Pregnancy involves extreme physical changes: Morning sickness, general discomfort, swollen belly. Thankfully, Gina Rodriguez is a highly physical actress. Her character on Jane the Virgin spends the entire first season pregnant. From an accidental insemination by her gynecologist through a broken engagement, through tumultuous familial and romantic relationships and dozens of telenovela twists and hurdles, nothing is easy about Jane Villanueva's 40-week stint as a pregnant virgin.
When Jane the Virgin returned last night, it wasn't the zig-zagging plot or cliffhanger ending that made me excited, it was Gina Rodriguez herself. She does something every high school drama teacher begged their students to do: She acts with her entire body.
Here are a few examples of how Rodriguez's physical comedy makes the show:
From the very first episode, Rodriguez uses her body to comedic effect. When she draws a short straw and has to play mermaid at her fancy hotel job, Rodriquez lackadaisically flaps her tail.
Her whole body chews this hamburger.
She falls into pools with gusto.
She plays into the telenovela dramatized dream sequences which allow her to act absurdly without ever falling out of character.
She's so great at using her body for comedic effect, she often doesn't even need to say any lines. Take this scene, in which she is accidentally stuck pretending to be a masseuse for her favorite author. Jane doesn't say anything once the massage starts—her body says it all.
To play Jane as a drunk 21 year-old in a flashback, Rodriguez doesn't just slur her speech or straighten her hair. She stumbles a little when she moves, and lets her body become less rigid, flowing under the influence of shots.
Her sex appeal is in her saucy eye contact.
Her eyes do a lot of the work when she's expressing emotions on the show.
She rolls her eyes.
And she cries.
And she cries.
Her crying isn't the demure, cute kind, with quiet tears that slowly roll down her cheeks without smudging her mascara. No, when Rodriguez cries, she cries like all of us do sometimes, uncontrollably, with her entire face.
Look at the body language here!
In season one, Jane's life is complicated and difficult; she experiences moments of great heightened joy, and deep horrible disappointment. In the second season, Jane is now a mother.
“I want to live in the world of showing how a woman will go through these roles of losing herself and maybe fear, and then learning how to overcome that and learning how to refocus and how to do them both at the exact same time," Rodriguez told Variety.
And she's certainly doing that. She carries herself through her roles as Jane with the presence of a real person, and that's all any actress can really hope to be.
Now that Jane's not pregnant, she will no longer need to elephant-walk around in circles.
But in last night's premiere, Rodriguez proved that she'll continue to be just the presence—body and soul—that makes Jane the Virgin one of the most heart warming, brilliant comedies on television.
Kelsey McKinney is a culture staff writer for Fusion.