Andrea Navedo has spent the last four years thriving in her breakout role on The CW’s “Jane the Virgin,” but it wasn’t always smooth sailing for the Bronx-born actress.
Recalling her “challenging upbringing” in an “underserved neighborhood,” Navedo said she credits the city for helping her land where she is today — starring as Xiomara Villanueva alongside TV-daughter Jane (Gina Rodriguez).
“I will say that one of the great things about growing up in New York City is it really teaches you to be street smart and resilient and tough,” Navedo, who got her start on soaps “One Life to Live” and “Guiding Light,” said. “Those are all qualities that I’ve needed and still need to be a successful working actress.”
In season 4 of “Jane,” Navedo’s character has finally nailed down a “happy ending” with her high school sweetheart Rogelio (who also happens to be Jane’s father). The on-again, off-again couple tied the knot only to find out Ro’s former matchmaker is pregnant with his child.
Xo doesn’t throw a fit — well, not a huge fit — and instead tries to keep the peace among the unlikely trio.
Ahead of the January midseason return, Navedo teased a bit about what’s to come for her character, what her early life in NYC was like before the fame and more.
Xo is dealing with a lot this season. Are you surprised by how your character is reacting?
Yes and no. [Producer Jennie Snyder Urman]has made a conscious effort to have Xiomara evolve as a person. Imagine if Xiomara in season 4 is the same as in season 1. That’s not just reflective of our potential as human beings. People do grow. I’ve been married for 20 years and I’m not the same person when I met my husband and he’s a better version of himself now than when I met him. I like to think that I’m a better version of myself, too.
What’s ahead for Xo when the series returns in January?
There’s a medical scare that comes up in the future for Xiomara. I won’t go into details, but there’s a significant issue that turns up for her. I’m curious to see where it’s going to go.
Do you see any parallels between “Jane the Virgin” and your own upbringing?
I grew up in a very matriarchal family, so my grandmother who’s going to be 95 in March, she was sort of the center of our family along with my mother and her sisters. It was all of those ladies who ran the show, the ones who put the roof over our heads, the clothes on our backs and the food in our bellies. They had to be so strong to be able to keep it all together. I just love the interaction between Xiomara, Jane and Alba because they remind me of my grandmother and mother and her sisters. I totally identify with that as not being dependent on a man.
As you mentioned, the strong female leads are at the root of “Jane.” Why do you think it’s important to have a show like this on TV today?
Women really in reality for most cultures are the ones who are the center of the family and are the ones to maintain the tradition and discipline for the children. They’re the glue, I think, that binds. Womens’ perspectives are so important to be told and I feel that the public, viewers are craving to see those points of view. They’re also craving to see themselves up there. Women are I think more than 50 percent of the population in the states . . . we want to be seen and heard and not invisible.
You mention viewers craving to see themselves represented. How does “Jane” do in terms of avoiding a stereotypical Latina representation?
I think “Jane” was a huge sledgehammer hit that really made a dent in all of the works that had been happening beforehand in terms of diversity and inclusion in the media.
Jennie even asks me on occasion what I’d like. One of the things that I think resonated with her was my expressing how painful it was for me as a Latina actress to have had experiences in the past where I was offered roles that were less than becoming of me as a woman and less than becoming of me as a Latina. She won my heart and my confidence after the second episode of the first season.
In the episode with Jane’s quinceañera I wind up breaking out into the “Milkshake” song — they were all excited about it and I didn’t know why. I looked it up on Google and was like, “What!” I had no idea where they were going with this character and I didn’t know Jennie very well. I saw that song and I was a little heartbroken. I thought it was another compromising position I was finding myself in, where here I had finally gotten a big break in a series regular role, then to see I’m dancing in a sexy dress talking about how my milkshake brings all the boys to the yard at my daughter’s quinceanera, like why the hell would I do that? That’s so wrong! I felt like it was painting a Latina as a sex star. As I got to the end of the episode, Xiomara is redeemed and I found out that she does this to protect her daughter from being heartbroken when she sees her boyfriend kissing another girl. Once I saw that in the script, I had total confidence in Jennie and ever since then she has handled all of the female characters with respect. Diversity has been so important.