Gina Rodriguez is great at meal prep. I know this because it's lunchtime ("I'm just going to be snacking a little bit") and she's inhaling a chicken salad with couscous that she made, in defiance of the temptations on Jane the Virgin's on-set craft services table. I'm surprised she has the time to spend on grain bowls, given her popular CW series is in its final season, there's a spinoff in the works, and the actress has a new movie coming out on Netflix on April 19, called Someone Great.
Someone Great is kind of a reverse rom-com. Rodriguez's character Jenny gets a dream job in San Francisco, and her boyfriend decides he doesn’t want to make the move with her. Jenny calls in the big guns: her two BFFs (played by Brittany Snow and DeWanda Wise). "I need one last epic day with my girls," she tells them."It's a really cute fucking movie and we're so proud of it," Rodriguez says. "We worked so hard on it. It has a female director, female leads, female VP—pretty bad ass. I'm pumped."
We talked to Rodriguez about the lessons of her "wild" twenties, how she dealt with her own breakups, and the role she's going to play in the Jane the Virgin spinoff.
In Someone Great, your character Jenny talks about leaving her twenties behind. What are you happy you left behind in your twenties?
Oh my God, a lot. I was told by my sister at a very young age, your twenties are all about dating. Don't get married in your twenties. Date everyone, date every gender, just date like crazy and enjoy yourself. It was definitely something that I paid attention to. Part of me is really happy I did that, but also happy that wild phase is done. Because I did...crazy things.
What kind of crazy things?
I experimented, and there were some times I probably could've gotten myself killed. Well, not sexually! You know, I just...I'm a wild one. I try things that scare me at least once. I mean, I started racing cars in my teens, I did graffiti, I was a loco.
Now, in my thirties, I'm not doing that as much anymore. When I was in my twenties, I'd be like, Oh, bring it on, fuckin' fear, yes! Now I'm like, I'm good, done that, or don't want to do that. As I get older, the more important my life becomes to me, right? I could definitely have gotten myself hurt pretty severely.
Is there anything from those dating experiences you want to share?
Something I learned that I didn't do for a very long time was to put myself first. I was very much a chameleon. I was what my boyfriend wanted me to be, and I think that is because I'm an actor and I know how. But it was also because I was afraid of who I was, that I wasn't enough, or, God forbid, if he knew who I was, maybe he wouldn't want to be with me. And that was preventing me from getting to know a lot of people and letting people get to know me. That was a big mistake, because I didn't get to embrace and experience who I was.
One thing my father would always say is: If you don't lie, you never have to remember anything. I took that to heart in my career; I was always very honest and transparent. But when it came to relationships—it's not that I wasn't honest or transparent, it's that I just didn't share. It was like, Well, if I keep that part of me under wraps, I won't be judged for it. And then he won't dislike me because of it.
But it can be hard to be yourself. Have you ever struggled with that?
Yeah. It wasn't easy, but it was liberating. And it was crunchy at times, right? Because I had to admit the things that I didn't necessarily like about myself: my insecurities, my vulnerabilities. I don't know if this would've have been the same situation with another man or woman. But [with fiancé Joe LoCicero], what I was lucky about was that he was already working on himself too. Timing is everything. If he was not down to go to those spaces with me, we wouldn't have worked out.
It also is something that we practice on each other. Like I have a problem saying no, to friends or family or work. I don't know how to put myself first, and he 100 percent helps me with that. It's good to have a buddy that's like, Yo, I thought you were working on that. Loving myself, [I need] a daily reminder. There are times when I'm like, Whoa, why are you stealing your own joy, Gina?
In Someone Great, the wonderful Lakeith Stanfield plays Jenny's boyfriend. But this film is more about Jenny and her friends.
I mean, Lakeith was my dream actor to be working with for this. I actually just adore him. I think he's a phenomenal actor. But it's definitely about her and her relationship with her friends, and her relationship with herself. You know: When do we choose others? When do we choose ourselves? With decisions that aren't easy—when are you willing to make them and why?
When Jenny realizes that there are big changes coming in her life, she gets her two best friends together and they decide to have one last big New York night. What's your ideal New York night?
I went to college in New York and lived there for about ten years, and I had lots of breakups in New York. Lots of those nights. So it's very easy to go back to that space. To me, New York City is all about being outside, watching people, being on the subway, sitting in the middle of Times Square and realizing how small you are. Washington Square Park, listening to the musicians that come out and play.
But it's definitely about the people. When you live in L.A., you have to work to see people, and when you live in New York you have to work to be alone. There was a time that I'll never forget—I had just gone through a breakup and I walked from Herald Square all the way to deep Williamsburg, it was like 17 miles. With a friend, fucking crying. It was crazy. It was awesome.
Did any of this real-life experience make it into the movie?
I was lucky enough to help produce. So a lot of the work I did was getting the actors on board, and we cast one of my real-life best friends, DeWanda Wise. We went to NYU together. We've known each other since we were 17.
We're super excited for the final season of Jane the Virgin. You directed an episode last season. Are you going to be in the director's seat again this time?
I directed two this season. I directed our season premiere and our mid-season premiere. This season is bomb. It's the best one so far. I don't know if you ever watched Six Feet Under, but that show had such a strong close. It's so seldom you get the opportunity to do that in television, because you never know when you're going to end. We got really lucky.
I can tease that we're definitely going back to the love triangle for Jane. I also have a seven-minute monologue in our season premiere. We did it in one shot. I fucking love it and I can't wait for people to see it.
Can you tease anything about the spinoff series?
It's the stories that Jane writes. She's the narrator. They're the stories that come out of Jane's head, and ideally we'll do it like an anthology where you'll get one novella a season. I will be the new narrator, if you will.
I know you have a wedding coming up, too. How's the planning coming along?
So easy. You know why? Because my amazing mother-in-law's pretty much doing all that. She's the greatest. I would happily marry Joe today in the courthouse, but we belong to a big Italian family and a big Puerto Rican family. That was not going to happen. We're doing the thing for our family, and we hope they're happy. That's all that matters to me, that everybody's happy. That's also something I'm working on: people-pleasing.
For more stories like this, including celebrity news, beauty and fashion advice, savvy political commentary, and fascinating features, sign up for the Marie Claire newsletter.