Why Gina Rodriguez is a Name to Know

This past June, much ado was made over the CW's prospective pilot Jane the Virgin, based on a Venezuelan telanovela about an accidental insemination — and now Jane the Virgin has found its star in Gina Rodriguez. Named one of The Hollywood Reporter's "35 Hottest Young Latinos In Entertainment," the actress is poised and ready for her big debut — and apparently, that will now be as the titular Jane in this one-hour drama. So, before she hits the airwaves in a major way, here are a few things to know about Ms. Gina Rodriguez:

  • Her major breakout role was in 2012's Filly Brown , alongside Edward James Olmos and Lou Diamond Phillips, as the title character (AKA, Majo Tonorio), a budding LA rapper with a hefty amount of family baggage. Her performance in the Sundance-screened film had The LA Times calling her "the newest 'It' girl" and won her an American Latino Media Arts (ALMA) Award — despite the fact that she had never rapped before accepting the role.
  • Meanwhile, her first-ever film role was on an episode of Law & Order in 2004. (Thanks again, Dick Wolf!)
  • Don't be fooled: She's not in porn. Apparently, there's a popular pornographic actress with her same name — but it's not the same lady, she swears. As she recounted to Fandango, "I remember I was dating this one guy about a year ago, and he told his parents to Google me to look at my stuff and his parents look me up and call him immediately and say, 'Oh my god, we've raised you better than this. I can't believe you decided to date her.' It was hysterical."
  • Also, jeez, top Google suggestion, no she is not related to Michelle Rodriguez.
  • At age 16, she was accepted into a two-month intensive theater workshop at Columbia University — after which, she went on to NYU Tisch, the Atlantic Theatre Company, and the Experimental Theatre Wing.
  • One of her first jobs after making it out to LA was as a "twin specialist nanny" — which is, it seems, exactly what it sounds like. And apparently, they make bank.
  • Last year, she told Cosmo her dream role was to play the first Latina Avengers-style superhero. In the same interview, she copped to turning down a part in the show Devious Maids because "It might extend my checkbook but not my integrity." Bam.

After learning all that, especially the "integrity over checkbook" bit, it almost seems a shame that her first network role should be in, well, Jane the Virgin. At least given what's available ("a hard-working, religious young Latina woman [is] accidentally artificially inseminated"!), this plotline seems like the perfect "cake and eat it" scenario for a particularly icky kind of moralism — a heroine with all of the Madonna and none of the whore. I mean, at least in Saved!, 2004's Jenna Malone–Mandy Moore Christianity send-up, the "But I didn't mean it!" sexing that led to the protagonist's pregnancy served to debunk conservative perceptions of a "homosexual cure." Honestly, the only way I can see Jane's premise working — that is, not slipping almost instantly into sanctimony — is in a hyper-camp John Waters-esque farce. Billed as a one-hour drama on the same network that buoyed such mournful teen soap franchises as One Tree Hill, though, it threatens to get real "Oh dear" real fast.

Still, I believe in Gina, and Gina believes in it — so, we'll just have to see as pilot season continues to unfold.