Going into season four, Jane the Virginshowrunner Jennie Snyder Urman had one major objective.
“My big goal was to bring back a sense of joy and to show Jane moving on from the greatest loss that happened to her last year,” she tells The Hollywood Reporter.
Season three saw the death of Jane’s husband Michael (Brett Dier) in the 10th episode followed by a three-year time jump into the future. However, the second half of the season still saw Jane struggle with the loss of Michael, particularly as she slowly re-entered the dating scene and as she wrote her first book, a love story loosely based on her and Michael (except with a happy ending).
“We really unpacked and will continue to unpack the way that grief changes us and changes the course of our life. But at the same time, Jane is 28 and she has a whole lot of life left to lead and we wanted to see her reclaiming some of her joy, realizing that she’s not only a mother, but that she also has a big, fun life ahead of her and she’s still young,” Urman continues. “That sort of joy and happiness and big high drama, romantic moments that we played a lot of in the first season, I want a little bit of a return to that this year.”
Helping matters is the introduction of a new (old) love interest for Jane, her ex-boyfriend Adam (Tyler Posey) with whom she was first reunited in the season three finale. Friday’s season four premiere saw Jane and Adam go on a (somewhat failed) date, but it’s seems safe to say he will play a major part in the season. (After all, he even got his own narrator!)
The addition of Posey’s Adam is one of several changes this season for the acclaimed comedy. This marks the first year Jane will air on Fridays, and season four will be the shortest season yet, containing just 17 episodes. There’s even a new actor playing Jane’s son Mateo!
THR spoke with Urman about these changes onscreen and off for season four, including why she wanted a shorter season, how she feels about moving to Friday, that meta Mateo reference and her planning for the series’ endgame.
How do you feel about the show moving to Fridays for the first time?
I like us paired with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. I understood why they had try something new out in Monday and hope to get a little bit more traction out of Supergirl so that made sense to me. They’ve always been so supportive of the show that I just assume that they will continue to be supportive wherever it airs, especially now, where things air is so much less important because so many people watch afterwards anyway.
Why did you want to be paired with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend?
I love the show personally. I think we have a similar spirit and a similar energy in terms of being comedic, female-driven, playing with form and function and trying to be a little bit daring in the way we tell stories and I just feel like spiritually, the two shows are sister shows so it’s nice and it feels coherent to have them on the same night.
You’re also doing less episodes this season. You did 20 last season and now you’re doing 17. Why did you ask to do this number of episodes?
The show’s really ambitious. We do six full stories in every episode, there aren’t really runners in Jane so our writers room breaking six stories an episode. We’re shooting about 80 scenes in seven days a lot of the times, sometimes 70 scenes. And it’s just a big burden in terms of plot and quality and it really just felt like in order to not spin our wheels and have a whole bunch of fillers, we could be a little bit more streamlined in our storytelling and also preserve the big plot moves that we have coming up without blowing through things just because we have so many episodes to fill. It’s a hard show to put together so I feel very grateful that they supported that.
What do you think made them yes now whereas in past seasons networks were more beholden to the 22-episode season model?
I think just because the landscape has changed. It’s not either 22 or 13, you see every iteration in terms of shows and shows are now going more towards what suits the story and the storytelling rather than what’s going to get you to this magical syndication number because the magic syndication number has changed. There’s all these other ways to output your product. I think that combination has just left everyone open to making sure that the episode order fits the story and the storytelling.
You have a new love interest for Jane this season in Adam (Tyler Posey) but he’s actually someone from Jane’s past. Why was it important for you to introduce someone from her past rather than just a completely new character?
Anytime you have somebody who’s coming back from the past, they always come already with history and with stakes and significance and then that lets the storytelling go deeper right away because there’s going to be things that the audience doesn’t know that the storytellers have in mind and that the characters know and that allows us to reveal things slower. Also, I wanted somebody who really had a significant effect on how Jane thinks and looks at love. Who really affected the way that she thinks about it, the way that it feels, the way that it sounds because we found out that he wrote her love cue so all of that has contributed to what Jane thinks of as real romantic love. We thought a return to that after so much has changed would be an interesting place to go.
Looking ahead, how do you think Jane’s relationship with Adam will differ from her relationships with Michael and Rafael?
It’s very different. You know with both Michael and Rafael, Jane was really the one that everyone was going after. She’s a little bit less sure of herself with Adam, so she has to work a little harder with Adam. She had her heart broken by him so that immediately puts her on her heel a little bit. And he brings a different energy to Jane and to Jane’s life. He’s a 28-year-old who lives a different life than how she lives. He’s much more live-in-the-moment. He’s a single guy with roommates, it’s just a completely different world than her world as a mother of a five-year-old with her concerns about school and finances and career. She’s just at a very different place in her life than Adam and he’s going to remind her that she still has a lot of life to enjoy and that she’s still young. I think that that’s an important dynamic that we’ve been teasing out and that we’ll keep playing.
