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As ‘Jane the Virgin’ and ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ End, Two Groundbreaking TV Characters Say Goodbye

Category: Art & Culture,Arts

This spring, two of CW’s most critically acclaimed and beloved programs are coming to an end. Last week, “Jane the Virgin” kicked off its fifth and final season, and on Friday “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” will air its final episode (followed by a concert special) after four seasons.

Which means viewers are preparing to say goodbye to two groundbreaking characters: Rogelio de la Vega (Jaime Camil), the flamboyant telenovela star prone to narcissism, and Darryl (Pete Gardner), the affably obtuse law firm partner. The two share much in common; in particular, a wave of appraisals for how they’ve challenged and defied stereotypes about masculinity in pop culture.

Darryl’s discovery of his own bisexuality in the Season 1 musical number “Getting Bi” remains a fan favorite (as does the nonjudgmental way in which his exploration of this discovery has unfolded over the course of the show). “People come up to me and say that they’ve used that [song] to come out to their parents,” Gardner said.

[Read an essay by the co-creator of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.“]

And Rogelio, who has shown unwavering devotion to his long-lost daughter Jane, stands out as a depiction of a straight Latino man that differs from the way movies and TV tend to represent them. “I love the fact that they portray Rogelio as a metrosexual man,” Camil said. “He breaks down when Jane calls him ‘dad’ for the first time. He’s very in touch with his feelings.”

In a recent phone conversation, the actors looked back on their characters and their impacts on pop culture. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

How were these characters were originally pitched to you?

PETE GARDNER They only told me that I was a goofy boss. So they had a meeting with the writers, and when I met with the writers, [the creator and showrunner] Aline [Brosh McKenna] was like, “Oh here, let’s show him the big board! So, Episode 5, that’s going to be your first song!”

And then she was like, “Oh, here! In Episode 11 your character comes out as bi!”

I said, “What? Really? Oh my gosh! That’s fantastic!” because it made me realize that my character would have more about him than just being the goofy boss. That he would have a real story.

JAIME CAMIL In the pilot, my character appears as a dream, and has like, one or two lines. I really wanted to know if he was going to be like a dream all the time, or whatever. And then [the creator and showrunner] Jennie [Snyder Urman] told me where the character was going and I loved it.

In the early days of your shows, did you have a sense of just how unique your characters would be compared to other portrayals we’ve seen in pop culture?

GARDNER I definitely was aware of it because the [the writers] were having Darryl fall for White Josh [David Hull] at such a gradual pace. Usually those things happen on the fly, and they’re like, “Oh, I’m bi now because now I can get something from that person.” It’s a very bad stereotype for bisexual people — that they’re not quite legitimate. So, when I saw that there was a real and very slow process of these two people falling in love, I was like, “Wow.” Aline Brosh McKenna and Rachel Bloom that really spent that extra time to tell the story right.

Right. Bi male characters frequently have their sexuality portrayed in terms of how much power they have — over themselves or others. For Darryl, it’s very much just about him discovering and exploring who he is.

GARDNER Yeah, I also felt that it was very much about being your authentic self. However it plays out, that’s what he was after. And he was expecting all this pushback from his friends, and they didn’t care. Which is another thing that was beautiful about the way that was written. It was so good.

CAMIL Being his true self — I think that’s also what we do on “Jane.” I think that we live in this extraordinary universe, and the characters believe in this universe so much. I think that shows like these, the only reason you can get away with it, like Pete said, is to approach the character with trueness and with sincerity.

When Xiomara goes through the cancer situation, he’s there, a devoted husband — Latino men don’t need to be macho. There’s even a line where Rogelio goes, “I didn’t get the chance to change her diapers.” Those kinds of things make a difference.

GARDNER Since it’s humor, that’s such an important point — that it’s never used as a joke. Sometimes these things happen really fast: “Maybe I’m gay,” but it’s a joke. “I was just kidding.” That happened so much in many comedies, and I think that sincerity is a really important point.

Jaime, when you were growing up, how was masculinity usually presented to you? And do you remember when you first learned that there were other ways beyond the “norm?”

CAMIL I was in a Latin American country where there was misogyny — how men look at other women, it’s just horrible. That generation [I was raised around] didn’t even know how a diaper works. They come home after working and they’d be like, “Hey, honey. Bring my kid down because I want to show it off to my friends and society.” And she’s like, “No, no, no, he’s taking a nap. I can’t wake him up.” “Oh, come on, nonsense. Bring my kid down! Wake him up. That’ll give him character. That will make him a man.”

I grew up with that generation of dads, and I think we learn from our experiences. You either can go to a dark place of completely copying those mannerisms or completely shifting from them and saying, “No, this is wrong, and I’m going be a parent, and me and the wife are going to be real parents.”

It’s really interesting that each of your characters have had long-running story lines in which you really want children. In TV shows and films, those desires are usually ascribed only to women.

GARDNER I think it’s just Darryl wanting a sense of family and belonging and having that central core group; he was always longing for friendship. I always said that Darryl was the only nice person on the show. Because everybody else was always so mean to each other. But Darryl loved everybody, so I think he was always looking for a safe zone; he wanted to have his own people and have that special relationship. Whoever that would be, whoever he was in love with, they would have a family.

CAMIL In our story line, Xiomara was the one not wanting to have kids. But I love the way that my character reacted when he knew that he had a daughter, Jane; how really, really, sad he was that he missed out on Jane growing up.

As you bid farewell to these characters, how have you thought about their legacies?

CAMIL The fact that audiences like our characters, that’s amazing, that’s a blessing. I think we’re leaving behind a legacy of a beautiful, well-written, well-created show that will bring joy to many generations as long as we are able to be on Netflix for many, many years.

GARDNER If I learned anything from Darryl Whitefeather — and I don’t want to come off corny — but, it would be: You can’t love people too much. You can’t love too hard. It doesn’t cost you anything. It really doesn’t. You can just love people and support them and send positive waves their way. And it just makes their life better. It makes your life better.

Darryl also never stopped trying. He failed all the time, but he always was trying his best. I think that’s the legacy of it.

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