic hero right now.

How is the show continuing that story? Will we see any of his exes pop up the way we’ve seen hers?

He does have his own arc with a beginning, middle, and end.

Adam has really been embraced by the Villanueva family, but if he hadn’t been, would Jane have been able to stay with him, given how tight-knit the family is?

She’s made choices, and she realizes that as much as she always wants to please her grandmother, sometimes she can’t because she’s her own woman and they’re going to disagree. Even though that’s sort of painful — to disagree with someone who has placed so much stock in you — she has come to terms with that. Long-term if they were to work out and her family didn’t like him, I’m sure that would complicate things because Jane is somebody who’s very close to her family. And on a storytelling level there is an additional challenge because the audience loves the Villanuevas so much. If they’re hating a character, you start to lose a little bit of investment in him because you trust them and you trust they always want the best for Jane.

Why has it been important to move away, at this time, from the love triangle or love square aspect of the show that was key to earlier seasons?

I have to put a pin in that because some things are going to happen. But you know, you’re not constantly in a love triangle. That would be crazy if Jane was constantly in a love triangle, or constantly at the center of a love triangle. So the beginning of the season was about moving to her to the side, and Rafael was at the center, with both Petra and Jane wanting to be with him. And then they both went on different paths. And I think it was important to see Jane as somebody who can’t always get what she wants. I think it feels too false if you’re just choosing between various suitors because no one lives like that.

Rafael is a bit darker this season, too. Is this closer to who he truly is, or can he find his way back to Zen Rafael?

I think he’s got to find a middle ground. I have a lot of empathy, even though Rafael’s taken some dark turns this year. I can understand it [because] everything he’s built his life and identity around has been taken away and he is feeling very desperate. From Jane’s point of view, it’s like, “You can be happy and you don’t need all of this stuff!” But as much as he’d like to believe that, he can’t. He didn’t grow up like that. I think he and Jane have to come to terms with the fact that money does mean something to him. It is a measure of how he defines success. I think Zen Rafael was a direct reaction to doing too many things that were not right, but you still have to engage in the world, and he’s trying to find his balance. He went into panic mode in the beginning of the season, and in [episode] 5 he’s grappling. He wants to not care about that stuff, but he does, and he’s really at a broken place, and from that place, he will start to rebuild.

Is he rebuilding his old life by trying to reclaim the money and the hotel?

It’s a little bit of everything. He’s trying to figure out, “What is my line? What is it OK to want?” He’s refocusing on family and trying to step back, trying to see how far he’ll go and what he needs as his own moral center.

Similarly, how far will Petra go to get the power — and hotel — back from her sister?

Petra’s been a survivor and scrappy from the beginning! Rafael grew up with an incredible amount of privilege, Petra didn’t, so they’re coming from different places. Petra’s always had to do things to survive, and Petra’s line is different. Rafael went steps and steps over the line, but he’s also left the weight on her shoulders really strong. He hasn’t had to count on himself the way that Petra has, so his fall is bigger because he’s not as trusting that he can get out of anything. Petra feels that she can think her way out of everything. Life is hard, but she can come out on top.

Rogelio and Xiomara seem relatively stable now that they’ve come to a consensus on his vasectomy. Is it more of a challenge to write a happy couple than conflict?

They definitely are stable. They went into their marriage without thinking it was going to be a fairytale — knowing that there would be work involved and that it was not the perfect situation that they had dreamed about. They love each other, and they went in with their eyes open, a lot because of age and perspective, but they’re going to definitely have challenges. They’re not in jeopardy, but you know, life is hard, and the way that you deal with problems is often different from the way your partner deals with problems, which creates its own problems. We wanted to take our time to get them there so it felt earned, but there’s going to be so many challenges and conflicts. How can you be in a partnership in life without that? If I was just writing them as happy all of the time, I think I’d start to lose my grip on reality. I’m in a happy marriage, but things can be hard.

Luisa (Yara Martinez) has been tricked into thinking she’s hallucinating and having another breakdown. How will the show follow her journey with mental illness this season?

It’s tricky because I would give anything to have enough money to make Yara a series regular — I love her and that scene at the end of episode 5 where she’s with Rafael and giving him back his shares is as grounded and real as anything, even though she’s often a broad character. And if she was [a regular], then we’d be able to examine it in a different way because I’d have her for every episode and examine it in ways large and small. But because I have her for a limited amount of episodes, a lot of times she’s there turning plots and creating situations for the characters. That being said, we talked about at the beginning of this season really wanting to understand her in a bigger way, and some of that is the pain of her mental illness. She did have a breakdown at the beginning of her medical career, she hates when people call her crazy, her mother struggled. It’s something she struggles with — mental illness — but we’re not examining it in quite the same way as if it was Jane. She comes up in central moments, and you’ll hear what’s gone on, but right now she doesn’t even know what we know, so when she finds out she’s going to have a very big reaction. This was a terrible thing they did to her — a terrible thing — and we will definitely be carving out enough space for Luisa to process that and for us to understand where she’s coming from, how she’s feeling, and how her history will propel her into her future.

Jane The Virgin” has extended its storytelling through Rogelio’s Twitter account, but a tie-in novel is a much bigger undertaking. How did that come about and what are your hopes for the novel?

Actually Simon & Schuster came to us. They said that after we announced that Jane was going to have a book and what it was about — her love story with Michael — they had a lot of people asking if it was real. They reached out to us and asked us if we were interested in exploring that. You get so attached to characters on the show, and they feel real, and we always say Jane is a romance writer, but what does that feel like, and what are the rules? How does she fictionalize her relationship with Michael and still follow the rules of romance, which needs a happily ever after, and all those tropes. So it’s really to extend your feelings of Jane. We talk so much this season about the book because it’s published and different events come about as a result of it, so it was a way to continue to broaden out the audience’s experience of writing the show, which we always try to make interactive with the Tweeting and the text on-screen.

What are the challenges in creating Jane’s voice as a writer separate from how she speaks, as well as separate from the voice of the show itself?

We had a great, great ghostwriter for the book — Caridad Piñeiro, who is one of the biggest voices in Latina romance. We really let her do her thing. We read chapters and gave feedback on the overall structure, but we trust her. She knows romance writing better than we do. She’s the voice of Jane.

There are some passages in the book in what seems like the narrator’s voice. Does that hint at his connection to Jane?

Definitely not! That was a choice that she made early on to tie them together and incorporate for the fans of the show, but it doesn’t have anything to do with who are narrator is.

An earlier episode flat-out told the audience to expect another death. When will that be paid off?

Very soon. You’ll have some idea at the end of the next episode, but it will all be clear by the fall finale.

“Jane The Virgin” airs on Fridays at 9 p.m. on the CW.

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