For a network not known for comedy, The CW was perhaps the most surprised Thursday morning when freshman dramedy Jane the Virgin scored nominations for breakout actress Gina Rodriguez and in the best comedy or musical category.
“It is a great feeling,” CW president Mark Pedowitz told Hollywood Insight on Thursday. The former ABC Studios exec credited the cast, creators and the network’s development team. “I haven’t felt this way since Grey’s Anatomy, to be honest, and that was a long time a go when we got nominated — and won that year.”
The series, an adaptation of a Venezuelan telenovela, centers on a virgin who is accidentally artificially inseminated. And the nominations were the network’s first ever.
Star Rodriguez broke out over the summer after she won over reporters at the Television Critics Association’s semi-annual press tour when she delivered an empassioned speech about cultural identity and her decision to bypass other opportunities for roles that best reflect Latinos. She earned her first Golden Globe nomination early Thursday for lead actress in a TV series, comedy or musical, where she’ll compete for the prize against Girls‘ Lena Dunham, Nurse Jackie‘s Edie Falco, Veep‘s Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Orange Is the New Black‘s Taylor Schilling. (Missing from that list is critical favorite Amy Poehler of NBC’s Parks and Recreation.)
Rodriguez, speaking to Hollywood Insight on Thursday afternoon, was still all abuzz about the nominations. She said she slept right through the announcement and actually had a nightmare that shows including 7th Heaven and Full House were nominated instead. “Thank God that didn’t happen!” she said, noting that her sobbing publicist called with the exciting news of her nomination. “I started screaming at the top of my lungs — then I had to be in hair and makeup three minutes later! Life doesn’t stop, it was a pretty magical moment.” The eloquent actress struggled to find the right words to describe the company she is keeping in the category. “You see these amazing women nominated year after year for their incredible work and you think, ‘One day, I want to be there with them.’ Then that day comes and it’s a testament that if you dream big and work hard and put all your efforts, drive and persistence in something, it’s bound to happen,” she said. “That’s the story I get to tell other people [on Jane].”
The series was nominated in the comedy or musical category and will go head-to-head with HBO’s Girls, Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black, HBO’s Silicon Valley and Amazon’s Transparent. The Jane nom also edged out perennial favorites CBS’ The Big Bang Theory — TV’s No. 1 comedy — and ABC’s Emmy darling Modern Family.
“I’m in shock!” showrunner Jennie Snyder Urman told Hollywood Insight . “There’s so many great women in thiscatgory, it’s huge in comedy to have so many female showrunners — that feels awesome.”Urman wasn’t expecting the show to be nominated but had high hopes for Rodriguez and slept through the nominations after coming home from her grandmother’s funeral on the East Coast at 3 a.m.
While Jane has posted gains for The CW on Mondays at 9 p.m. year-over-year, the show’s modest ratings aren’t quite where the network would like. Pedowitz expressed hope that the Globes recognition will help new viewers find the show.
“We’re going to pound it,” he said of awards campaigning. “We believe in the show; there’s a lot of growth potential.”
Pedowitz remained cagey about handing out a quick season-two renewal for Jane. “We’re going to wait and see. We’re thrilled with the quality of the show, with the performance of the show. … This is a show you have to have patience with.” For her part, Urman said she has high hopes for a second season. “This is a kind of show where you have to plot long-term anyway because there’s so much going on,” said Urman, who will celebrate the noms with the writers at their long-planned holiday dinner Thursday night. “I have part of season two plotted because we need that in order to set up the end of the first season but you never know what will happen. We all hope for it.”
Perhaps more important, the nominations come in the comedy category — a genre that the youth-skewing network home to superheroes (The Flash, Arrow)and vampires (The Vampire Diaries, The Originals) has not been able to find success with.
Over the summer, The CW canceled half-hour series Backpackers and Seed. Backpackers was the first series produced by a broadcast network’s digital studio to make the transition to TV, while Seed was a Canadian import and a low-budget acquisition. Both series came as The CW looked to push into the original scripted comedy space after the network revived — and found success with — Whose Line Is It Anyway? last year.
“We made a conscientious push these last few years to be high concept for genre, serialized drama and now serialized comedy,” Pedowitz said. “As long as it shows up, we’ll go down that path [again this development season].”
Pedowitz stopped short of saying if the nominations for the hourlong dramedy would propel the network back into the comedy space. Instead, he said, the half-hours that the network currently has in development have to be the right fit. “We have to go to what we think is working the best,” he said.
For The CW, the network’s two nominations topped all the broadcasters — with Fox completely shut out after taking home the comedy series trophy and lead actor in the category for Brooklyn Nine-Nine and star Andy Samberg. (ABC and NBC had one each, for How to Get Away With Murder‘s Viola Davis and The Blacklist‘s James Spader, respectively.)
“The CW has always been legitimate, it had a different perception. I think over course of the last couple years, we’ve slowly changed that perception,” Pedowitz said. “This further pushes that point of view. It’s not the same old CW anymore.”
Added Electus EP Ben Silverman: “I’m so thrilled to be nominated by the HFPA, who continue to recognize programs that not only resonate with American audiences but also the world. Gina is not just an incredible actress, but also an exceptional person and it’s been so fun to be along for the ride for her.”