Not Dead Yet' is the story of Nell, played by Gina Rodriguez, on her 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.
When she lands the only job she can find, writing obituaries, Nell starts getting some advice from some unlikely sources. This show is a celebration of growth, self-reflection, and the power of friendship, with a quirky twist and some permanent ghosts.
The showrunners, David Windsor and Casey Johnson, have created ‘Not Dead Yet’ a look at an obituary writer who is “visited” by subjects while she’s writing about their lives. Rodriguez’s Nell starts to get advice from the dead in a comedy that shows the chops of the actress for this particular genre. After ‘Jane the Virgin,’ Rodriguez comes with a new series that gives another dimension to her ‘latina’ roots. In Los Angeles, Amigos del Español had the opportunity to talk with the actress a few weeks before her baby due date. Rodriguez admits her love to read the comics of ‘Carmen Sandiego’ and watching her games. Born in Chicago, Illinois, to Puerto Rican parents, Magali and Genaro Rodriguez. She and her sisters have always called themselves Puerto Rican, not American, and the actress takes every opportunity she can to advocate for Latin American people.
Q: You are always very active in support of the Spanish Culture in the United States.
A: Yes. My parents are super into education, so learning has always been important in our house. For me, being Latina and speaking in Spanish, being able to voice the character of Carmen Sandiego for Netflix with Rita Moreno, my queen, it made such an imprint on me.
Q: There is also the possibility of a live-action Carmen Sandiego film for Netflix as well as the launch of a book series based on the new version of Carmen.
A: I think adults will enjoy the nostalgia, and it really does play out like a fun spy show. I feel blessed that we get to bring Carmen to the next generation.
Q: Do you recommend any Spanish author?
A: I will recommend all the books you can find on feminism written by Spanish authors, so you can understand what it is to be a woman in our culture and in the past hundred years how crazy of a historical journey we’ve been on. We are always going to be stronger together.
Q: Gina, do you want to tell us a little bit about your character and the premise of your new show ‘Not Dead Yet’?
A: I think, like any of us would be, thrown off, excited, falling back into old feelings, 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, you know, 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 and Casey 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, like, you can't have the happiness without the sadness, the good without the bad. And it all is just how you walk through it. I'm about to have a baby.
Q: How did you connect with a show full of ghosts?
A: The reason why I connected with this show so much was because 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. And, so, when I read this script, I was immediately attracted to the fact that when people pass, when they transition, that they can come back and give you elements of knowledge that you wish you had or that you needed in the moment. And, like, what are we listening to? As we go on these journeys, who are we listening to, and who are we learning from? 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 my grandmother passed, I have never felt her presence more than I ever have in my life, through this, you know, ?? through this experience (pointing to pregnancy belly). And I had an awesome spiritual baby shower, and my mom was very sad that my grandmother wasn't there. "She's supposed to be here," she kept saying. And I'm, like, “But she is. But she totally is.” I know that the strength that that woman had towards the end of her life, it was so visible and so commendable. She would always say ?she had perforated bowels, and she had two pelvic surgeries. And you'd ask her, "How are you doing, Grandma?” And she would always say “Bastante bien” which means “I'm doing just fine.” And now that I'm going into that journey, as my baby is due next Monday, I'm, like, I'm just going to keep hearing my grandmother, “Bastante bien” like, “I can do this. I can do this.” I have the strength of these women that have come before me.
This show, to me, is an element of being able to have that kind of reflection in life with laughter and joy and friendship and self-reflection and growth and how do we continue to grow in every age of our life, in every chapter of our life? Because I know mine is not done, my growth. And I don't want to stop growing, because then I'm stagnant. And I don't want to be that reflection for my child. That's for sure. I just always want to be a student. So, Nell is kind of just always a student, and I really like being a part of a project that kind of helps us all take a second and be, like, “What can I learn? What can I grow from? Let me rise above blame, shame, or guilt. And let me blossom,” because it's never too late.
