Jaime Camil plays the dramatic, charismatic, slightly self-absorbed yet extra-endearing Rogelio De La Vega on the CW’s telenovela-style comedy, Jane the Virgin. Camil, who has starred in many Mexican sitcoms, films and telenovelas, tells Nerdette’s Greta Johnsen why Jane the Virgin is so relatable and how it’s changing the game for people of color on American television.
Greta Johnsen: What is so relatable about a show like Jane the Virgin? You have so many characters who look different from a lot of your audience, but people love this show.
Jaime Camil: This is a show written for human beings, not a certain ethnicity or demographic. And I think that’s the clue for Jane’s success. Gina Rodriguez happens to be Latina, and we happen to be working with a family that has Hispanic heritage, but that’s nothing. That’s just a little extra thing that we have on the show.
We could be from Vietnam, we could be from Turkey, from Germany — the show tells stories about human beings and their struggles, regardless of their ethnicity or demographics.
Johnsen: What do you think Jane the Virgin has done to add dimensions to the portrayal of Latin-American people on TV in the United States?
Camil: A lot. Kudos to Mark Pedowitz, the president of the CW, the network executives, and our producers Ben Silverman and Jennie Urman, because just the fact we’re portrayed as Latinos without having to scream “tacos!” or “fiesta!” in every single line — just the fact that they portray us as normal people — normal middle-class America — is amazing. It’s a win.
Johnsen: Another thing I love about this show is how much it’s addressing the current political climate without being heavy handed about it. It’s still lighthearted and fun, even though you’re dealing with really serious issues around what it’s like to be an undocumented person, worrying about Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids, for example.
Camil: Yes, I think it’s the responsibility of the showrunner to speak out when these things happen. We are not CNN. We are a show on the CW that is meant to entertain people. So we’re not going to get that heavy in the political scenario or anything, but we are going to address these issues in the way you would address them over coffee with your friends. So we don’t go that deep into them, but we do address them.
And I think it’s important to create some conscience, especially with the political vibe that this country is living right now. There’s a lot going on. And I think it’s the responsibility of whoever has the power of communicating to the masses to put out a fair point of view. Like a line Jane had [in a recent episode]: Freedom of speech is not about being comfortable with only the speech that you like. It’s about all kinds of speech, not just the one that favors you.
Johnsen: I’ve heard that you still consider musical theater to really be your home. Is that true?
Camil: Without a doubt. I love being onstage. That’s where I feel the most complete. It’s like fish in water scenario for me.
Johnsen: What about being onstage feels different from being on TV?
Camil: Every single performance is a new performance, so you feed off the audience and your fellow actors and the energy and the vibe and how the orchestra is feeling. It’s a continuous feedback of so many elements that have to come together in the most perfect way in order to give the audience the experience.
They go, they sit, they watch the play, and it’s probably going to be the first and only time they see the play. So they deserve your very best every time. And that drive of excellence, I just love that. I love that feeling of being onstage and singing and dancing and acting, and you only have one take.
Johnsen: What homework do you have for Nerdette listeners?
Camil: Please watch Ancient Aliens. Oh my dear god, it’s so good! It’s about the theory that we have been visited by aliens. Many times. And how ancient, ancient aliens — I’m sorry, you asked me, so I’m going for it! It’s a very interesting show that I am completely addicted to.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the “play” button to listen to the entire conversation.