As you’re moving further away from Michael’s death, how do you know when it’s right to include callbacks to that relationship?
He’ll always be a big part of the show. He’ll always be informing so many of her decisions. He’ll be present with new loves and with old loves in terms of what she’s feeling and how it compares to Michael. She’s going to be publishing her book this year which is a book about her love story with Michael but with a happy ending so there’s all these places where it’s going to constantly come up and be the emotional under layer that informs her actions. How heavily we go to that well will depend on the story that we’re telling. The loss of Michael is something that Jane will continue to feel throughout the episodes, just depending on what story we’re telling, that will dictate how heavily we go into it.
Given that, how likely is it that Brett Dier will appear on the show this coming season?
We definitely already have episodes with flashbacks to him. We don’t have new material, things that you haven’t seen with Jane and Michael yet, but we always could.
The premiere features duel narrators for Adam as well as Jane. When and how did you come up with that idea?
That was a suggestion by one of my brilliant writers in the writers’ room. We were trying to figure out how to introduce Adam so that he came in differently than somebody you had just introduced in the middle of a series. This way he came in with enough significance so that you knew right away that he was going to be impacting Jane’s story. We’re also exploring the theme in this episode about everyone’s a hero in their own story. We’ve all been going along with Jane’s narrative and then all of a sudden, she meets someone else who’s at a different point in his own journey and what happens when two narrators collide? How do they change each other’s stories was one of the themes that we wanted to explore. For all those reasons, once I heard the pitch, I immediately knew that that would be a good way to introduce him and give the premiere that sort of extra premiere feeling that one wants when they start a season.
The premiere also addressed the change in the actor who plays Mateo (from Joseph Sanders to Elias Janssen). Why did you want to include that and address it in such a way?
Well, I mean Mateo’s such a huge part of our story and Jane’s story that it felt odd to have a change and not address it. We figured since we have a narrator that is able to talk to the audience and wink and explores our meta telenovela, that it would be good to just say it out right and move forward.
The season premiere ends with Darci (Justina Machado) going into labor with Rogelio’s baby. Obviously, Rogelio has said on the show for a long time that he wants to have a baby but why did you want to pursue this storyline and have him become a new dad, particularly at this point in his life?
So many reasons. (Laughs.) One is because it was a great obstacle in terms of him and Xo and their life because she didn’t want a baby and he does want a baby. We wanted them to get married and that’s not the end of the fairytale. Then life happens and it’s difficult and we wanted them to have something real that they would continue to struggle with and have to figure out. It changes the course of their life. I also wanted to keep Justina on the show and as integral to the show for as long as possible because I love her so much and having a baby with Rogelio makes her one of our family too.
Rogelio has a lot of ideas about what kind of father he would have been had he been there for all of Jane’s childhood, and I’m very excited to explore what it’s actually like for Rogelio being a father of a baby.
So much has happened in the news and in politics since the show was lot on the air and last season, you leaned into several of those bigger headlines like immigration and women’s rights. What are you planning to tackle on the show and how do you want to tackle some of those issues that are happening right now?
We’ll be continuing to comment on all of these issues and immigration in particular. This year we’ll be getting closer to Alba becoming a U.S. citizen and what that means and that will be a big moment for us on our show and our characters. We’re going to continue to just explore the political through the personal and hope to create more spaces for empathy.
At this time, how do you figure out how much to lean into this given the news cycle and the high volume of these kinds of issues?
I think it’s that general feeling that we want to get across rather than all of the specifics because the specifics are so upsetting and change every day. It’s getting across more the feeling of the consequences of potential legislation and laws and that’s the space we try to get in and how that feeling is affecting our characters.
When Michael was killed off the series midway through season three, you said you were “around the midpoint” of the series as a whole. Given that, how much longer do you see the show going?
I have a specific end point that I would like to build towards, but it’s not all in my hands so I have to talk to my bosses about that and hope that we’re on the same page. (Laughs.)
Now that you’re going into season four, when do you see those discussions happening?
I hope that they happen pretty soon so that we can plan. The biggest thing I want is to know in advance and be able to plan so I can pull all of the threads together and hopefully come to a really satisfying conclusion to the story. Since I have in my mind what that ending is I assume we’ll be talking about it pretty soon so that I can steer towards that.
Jane the Virgin airs Fridays at 9 p.m. on The CW.