‘Jane The Virgin’ Breakout Gina Rodriguez Tells Us About Embracing The Role Of Rom-Com Queen In Netflix’s ‘Players’

In her latest joint venture with Netflix — the romantic-comedy Players, out Feb. 14th — Gina Rodriguez has a gameplan. To find love, sure, but, more importantly, to put a bit of a feminist twist on the genre whose formulaic familiarity is its biggest appeal. She’s done it before with the 2019 comedy Someone Great, a movie that built a funny, heartwarming story about friendship on its rom-com premise but Players tackles a different pitfall of the 21st-century dating scene: hookup culture.

As Mack, a sports journalist stalling in her career but scoring nightly — no matter which neighborhood bar serves as the hunting ground for her and her posse of aimless millennial Casanovas — Rodriguez is impossibly charismatic. Her character is bold, self-assured, unashamed of her attitudes towards sex and relationships, and definitely not looking for romance. In fact, she has an entire book, filled with weirdly-named pick-up plays – you’ll never really know why the “Crepes-Suzette” hinges on a person’s tolerance for lactose or why the “Betsy Ross’ Mother” requires Mack to fake her death – that protect her from accidentally falling in it. Love, that is.

But that changes when a more sophisticated mark comes within range and Mack enlists the help of her friends, Adam (Damons Wayans Jr.), Brannagan (Augustus Prew), Little (Joel Courtney), and Ashley (Liza Koshy) to help her transition from one-night stand to drawer-commandeering status.

UPROXX chatted with Rodriguez about playing the field, re-inventing rom-com tropes, Hollywood’s diversity problem, and which cast member has the most rizz. (But first, we have to explain what rizz means.)

Now that you have a few of these under your belt, what’s the formula for a good rom-com?

It’s got to make you laugh, it’s got to make you cry. Hopefully, it makes you feel a little sexy. And it helps you escape your troubles for the moment. The one thing that is really good about the rom-com is that the formula doesn’t really stray. You know what you’re in for. It makes you feel good. It’s like a yummy comfort meal, but the ingredients are always new. I felt this one was that comfort meal, that there were new ingredients and this character, Mack, was sexy and she was empowered. She wasn’t afraid. She didn’t shy away from her feminine prowess.

There’s definitely a gender-role reversal at play.

I found that really refreshing because it also wasn’t looking down on her. It’s just a transition of journey where she’s like, ‘This was working for me and now, it’s not. Now I need help to try to change the way we’ve been going at this.’ She’s got her boys in her corner — they love her, believe in her, lean on her and she does them. I just felt like it was the formula I love but with a twist.

Then I was lucky enough to executive produce and help bring together the cast because that’s where I feel like I shine when it comes to producing is getting together a cast that is going to blow your mind.

Speaking of, was Damon Wayans Jr. always the top choice to play one of your love interests in this one?

Oh, first choice. I’ve been in love with Damon for years. He’s an incredible comedian. He’s beyond funny. He’s a writer. He has a directorial vision. He is so uplifting to everyone around him. I’ve seen him work firsthand, so I just knew he had to be my Adam. Then I was just praying that he would take it and he did very quickly, to my surprise.

He made everyone funnier. He is so selfless. He has zero ego. If he had something funny for any of us to say, he would suggest it and, whether [we used it] or not, it never affected him. He was so generous. I’ve never really seen that. I’ve worked with some stellar human beings, but I’ve never seen someone so funny desire for the people around him to be just as funny.

Comedians can be precious about their jokes. They like to be the funniest in the room.

That’s definitely what I’ve experienced, so it was really nice to see somebody different.

Did you have a playbook, or a go-to pick-up line when you were single?

I was never really that good of a player. My gift, though, was my gift of gab. I wasn’t the prettiest girl, but I knew how to hang with boys and be funny and mess around. I didn’t take myself so seriously. I always found that to be my in with some of the hotter guys. But what ultimately got me to land the hottest guy in the world – my husband — was being myself. That was pretty cool for that to be the win.

Who amongst the cast, who’s got the best rizz?

The what?

Who could just go to a bar and pick up someone?

All of them are pretty smooth, but the top three are Damon, Liza, and Auggie. Auggie is real smooth, man. Damon is hilarious. Liza is just like everything you’d ever want. She’s a catch.

Some actors/producers have said recently that diversity doesn’t feel like a big priority in Hollywood at the moment. That fear and gatekeeping decide which shows make it and which get cut. What’s your experience been in getting Latinx stories told?

I guess perspective is interesting, right? We’re all at a different part of our journey. Right now, as a mother, it’s hard for me to put importance on the industry because it’s just such a game in comparison to being a mother. It is a game but it’s fun, and we all enjoy playing it. But as a producer, it’s always been very difficult to sell Latinx content. It hasn’t gotten easier, but it hasn’t gotten easier to sell anything. With the strike, it’s very, very difficult. Budgets are cut and people are, unfortunately, fearful of losing their jobs. I will say, it’s gotten better than when I was starting.

I’ll never forget when Jane the Virgin came to me as an audition. They said, ‘Oh, you’re going to audition for this new pilot called Jane the Virgin.’ I said, ‘Okay, yeah, what role?’ They said, ‘Jane.’ I was like, ‘They do know I’m Latina, right?’ That was my response. I couldn’t believe that it was for the lead. Then I couldn’t believe that her name was Jane. I was like, what’s happening here? And I was 29.

I had already been trying for eight, or nine years and getting little bit parts here and there, so it has changed substantially since then.

The nature of desire is to want, to want more, right? I, of course, like everybody else, desire more opportunities. Not for me but for others who haven’t had the chance, for voices that are unheard, for communities to see themselves on screen because it does matter. You feel seen, you feel heard, and that matters. You always just want it to be better. Things go up, things go down, things get better, things get worse. Again, we’re just people, just people trying.