Listen: ‘Jane The Virgin’ Boss on Honoring the Extended Villanueva Family in Series Finale

Jane The Virgin – “Chapter Eighty-Two” – Image Number: JAV501b-BTS_0601ra.jpg – Pictured (L-R): Director Gina Rodriguez as Jane and Executive Producer/Creator Jennie Snyder Urman – Photo: Jesse Giddings/The CW -- © 2018 The CW Network, LLC All Rights Reserved.
Jesse Giddings/The CW

The fifth and final season of “Jane the Virgin,” the CW’s take on a telenovela, started with the shock of the titular Jane Villanueva’s (Gina Rodriguez) husband Michael (Brett Dier) coming back from the dead, just as she was moving on with Rafael (Justin Baldoni). But Michael — who was now going by Jason — moved out of Miami early in the season’s run, leaving Jane, and the show by extension, to focus on writing another book and trying to make things work with Rafael. For the final episodes of the series, creator and showrunner Jennie Snyder Urman tells Variety‘s “TV Take” podcast, the focus is on giving the Villanuevas their happy ending.

“Part of the reason this final season was structured as it was was so we got through some of the bigger dramatic, emotional swings early on and then we could get back towards building their romantic ending and the ending where the family’s at,” Urman says.

The penultimate scripted episode provided Jane one final piece of closure with Michael as he agreed to have his story told in her new book and revealed he had moved on romantically with Charlie (Haley Lu Richardson). It saw Jane receive a professional win in addition to the personal one, after her book sold for $500,000 at auction. It also brought Rafael and his sister Luisa (Yara Martinez) back together after she killed Rose (Bridget Regan), proving she put her family above her own romantic interests. And it set up Rogelio (Jaime Camil) and Xiomara (Andrea Navedo) to move to New York so he could pursue American stardom with a new television show.

“Xo and Ro about to move and wondering how they’re going to say goodbye,” Urman explains, “sets us up with the framework of the finale, which is the anxiety of endings that we’re having as a show, we’re having as writers, they’re having as actors, and then also they have as characters.”

In the finale, Xo and Ro are preparing to leave just as their family is growing: Jane and Rafael will be walking down the aisle to get married in the series-ender. While the wedding speaks to the grand, romantic themes of telenovelas, Urman wanted to make sure she balanced the episode with saying proper goodbyes to the original family on which the show was centered: the three generations of Villanueva women, Alba (Ivonne Coll), Xo and Jane.

“These three women lived within a few blocks of each other and are always there, sitting on the porch swing, and they’re moving into the next phase of their lives,” Urman says. “It’s about this family that was created, which is kind of like the family that’s created between the people that are making the show and the people that are watching the show and that shared experience, too. It’s all about honoring this big, unruly family that we all created and then saying goodbye to them.”

Urman shares that the ending of “Jane the Virgin” was never a question in her mind. In fact, the final moments of “Chapter One-Hundred,” the series finale that airs on July 31, was what she pitched to the CW when she first pitched the show. Part of that, she says, included returning to certain key colors and setups of seasons prior but allowing the audience to “feel the differences” now that the characters are at different places in their lives.

“The world is very carefully curated,” she says, adding that as it’s been important to revisit concepts of romantic love and connection through the lens of time, it’s been equally important to remember it’s “still within this story that you’re being told.”

Urman will follow “Jane the Virgin” with “Broke,” a new family show also starring Camil. This time, it’s a sitcom for CBS that she will executive produce but not showrun. Still, she shares that some lessons she learned from working on “Jane the Virgin” for five years will still apply, including “letting the characters drive the comedy and the drama and never having a joke that sells out the character and privileging the character and their heart and emotion above everything else.”

The experience of creating “Jane the Virgin” was one that Urman believes “changed everything” for her as a person, as well as within her career.

“My skill as a TV writer felt very mechanical in some ways: I know how to break a story, I know how to feel an act break, I know how to go into somebody else’s room and mimic their voice,” Urman says of her approach to the job prior to “Jane the Virgin.” But now, the show “put me back in touch with seeing myself more as an artist, which has been a hard thing to say and to own but an amazing thing to feel.”

It also taught Urman to “trust my gut in big ways, made me believe in the power of storytelling, changed my relationship to what I watch and the understanding of what it means to be represented and to see yourself,” she says. And because of that, she feels like the show will always be with her, even as she readies “Broke’s” premiere season.

“I have the porch swing in my backyard!” she says.

Later in the podcast, Discovery Channel executive Howard Swartz discussed the cabler’s annual Shark Week event, which launches July 28.

“Shark Week is a party,” Swartz says. “It’s designed to be a party to celebrate sharks. What we’ve tried to do over the years is debunk this idea that they’re these mindless killing machines.”