Writing obituaries is hard enough. It is even harder writing obituaries while being haunted by the ghost of the subject. That is the case for Not Dead Yet's Nell Serrano (Gina Rodriguez), a newly single woman starting a job at a local newspaper. Nell does not want this particular beat at the SoCal Independent, but her distaste for the position grows even stronger when a dead man appears in her room.
Though surrounded by supernatural forces that can't quite be explained, Nell's character is relatable. At ABC's Television Critics Association winter press tour on Jan. 11, Rodriguez spoke about why she relates more to Nell than to her iconic role of Jane Villanueva in Jane the Virgin. "I got very lucky to play such a kind, loving, always good and did-the-right-thing and was honest [character] and that really helped me in my real life," Rodriguez said of Jane. But she did not always feel similar to her character. "All the beautiful viewers of Jane were so loving and treated me like I was Jane, and I was like, I am working and failing."
Playing the obituary writer has been a different experience. In Not Dead Yet, which premieres Feb. 8 on ABC and is based on Alexandra Potter's Confessions of a 40-something F**k Up, Nell thinks of herself as a disaster. "To play a character like Nell who is flawed and learning and makes mistakes," Rodriguez said, "Just to have someone that is in her 30s thinking that she got it together and then it all kind of falls apart to me is just so much easier to connect to."
In addition to Rodriguez's Nell, the drama from David Windsor and Casey Johnson — who recently worked on This Is Us — stars Hannah Simone as Sam, Lauren Ash as Lexi, Rick Glassman as Edward, Josh Banday as Dennis, and Angela Gibbs as Cricket.
Rodriguez said she especially relates to the character in this current chapter of her life: The actor is pregnant and due in a few days at the time of the winter press tour. "I can't even see past the birth, it's like a void past there," she said. "I'm going to make mistakes 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."
The actor also found the aspect of Nell seeing ghosts fascinating. "When I read the script, I was immediately attracted to this idea that when people pass, when they transition, they can come back and give you elements of knowledge that you wish you had or that you needed in the moment," Rodriguez said. She shared about the experience of her grandmother passing in the summer. "I have never felt her presence more than I ever have in my life," Rodriguez said. She discussed feeling like she has the strength of the women that have come before her — and how the show brings about a type of reflection.
"I know my growth is not done," Rodriguez said. "I just always want to be a student, and Nell's always been a student."
Not Dead Yet premieres Wednesday, Feb. 8 at 8:30/7:30c.