After Gina Rodriguez delivered this powerful and profound speech about cultural identity at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in July it became immediately clear to every critic and reporter in attendance that The CW had found an actress worth keeping an eye on. And as the show's smart, funny, and emotional freshman season played out, Jane the Virgin proved to be the launchpad that Rodriguez deserved. Even still, the actress remained at a loss for words this morning when she and the show were honored with two Golden Globe nominations from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) — one for Best Actress in a TV Comedy and one Best TV Comedy. It's the first time that The CW has scored a Golden Globe nomination of any kind, much less for a first-year show and its lead.
"I screamed at the top of my lungs," Rodriguez told BuzzFeed News during a phone call shortly after learning about her nomination. "I totally know my whole building woke up. Or at least they're like, 'That crazy Puerto Rican.'" Although many awards pundits considered Rodriguez a lock for the nomination, the 30-year-old actor didn't truly allow herself to accept that possibility.
"I was very emotional last night, like, whatever happens happens — leaving it open to a bigger universe: God and the HFPA," she said with a laugh. "Obviously, I wanted this. I have wanted this. It's a dream come true. I've been getting calls and texts all morning. It's been incredible." One of the biggest reasons Rodriguez refused to buy into the hype is because, as she said, "None of this was supposed to happen."
"Everything was pointing towards this not happening," said Rodriguez, both about the nominations and her show's survival. "Towards me not being a lead, people being against the title, our Monday night slot, the most difficult slot against the biggest shows ... everything was pointing to us failing. And to succeed, to strive, to rise above, to fight harder, to be more ambitious, and to show people that we have a great product because Jennie Urman [the show's creator] is brilliant, means that I can now say — not just to Latinos, but to everyone — that all the odds were against me, but hard work and dedication and perseverance and being good to people does win. It does matter. Cream does rise to the top."
There are many realizations that Rodriguez would hope that people are able to take from her success. But, above all, she aims to be an example that young people from every background and circumstance can hold up as proof that their dreams are possible too. "The fact we got recognized and that I'm the first person to get recognized from The CW and I'm a Latina, I would be empowered by that ... I am empowered by that," she said. "Because if I can do it, that means there are so many other people who are going to be able to do it. It's that idea that when you make your dreams come true you allow other people to dream and try to make their dreams come true. That's all I did, I opened the floodgates. Now everybody can see that if I can do it, what makes you any different? This little lady from Chicago in the little-engine-that-could show on the smaller network? It's not where you're from, it's where you're going, and we're trying to go where everybody else is at and it feels like we just arrived there."
When Rodriguez says "we," she refers to the Latino community (the Chicago native is of Puerto Rican descent), but she's quick to add that every ounce of diversity on television benefits the greater good. "I hope that the diversity on television is already shaping people's minds to become more tolerant of that which they do not know about," she said, singling out Viola Davis, star of ABC's How to Get Away With Murder, who also received a Best Actress in a TV Drama Golden Globe nomination this morning. "The idea of equality and fighting for equality is especially important now during Ferguson and Eric Garner."
The success of shows like Scandal, Black-ish, and Jane the Virgin have certainly demonstrated there's a need and market for diversity on television, and Rodriguez is honored to be a part of that realization. "This quote-unquote risk of having a beautiful brown girl as a lead is not a risk at all, because I think the viewers and the advertisers and the networks are starting to see we do desire that, we long for it, we connect to it, and we need it," she said. "We need it for tolerance in this country, we need it for tolerance all over this world. We need role models so we can change our world for the better. And if we can do that through art, how magical! People say that art isn't brain surgery, that we're not curing cancer — and that's very true — but we can do something with our art, so let's do it!" She continued: "Choosing to expose certain communities to these stories is going to create more tolerance, it's going to create more acceptance, and it's going to inspire our youth."
And that, Rodriguez said, is the biggest reason why she's so thrilled with her Golden Globe nomination. "Inspiring others is all I wanted to do this for," she said. "For so long so much of my life has been trying to make my parents proud, and I realized in my search for acceptance from my parents that I was really creating a movement that I needed as a kid. I needed to know I could do it. I needed to see somebody do it before me. There are so many women who paved the way for me, so to think I can open the door for the next, that's everything. That's what this is about. That's what I do Jane for. I'm going to cry, but if the show can touch one more person, maybe now one more person can get out of the 'hood because they said, 'Hey, she did it, why can't I? Why am I any different? Why not me?' If you start to see yourself in the worlds of television and film and on billboards and in magazines — everything we're driven by as a culture and a society — you start to think, 'Why not me?'"
While Rodriguez is elated to be the first actor from a show on The CW to receive a Golden Globes acting nomination, she's even more excited that her show was also honored, another first for the eight-year-old network. "I am only a product of the amazing people around me," she said. "It's beautiful to be recognized for my performance, but it's even better to know that the people around me are recognized as well, because the show may be called Jane the Virgin, but ... that performance the HFPA just recognized me for is because of all the people around me, the people that lift me up, that push me, that welcome me into their arms every day, that support me when I'm scared, that help me when it's a tough scene."
"The fact we're nominated together is the blessing, because now we all get to feel this," she continued. "I shouldn't be the only one. I get too many blessings. They deserve to feel that feeling I get every morning, every day, every time I pass by a billboard, every time my mother calls — they deserve that too, because it's the best. It's just the best. They're the reason Jane exists, it's not just Jane."