Gina Rodriguez explains how ‘Not Dead Yet’ is a series about real life

Gina Rodriguez Not Dead Yet
ABC’s ‘Not Dead Yet’ stars Gina Rodriguez as Nell Serrano.
ABC/Pamela Littky

By María Estévez, MWN 

‘Not Dead Yet’ is the story of Nell, an obituary writer who is “visited” by subjects while she’s investigating their lives. Played by Gina Rodriguez, Nell is on a journey to self-discovery. Broke, newly single, and a self-described disaster, she works to restart her life and the career she left behind five years ago.

Metro recently sat down with Rodriguez to learn more. 

Tell us about your character and the premise of the show.

I think, like any of us would be, thrown off, excited, falling back into old feelings, and not wanting to repeat the past… Just life, real life, and all the nuances of how one feels when somebody they were with for five years comes back into their life, especially when she’s rewriting this new journey. Does he fit? Does he not? Does he make her feel as though it was a mistake, or was it the right thing to do? I mean, what’s beautiful about David Windsor and Casey Johnson and our incredible staff of writers is that they really captured life and all its nuances. That’s my favorite kind of television to watch and to be a part of. To know that you can’t have happiness without sadness, good without bad. And it all is just how you walk through it. 

As you have a different co‑star each week, who are some of the people that we’ll see coming up this year?

So many: Rhea Perlman, Paula Pell, Mo Collins, Telma Hopkins, Brittany Snow or Julia Sweeney. One of the things we bonded over on set was telling real-life stories about that.

How did you connect with a show full of ghosts?

The reason why I connected with this show so much was that I have always felt like my ancestors have been around me, have been with me, have been present in my journey and taking care of me in those moments of fear or doubt. When I read this script, I was immediately attracted to the fact that when people pass away, they can come back and give you elements of knowledge that you wish you had or that you needed at the moment. There’s this idea that we can learn from our ancestors and the people that have gone before us, whether they’re there with a feeling or they’re there with the knowledge they gave you when they were in the flesh.

My grandmother passed this summer, and my mother’s been going through her experience of grief. And since that happened, I have never felt her presence more than I ever had in my life through this experience (pointing to her pregnancy belly). 

We’ve watched your career ever since playing Jane the Virgin, and she was such a driven character. What do you relate to with her?

It’s so funny because Jane was so pivotal in my life. It was such a phenomenal character to play it was so vastly different than myself. I mean, I think I got very lucky to play such a kind, loving, always good and honest. That really helped me in my real-life kind of reflect on how I should be more like Jane. I would literally say, “I should probably be a little more like Jane.” But the good thing about that is that I would go out into the world, and all of the beautiful viewers of Jane would be so loving and treat me like I was Jane. And I was, like, “I am learning, and I’m failing, and I’m tripping, and I’m flawed, and I have so much to grow.” And I was so lucky to play that character.

But also to play Nell, who is flawed and learning and makes mistakes and has this beautiful space to grow in and has space of redemption, whether it’s between her and her roommate or her and her best friend or her arch nemesis or her new best friend in her life, just to have someone that is in her 30s, thinking that she’s got it together. And then it all kind of falls apart.

For me, it is just so much easier to connect to because now, as I go into this next chapter in my life, I don’t know what I’m doing. I can’t even see past the birth. And I’m going to fall, and I’m going to trip, and I’m going to make mistakes, and I’m going to ask for help, and I’m going to need to lean on all of the incredible people around me. And I’m going to have to ask for forgiveness. And I will forever be someone that’s shedding like that onion and peeling away at the layers of what I think I know and what I don’t know. And Nell is that. So, it’s really cool to be playing this in a time where I’m now just continuously unraveling and rebuilding myself. 

Does your Latina culture influence your character and the series? 

It’s impossible for it not to. I’m always Latina, you know. It’s so much of my identity. I always bring something of myself to everything I play. Nuances that connect me to my culture, my passion, my love and my family.

Not Dead Yet‘ airs Wednesdays on ABC.