Q: Gina, have you had to work around your bump?
A: So, Dean is not only our executive producer but the pilot director and helped craft the show. His vision was just absolutely beautiful, and he would be there throughout every single episode and the same with David and Casey. You know, it's my first time experiencing this, doing this, and they've been so loving and supportive of me accidentally getting pregnant right before the show started out of love, obviously. Me and my husband were very excited about it, but it definitely wasn't planned, but it was, you know.
Like, he planned it. But Dean was always there to make me feel very comfortable about the experience because it was very new. So, he helped all the directors come up with very creative ways to either cover the belly, whether it was costumes or, like, my cubicle, a plant, or a refrigerator. But the greatest thing?and I'll never forget it because he just made me feel each stage, I felt like, “Oh, my God. It's so big. I can't imagine hiding it. How are we going to hide it now?’ I look back on that baby bump, and I was, like, “That was nothing. That was nothing.” I was so afraid. But I was, like, “Oh, Dean, I'm not going to get smaller.” Obviously, it just goes this way. It doesn't go the other way. And he was, like, “You are pregnant. You are a miracle.
Just live in it, and we'll figure it out.” And they did. And they figured it out, and my co-stars helped figure it out, and the crew helped figure it out. And, so, it was a very loving, protective set that it would just be, like, “This is one of his shots. This is a Charlie shot.” And I now just gave away the name of my child. But they would always just continue to protect me, and it was really magic. The baby was such a huge part of every day of production in the most wonderful way. I had so much support from these incredible human beings on set always, I mean, from the sisterhood and the help and the support.
Q: Gina, we’ve watched your career ever since playing Jane, and she was such a driven character. She wanted to be a published author. And when we look at you in real life, and you are an executive producer but now gave up everything to follow a man. So, what was it about playing a character like that that you said, “Okay. Can I do that?” What do you relate to with her?
A: 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, like, always good and did the right thing and was honest, and 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 I would go out into the world, and all 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 to play a character like 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, to me 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 have no idea what I'm doing. I can't even see past the birth. It's like a void past there.
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 the incredible people around me. And I'm going to have to ask for forgiveness, and I have. 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 what maybe I do know and what I'm good at. And Nell is that, and she's so much that.
And, so, to play somebody like that in a time where I think we are all just constantly growing and looking for a safe space to grow in and looking for joy and forgiveness and, you know, also connected on social media, we are all so connected, and we are all so into each other's lives and into each other's spaces that it's great to play somebody that gets to fail but gets to learn from her failures, that gets a place of forgiveness that she gets to try to do better. And she gets to learn from the people around her, and she's at times afraid to learn and rejecting those lessons and then at other times really is so appreciative, and, like, her life depends on learning from those moments. So, it's really cool to be playing this in a time where I'm now just continuously unraveling and rebuilding myself.
Q: Does your Latina culture play into your character and in the series?
A: It's impossible for it not to. I walk around like this always. So, what's beautiful is that it is not in the,?you know let me,?do you know what? Now that I think about it, because I don't even think, I guess, I responded with my initial, like, that initial guttural instinct of, like, I'm always Latina, you know. It's so much of my identity. We threw Three Kings this past weekend, and we, like, she's just like Jane in the sense of I have writers that are writing a woman and experience, a human, and I always bring something of myself to everything I play.
Q: Does your family, in the background, do anything?
A: You might see some of my family. You might see some of my family in it. Yeah. Yeah, you might see some of my family, but it's not?yeah. It's more of me playing a human going through this experience that obviously can never deny her roots for sure, but?it’s not the plot by any means, but I don't know. I feel like I don't even actually know how to answer that because what is identity? Because that's what I've been, like, deconstructing identity for the past eight months, and I am nothing. I'm dust, guys. Yeah. I always bring something of myself, and what is of myself is those nuances that connect me to my culture, my passion, and my love and my family, which, yeah, you'll see a little bit of my family.
By María Estévez