WTF IS FYC?
STARDUST BY PROXY
A SERIES LEADING TO EMMY
JANE THE VIRGIN
A DIFFERENT VENUE FOR THIS FYC
The event was held at the El Portal Theatre in NOHO. As part of the NOHO Arts District, it’s paces away from many wonderful organizations: our own TV Academy’s revamped flagship, The Saban Media Center and state of the art Dolby equipped Wolf Theatre, The Art Institute of California, The NOHO Arts Center, co-directed by Pastor, James Mellon … my Riff in our Broadway Revival of West Side Story … six degrees of separation … BAM! ... several small theaters, dance studios, performance venues, retail shops, office buildings, and eateries.
The theatre’s 1926 art deco marquis stands out against Laemmle’s modern multiplex across the street. My talent agency, Clear Talent Group, has held its talent showcase here for the past few years. There’s not a bad seat in the house, even though the bones of it creak when the wind blows … but then, so do mine …
Familiar with the lack of parking in this area, I know to arrive early. Of course, this means, standing in line longer than I’d care to, but this is how it goes with FYCs! Since the Lankershim subway station is nearby, general foot-traffic here appears to be heavily weighted by those who don't own a car.
Once inside, we’re welcomed by an open bar … wine, beer, soda … and packaged snacks … all allowed inside. That’s different! On my way to claim an aisle seat, I’m handed a script from the show. That’s also different! We’re to witness a table read from the cast!
Cast members enter one-by-one and are introduced by the show’s voice actor, Anthony Mendez. This is a very nice touch for anyone’s who’s seen the show. His voice role is integral to the format and style of the show. He’s the last creative to join the cast at the table, and in his role as narrator/inner voice of the characters, his is the last “creative step” in the storytelling aspect within the context of Jane the Virgin's world. He joins creator, Jennie Synder Urman near one end of the table.
Urman, is bubbly and excited about being here. And why not? Her show has won numerous industry awards. And tonight, she’s with her very talented cast, who are also excited to be here.
IT'S A TABLE READ
Table reads have their own way of coming into being. I believe there’s no industry protocol for a table read other than the obvious: actors gather and read lines. Tonight proves the point: some read from the script never making eye contact with anyone … others read and address fellow actors … and another, Gina Rodriguez, with hardly a glance at the page, performs ... as if she'd rehearsed her part the night before. Later she reveals that her daytime soap work trained her memory muscle … something she had to do to get the work done, but it’s a skill she’s extremely grateful for learning and it is impressive!
Knowing Gina’s gift for memorization, Urman rarely hesitates when throwing her character into tricky situations involving dialogue … Rodriguez shares a rap song with us … and gushes when telling us about dancing with Derek Hough … reinforcing the fairytale elements of this show: characters perform while grounded in reality, in fantasy, and in a telenovela within a telenovela. What?
THE GRATEFUL PACT
This is tricky storytelling and Urman navigates all worlds, while managing to expose the heart of her characters. This is, after all, a story about a mother and her daughter. Rodriguez speaks highly of Urman, because being chosen for this experience, this journey, she’s been able to be a role model and do the kind of work she’s proud of doing as a human being; “Jenny for President!” The audience laughs.
Andrea Navedo, in the role of Xiomara Gloriana Villaneuva, talks about paying her dues as an actor, accepting parts that play to Latina stereotype. She explains that her challenge was adding dimension to these parts, playing against type, a process that ultimately taught her more about herself. Thinking her role on the show would be another in her line of stereotypes, disappointment turned to gratitude as she explains how her character is redeemed as a multi-layered woman ... a mother, friend, and Latina.
Yael Grobglas, as Petra Solano / Anezka (a dual role as a twin), describes her character as a 19-dimensional character. With an arsenal of turkey basters given to her as gifts from cast, crew, family, and friends … an homage to a story element that got her pregnant … What? … she now gets to play a twin, a character based on quite a few of her cats, again sending high praise Urman’s way. And again, what?
"Grateful." The word of the evening.
Justin Baldoni, who plays Rafael Solano, clarifies. This group has become a family. They don’t take having a job in Los Angeles for granted: job security, challenging and intelligent material that personifies the positive human condition, working with people they admire and enjoy being around. They are blessed. Sounds like a dream come true to me!
Ivonne Coll, who plays Alba Villanueva, a theatre actress with Shakespearean experience and years of training, never expected to be speaking only Spanish in an American television show. She now understands the dimension of the character and how this trait reaches part of the show’s audience ... giving credence to generations of families living with influential elders who represent the culture of their countries, who perhaps speak only a native language, yet who are vibrant and valued contributors to the American experience.
Jaime Camil, as Rogelio de la Vega, plays a telenovela actor and is actually a working actor from that world. He tells us that at the time, he had other offers for bigger shows, but after reading and devouring Urman’s script, he turned them all down. Jane the Virgin reminds him of his responsibility as an actor … to do work that he loves with people who genuinely love each other … and he’s not just saying this because they’re all here tonight, or because he has a bigger dressing room … a line delivered with the air of his character’s self-importance that made me chuckle ... he affirms the sentiment on the group's grateful train.
Brett Dier, who plays Michael Cordero, Jr., is the last to speak and quickly takes the conversation down the road of homosexual romantic possibility between his character and Baldoni’s character seated next to him. Baldoni plays along with a hint of body language that elicits applause and laughter.
OK, so this is a group of happy actors all enjoying their work. And the work requires depth, speed, trust, and professionalism. With these demands, it seems there’s no room for any diva behavior or jealousy one might pin on Hollywood “creatives.”
During the panel, we learn that (unbeknownst to Urman) at the beginning of their collaboration, the cast had a pact to stick to the camaraderie they felt during the pilot if the show were picked up for a series. The pact was to continue gratefulness, extending it to anyone working on the show along the way. How wonderful, right? So it's no surprise that name actors … and well-known singers love showing up and playing on this show ...
... Rita Moreno, Britney Spears, Juanes, Paulina Rubio, Kate del Castillo, Cheech Marin, David Bisbal, Tony Plana, Kesha, Jane Seymour, Nia Vardalos, Nicholas Gonzalez, Adam Rodriguez, Carlos Alazraqui, The Merrell Twins ... have all made cameo appearances.
No post panel reception, but I didn't miss it.
I took the grateful train home.
COME BACK FOR PART 7: MOZART IN THE JUNGLE
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