The birth of a new star

The birth of a new star
Gina Rodriguez's portrayal of the titular character in Jane The Virgin (above left) led to The Hollywood Reporter naming her The Next Big Thing.

A year ago, barely anyone knew who Gina Rodriguez was, apart from fans of daytime soap operas.

Then she was unveiled as the star of the new television series Jane The Virgin - about a virgin young woman who is artificially inseminated by accident - and everything changed.

Even before its October debut, the romantic comedy was one of the most buzzed-about shows among American TV critics, who loved its whimsical humour and stereotype-busting depiction of a Latino family.

The highest praise was reserved for its 30-year-old star, whose portrayal of the plucky Jane led to The Hollywood Reporter crowning her "The Next Big Thing".

Last week, Rodriguez took home the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a TV Comedy, beating heavy- hitters such as Girls' Lena Dunham and Veep's Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and giving a boost to her show, whose ratings have been flagging in the United States.

The Chicago-born actress of Puerto Rican parents tells Life! and other reporters that as a Hispanic American, she could not be prouder of the series, which has just been renewed for a second season.

Her character's relationship with her family - including a devoutly Catholic, Spanish-speaking grandmother, who is the reason Jane is still a virgin at 23 - captures perfectly how young Latinos are torn between their traditional culture and modern American life, she says.

"The idea of my grandmother speaking Spanish to me and me responding in English, and of being Latino but having this dual identity - you know, eating arroz con gandules in the house but eating hamburgers and hotdogs outside - is very much a culture for Latino Americans," she says at a press event in Los Angeles, referring to a Puerto Rican dish of rice and pigeon peas.

"You feel this pull between the culture of your ancestors and the assimilated culture that you grew up in. It's a very interesting dichotomy."

Rodriguez, who appeared on the soap opera The Bold And The Beautiful in 2011 and 2012, has also been open about the fact that she turned down a chance to appear on another TV show, Devious Maids, because she felt it reinforced the stereotype of Hispanic Americans as "maids, landscape gardeners or pregnant teens".

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