‘Jane the Virgin’ Narrator Anthony Mendez on Latino Accents and What to Expect From Season Two

Actors Justin Baldoni, Anthony Mendez, and Jaime Camil. Photo: Todd Williamson/Getty Images

Jane the Virgin, the CW show that garnered Gina RodriguezGolden Globe win this past winter, returned last week for its second season. Its mix of Televisa melodrama and witty visual gags – a telenovela for the Twitter generation – earned it rave reviews and a devoted online fanbase. Setting the tone for the colorful world of Jane Villanueva and her immaculate conception is the show’s voice-over, a disembodied male narrator integral to the show’s irreverent tone.

But more than a narrator, Jane the Virgin’s disembodied voice (Anthony Mendez) works as a real-time viewing buddy. One second he’s catching you up on Jane’s latest fight with Rafael (the father of her child with whom she may be in love but who also broke up with her and now fears she might go back to her ex-boyfriend, Michael) and the next minute he’s blindsided by what Petra (Rafael’s ex, whom he is trying to buy out of the hotel they own together) is planning to do to get him back. With plots like these, you can see why showrunner Jennie Snyder Urman would find the role of a narrator nothing short of a necessity.

Hot off his Emmy nomination for Outstanding Narrator, Mendez chatted with us this past week about everything from growing up begrudgingly watching telenovelas, honing the “Latin lover” accent that greets Jane’s viewers, and what we can expect to learn about his character in the coming episodes. Here are a few highlights to get you excited about Jane the Virgin’s second season.

Photo: Gregg Vigliotti/The New York Times
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On Telenovelas And Multigenerational Latino Culture

“Our parents were the ones watching telenovelas and we were forced to watch them because we only had one TV.”

The first telenovela [I watched]…was called Ven Comigo. Telenovelas for me, being born here, were always more of a my mother’s, my grandmother’s thing. And as we got older there may have been one or two that might have caught our attention. But for the most part, it was almost like that split difference between the generations. You know, where our parents or our grandparents were the ones watching the telenovelas and we were the ones forced to watch them because we only had one TV at the time. We didn’t have streaming!

On Jane’s Broad Appeal

It’s a great example of the multigenerational dynamic within the Latino culture. Or one aspect of Latino cultures. But the most important thing is that multiple generation house: how different they are but at the same time, I think the telenovela in this case is more of a symbol of their common ground. Not necessarily some tangible thing that links them, but it’s just that moment of spending time together and the different themes that revolve around the telenovela – how it’s a common thread around all the generations. I think that is one of the things that links this particular show and connects with so many different people and different age groups. Because it has that. And everybody can [relate]. Not just Latinos, but everybody, in terms of having different generations. They can come back to it.

On His Unmistakable Accent On The Show

“I’ve just been reversing what I learned to get rid of my accent and pushed it 100 percent.”

It’s funny. It’s something I’ve always been able to do – that Latin lover accent. For example, sometimes I get auditions for certain kinds of accents and I tell my agent I’m gonna pass on it because I don’t think I would do it justice. Because to me, it can’t be a send up. It has to be grounded in the technical aspect of why certain people speak a certain way. If I can’t duplicate that, I won’t do it. So for the Hispanic accent that I use on the show, it goes back to being born and raised in a Latino culture. There are certain words that I had when I first started doing voice-over, a certain accent that I had, that I had to work off. So I worked with a speech pathologist to be able to reduce those in order to do more general market work. In this case, I’ve just been reversing what I learned to get rid of my accent and pushed it 100 percent.

On What To Expect From Season Two

I think they’re gonna try to keep what works – the heart of the story, which is Jane and her relationship with her mother and her grandmother. I think that is still at the core, but in this season, instead of trying to force something in order to push the envelope, [with] Jane being a mother now and her being a type A personality, it’s gonna create enough conflict. And in terms of the Narrator, this season he’s gonna have a lot more fun with the audience. Because now he’s like your boy. And you know him now, and he feels comfortable being himself. So he’s just gonna let it all hang out!

On That Cher Moment From The Second Season Opener

It’s funny cause that was something that I’m not too sure Jenny wrote for me to sing. I decided to sing it at the table read. Then she loved it and was like, “Oh my god! I’m gonna have to license it! I don’t care what it costs! We’re gonna have to have you sing it in the episode.” So we recorded it two ways: one where I sang it and one where I just said “Oh, if they could turn back time,” just in case they rejected our request to license – because you know, you have to pay for every time you use somebody else’s music in the episode. But I’m glad that she was able to pull it off. And that’s just the kind of risk-taker that Jenny is, and I’m so grateful for that. Because otherwise, it’d be just your regular boring narrator.

Jane the Virgin airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on the CW.