Gina Rodriguez on Why She's More Like Her 'Not Dead Yet' Character Than 'Jane the Virgin' (Exclusive)

This video is unavailable because we were unable to load a message from our sponsors.

If you are using ad-blocking software, please disable it and reload the page.

Gina Rodriguez is graduating from Jane the Virgin to ABC's new comedy, Not Dead Yet. In the half-hour series, Rodriguez plays Nell Serrano, a broke and newly single self-described disaster, working to restart the life and career she left behind five years ago. When she lands the only job she can find -- writing obituaries at a newspaper -- Nell starts getting life advice from a ghostly source.

ET's Matt Cohen was with Rodriguez, who is expecting her first baby with husband Joe Locicero, on the Los Angeles set of Not Dead Yet set back in October, where the 38-year-old actress and executive producer offered a preview of her latest project. Rodriguez acknowledged the Sliding Doors aspect of Not Dead Yet's Nell in reference to her previous role on Jane the Virgin, where her titular heroine aspired to be a professional writer. 

"She is everything Jane would never be for a second of her life. And it's really wonderful to go from a character that felt vastly different than myself because Jane was so A-type personality and organized," she said of stepping into Nell's shoes. "Now that I'm pregnant, even worse, it's all a mess! I'm all frazzled."

"But Nell is wild and flawed and failing and learning and growing and shedding and trying and making mistakes. And that's a little bit more like myself," Rodriguez added. "I know I personally don't have it all together and I'm constantly a student. And that's what I find this character to be so fun to play because she's in a space of needing to shed and looking at her patterns and trying to reprogram the way that she works in life."

As Rodriguez explained, she has much more in common with Nell, who is trying to start over in her personal and professional lives, than the perfection-seeking Jane.

"You think you're on one path. You prepare for the path, you've planned it, you've curated it and then life is like, 'Hello,'" she said of the character that's based on the Alexandra Potter novel, Confessions of a 40-Year-Old F**k Up. "That's what's so beautiful is that we're constantly learning. You only learn in your failures. You only grow in your mistakes and you only learn from lessons, right?"

"To play somebody that's in that space, doesn't want to be in that space, but is nevertheless thrown into a new path, a new journey that is very much offset from what she thought it was going to be and trying to reconfigure her existence. I would prefer to stay in the space of growth and shedding and learning and leaving things behind and learning new things," Rodriguez noted. "It's not that I'm more like Nell, it's that Jane was just way too perfect. I cannot keep up with that."

Of course, Nell has help from her friends and the women around her, played by Hannah Simone, Lauren Ash and Angela Gibbs.  

"The story is about self-reflection, self-discovery, growth, friendship; the power of learning from the people that you've chosen to be your chosen family, leaning on those that you have been so lucky to be blessed to be around," Rodriguez said. "And Hannah Simone is just a dream. She's been helping me, not just as an incredible scene partner, because working with her is just tremendous. But as a mother and me going through this journey while pregnant, to have somebody that is such a sisterhood, she has helped me and protected me and taught me so many things. I swear, she was a gift from above."

"And then Lauren Ash, I've been in love with her for years. Watching her on Superstore, she's a comedic genius," she continued. "And then to have Angela Gibbs playing my best friend. This soul of a woman that just leads with her heart and is so incredible to be around because she just elevates everything she's working with."

Not Dead Yet
Eric McCandless/ABC

Rodriguez admitted going through her first pregnancy journey while being the No. 1 on the call sheet of a new show has been an interesting, eye-opening experience, to say the least. But she's taken everything in stride, crediting the support system in place with the cast, producers and crew.

"Building organs and memorizing lines is a very interesting duo... It's really magical. I'm actually past all the organs now. I'm building some beef on my baby!" Rodriguez quipped.

Jokes aside, Rodriguez shed light on the challenges working women often face when they go through a big life change and spoke about it in terms of the tendency for Hollywood to push women off to the side once they do.

"As a woman in this industry, it is very scary to want to [have] life experiences because they can unfortunately, and have in the past, derail your progression as an artist, as a creator. And not many industries are built to allow a woman to bring a life into this world," she said. "So those are shifts that we can all make together as human beings because it's the reason why we're all here."

"So to have such a support system that has helped me create life while I create a show that I'm absolutely in love with, I just cannot wait to tell my baby that they were with me throughout this whole experience. That they empowered me. That they made me feel confident and strong when I was maybe scared or intimidated or insecure. That I really gather so much strength from the fact that," praised Rodriguez, who said they're hiding her baby bump on the show, or as she liked to refer to it, "protecting my baby from the limelight." "I mean, if I can make organs, I could definitely do this at the same time." 

As for whether Rodriguez has had similar spiritual encounters in real life that Nell has on Not Dead, she said she most definitely has.

"What I love about this show is that at times, our culture can closet death. And death is also a celebration of life. My grandma just passed away not too long ago and I love her so much. She lived a long, beautiful life and she lives in every morsel of my body because I look like her and I am so much of her," she said. "And so this idea that we have a show where you have a woman that's walking through life that is trying to learn as she falls and trips and fails, and then she has people that have now finished their portion of this Earth-side experience, to then tell her what better ways to live it now." 

"How much I call on my grandmother to give me advice even though she's not here. And how great to make a show that's comedic and funny and whimsical, and still vibrant and bright, but talk about how much we can learn from those that have passed," Rodriguez added. "And that's what Nell's journey is. But I guess if it happened in the flesh, I'd freak out a little bit. Just a little. I probably would not be that together."

Not Dead Yet premieres with back-to-back episodes Wednesday, Feb. 8 at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.


Gina Rodriguez Reveals How Her Baby Bump Was Hidden on New Show

Pregnant Gina Rodriguez Says Husband is Training to Be Her Doula

Gina Rodriguez Announces She's Pregnant on Her 38th Birthday

Related Gallery