Gina Rodriguez might be the most recognized breakout star of the breakout hit Jane the Virgin, but there's no doubt that the show's unsung hero is the one person viewers have never seen: the narrator. Meet Anthony Mendez, already a prolific voiceover artist in his own right, who calls the voice of Jane the gig of a lifetime.
"It's a dream come true in terms of someone finally allowing me more than 30 seconds to tell a story," Mendez tells TVGuide.com. "You always know you want to do a show, but as a guy who does 100 percent voiceover and no on-camera, you think you're going to do your first show on, like, Discovery. Maybe a lobster-fishing show. So it's a big shift."
Born in the Bronx and raised in Washington Heights and New Jersey, Mendez says he actually wanted to be in the music business, but because of its crazy hours, he settled on producing radio spots. "One day the guy who did the voice didn't show up and they said, 'Why don't you do it?' and that's how I got into it."
Fast-forward nearly a decade and Mendez found himself recording the Jane the Virgin pilot alongside executive producer Brad Silberling. "There was a moment halfway [through] the pilot recording when I mentioned to Brad, 'This is written exactly how I would say this.' He was like, 'Not bad for a white girl from The Valley, huh?'" Said white girl is showrunner Jennie Urman, who has helped usher the CW show into critically acclaimed territory with her whimsical, telenovela-style plots that are grounded by the emotionally driven, heartfelt characters. An integral part of the former, of course, is Mendez. Whether it's his over-the-top narration or his sweet anecdotal sentiments, Mendez has become more than just the voice of the series, but a vital part of each episode. And it doesn't end there. In fact, Urman has revealed that the suave voice will eventually — most likely in the series finale — be uncovered as a major part of the narrative.
"I didn't [know there'd be a tie-in to the story], but when I auditioned for it, the first thing I noticed was that Jane didn't have a father in her life," Mendez says. "So I kind of took a paternal, grandfather, uncle kind of role. Then I found out Jane was writing stories and I was like, 'Oh, he's a storyteller.' But there is a certain parallel between the choices I made in interpreting the character and what she had in mind. I think that clicked when she heard it."
For Mendez, one of the biggest votes of confidence (aside from his wife's unwavering support before Jane ever came along) is the fact that he got the job as a nobody. "Nine times out of 10, when you see a narrator on a TV show, it's either someone who has on-camera credits or someone who is a celebrity," he says. "So this is unique because they chose someone who is just a voiceover actor. It gives me reassurance they chose it on my read and didn't care who I was — I didn't have any IMDB credits — and I'm in North Jersey! They didn't care about that either."
Read on for more behind-the-scenes scoop and secrets about the guy playing one of television's most mysterious characters.
1. He almost didn't take the job.
Like us, Mendez was skeptical at first about both the show's title and the premise. But a few pages in, that all changed. "I get about five to six auditions per day from my agents and this one came across [their] desk," he says. "She was sending it initially to all the foreign-born talent but sent it to me because I had that kind of character in my repertoire. I looked at it and said, 'I don't want to do this,' but then I read it and it was brilliant and went to work. She called me a month later that I got the job."
2. You've definitely heard his voice before.
You might just not know it! "I'm the voice of 93.1 FM in New York [but] the radio station voice is so far out there, it's what I call the Spanish Dracula. That's one people don't realize I do. I did the NHL opening this year, which was a straight read. Jane is a suave Latin lover, but everything else is heavy urban or promo, so they're character voices. Once in a while, I do Fox Sports and they let me be myself."
3. He's a one-man show.
Note to self: If you become a voiceover actor, you can never take a vacation. But if you must, you can work on the go. "We're always on call," he says. "At home, I have a laptop, which I record to. I have two partitions that are really tall heavy walls, and in one of the bedrooms, I open it up and face a closet that's been treated. By the time I'm done with it, I fold everything up and it looks like a big standing coffin. On the road, I have a mobile setup; there's no way to not be available. Jane is planned, but for things like CNN and Spike, they say, 'Can you be available in 10 minutes?'"
4. He gets remote direction for Jane.
Mendez explains, "For an episode, we spend 50 minutes to an hour laying it down in several takes. [Urman] let's me try some things, but I don't play around too much. Then, I clean up the file and upload it for them. They might come back and say we changed some things or if the tone doesn't fit right, she'll tell me to do [a different] emotion. I never see a second of footage until it airs."
5. He's only ad-libbed on the show twice.
While Mendez admits there's not a whole lot of collaboration on what he says, nor does he feel it's necessary, he has added on his own lines twice. "My only ad lib was at the end of the pilot when I say, 'No fireflies were harmed in the making of this show.' And also, when Jane was waiting for Rafael to text her, I did the 'OMG' part. Nothing else ever needs to be [added]."
6. His kids aren't impressed.
Well, except for one time recently. "They turn on the radio and I'm there, they turn on the TV and I'm there; they don't care. I did one Bubble Guppies episode and that was cool for them, and I was on for 10 minutes. So I want to do more animation, which Jane the Virgin has opened the door for."
7. He has his own theories about who his character really is.
Mendez likes to keep his thoughts close to the vest, but he did debunk our own theory that if Jane's baby is a boy, the narrator is the kid all grown up. "Here's my thing about that theory: As generations of Latinos in this country go on, they lose the accent. So unless he was abroad for awhile, that's going to be interesting. But it could happen. Either it's going to be one of two extremes: Either he's so tied into this that people will be like, 'Oh, my God!' or he's just the guy who hands out the parking valet tickets at the hotel."
Jane the Virgin airs on Mondays at 9/8c on The CW.
(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS, one of The CW's parent companies.)
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