Ok, I admit it. I’ve become slightly obsessed with the CW show Jane the Virgin this week. The love triangles, the mysteries, the heartwarming family moments, what’s not to love? In preparing to interview Jaime Camil, who plays Jane’s father, telenovela star Rogelio de la Vega, (It’s pronounced “Rrrrrrrrro-Hhhhhhhhh-elio de la Vega! Try it, it’s fun!), I approached binge watching this show like an Olympic sport, and let me say, work has never been this entertaining!
Jaime Camil is one funny and talented dude. He portrays the self-absorbed telenovela star with such innocence and sincerity that you shake your head at everything he says but somehow love him anyway. Much like his character, Jaime Camil is hilarious (“I’m from Mexico, in case my Scottish accent threw you off!”) and endearing (“Just being able to work in Hollywood and provide for my family is a blessing.”) He is also a multi-faceted performer with star turns on TV, film and theater in the US, Mexico and beyond. Unlike Rogelio de la Vega, lilac is not his favorite color.
Jaime will be in DC on Monday, June 5 to receive GALA Hispanic Theatre’s Award for Artistic Excellence and Inspiration at their annual Noche de Estrellas benefit at the Organization of American States. This star-studded event will be attended by several Latin American ambassadors and philanthropists and feature performances by numerous celebrated artists. Proceeds from the event will support GALA’s youth education programs.
We spoke by phone about what this award means to him, his role on Jane the Virgin, and why Jane is groundbreaking in its portrayal of American Latinos.
How much fun is it to be on Jane the Virgin? What is one of the funniest things that has happened while filming the show?
That is a very, very difficult question. Do we have two hours? Actually, it’s an impossible thing to pinpoint because it’s such a happy set full of happy people. Every single day we laugh and tell stories and share funny moments. Every time we get together it’s like a party.
What does it mean to you to be given the Artistic Excellence and Inspiration Award from GALA Hispanic Theatre?
It’s an honor! Any time you get an award it means you might be doing something good and people might be digging what you are doing. To be recognized by my fellow Latino peeps makes it very meaningful. It feels like coming home, just nice.
How does it feel to be an inspiration to other Latinos in the US?
I have been in this business for over twenty years so I have learned a thing or two. I love having the opportunity to enrich the knowledge or experience of others who might want to pursue this business. I love events like this gala where I can meet and talk to upcoming artists. Hopefully, there will be time to talk to people in the gala ballroom before it is time to take to the stage to accept the award.
I can’t help but see similarities between Jane the Virgin and In the Heights, which just had its US Spanish-language debut at GALA Theatre. Can you talk a bit about how shows like these help promote positive images of Latinos in the US?
That’s an easy one: Just the fact that we are not portrayed as a caricature of Latinos is a win in itself. Just that we don’t have to make fun of our accents or have our houses decorated with piñatas on the ceiling, or say “tacos” or “fiesta” every single line. Just that is a win. Kudos to the network and our showrunner Jennie Urman who allows us to portray ourselves with respect like normal middle-class Americans who happen to be Latino. It’s just brilliant in that way.
I know you are friends with Luis Salgado who directed and choreographed GALA Theatre’s production of In the Heights and who will be at the Noche de Estrellas benefit on Monday. How does your work overlap?
Luis is a friend of mine first and foremost. I have been a constant supporter of his R.Evolución Latina organization and share his desire to empower the Latino community through the arts.
When I was living in Mexico, I used to give master classes to the theater community. Luis came to Mexico two or three different times and taught this three-day master class to artists in the musical theater community. We share a mutual desire to give back to our community.
I just watched the episode where Jane’s Abuela faces deportation when a hospital she visits finds out she is undocumented. The show is really good at mixing in these real life issues in a way that isn’t too heavy or depressing.
Well, it is not a political show. We are not CNN, but I think the show runner believes even if these issues are approached in a very lighthearted tone, she still has a responsibility to talk about them. The political scenario in this country right now is surreal. Every time something happens in the outside world, you will see that Jane addresses it in a very efficient and precise way. But not in a way that will lean towards a certain political bent or make viewers feel uncomfortable.
I’ve got to ask about the film you did with Lin-Manuel Miranda (200 Cartas) in 2013. Please tell me that there was an amazing moment on set when he confided in you about Hamilton?
Oh, yeah, yeah!. He didn’t mention Hamilton per se, but I remember him saying that a new musical about politics was in the works. Can you imagine? No one could have imagined what he was working on and what it would become. He also gave me a master class in hip-hop. East Coast, West Coast, Biggie, Tupac, how they fought with each other. He knows his stuff!
We can skip part where I call him a genius because everyone already knows he’s a genius, but I will say that he is a really nice guy and it was so much fun to make a movie with him.
Speaking of theater, I know of your time playing Billy Flynn in Chicago on Broadway. I am very impressed with your theater credentials. Any upcoming shows we should look out for?
Yes! I am very excited to be doing Mamma Mia this summer at the Hollywood Bowl.
Well, thank you for taking the time to speak with me!
Thank you very much. I really feel honored and I can’t wait to meet everyone at Noche de Estrellas. Let’s have fun on Monday!
Noche de Estrellas benefit for GALA Hispanic Theatre will take place on Monday, June 5th, 2017 at 6:30pm at the Organization of American States – 200 17th Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For more information or to purchase tickets, go online.