Jane the Virgin’s vixen shows her sweet side
Lounging on a couch in the Chatwal Suite of the luxurious Chatwal Hotel in New York City, Yael Grobglas—exuding glamour, poise and an old-world charm—complimented her surroundings perfectly. Indeed, with eyes like Bette Davis and tresses like Veronica Lake, it should come as no surprise that her face was destined for the screen. She currently stars on CW’s Jane the Virgin, a satirical romantic comedy-drama that uses the tropes of telenovelas.
This accounts for Grobglas playing dual roles—the dastardly Petra, and her mysterious twin sister Anezka. Her villainous characters are a large part of what makes the show successful. Petra, to a great extent, is conniving, iniquitous and self-serving, which is central to the show’s conflict. In person, however, Grobglas emits kindness and sensitivity, making everyone around feel at ease. This only proves Grobglas’s acting chops, as she is essentially unlike what she conveys on television. Surprisingly, becoming an actress wasn’t her childhood ambition.
“I would love to say that I’ve always wanted to be an actor, but I didn’t,” she said. “I always knew that I wanted to be some sort of artist, and I tried all kinds of things: painting, which I was not great at; dancing, but that wasn’t it either; and modeling, which also wasn’t for me.”
Born in France to a French father and Austrian mother, Grobglas and her family moved to Israel when she was two years old. It was here where she started her brief modeling career, and eventually pursued acting after being encouraged by her father to take a class. “From day one, I was in love with it,” she explained. She would go on to star in number of Israeli television shows before venturing to the States.
“The thought of coming to Hollywood wasn’t something I thought would ever turn into a reality,” she said. “Obviously, I dreamed about it because it is the Mecca of my profession. So, I was working in Israel, where I was fortunate enough to have played some fantastic roles. Then, I decided to try my luck in Los Angeles."
After finding her manager, she filmed a CW pilot that did not come to fruition, and had a recurring part on Reign, another CW program. And as luck would have it, she garnered her career-turning role in Jane the Virgin, and moved to Los Angeles, where she has been for almost two years. And with the show being a success, it is evident that American audiences will be seeing more of Grobglas for years to come. Indeed, her talents, like her beauty, are boundless.
Photographer: Marco Cella - Styling & Text: Barry Samaha - Make Up: Emily Cheng - Hair: Dallin James
Not Your Average Jane
What do you attribute Jane the Virgin’s success to—both from the fans and the critics?
There is so much good television out there, so it’s hard to think of one thing that can make a show successful. What I find magical about Jane the Virgin, which translates to both the critics and the audience, is that it has so much heart. It is very honest. It is very warm. It is about a family that anyone can relate to. It doesn’t choose between being a comedy or a drama—it is both. I also think the audience can feel how much fun we’re having.
What qualities do you share with your character Petra on the show?
Well, we do look quite similar! But really, I admire Petra’s assertiveness. Over the course of playing her, I started using this characteristic more in my life. So, she’s really taught me something.
Your character basically looks out for herself, bulldozing anyone that gets is her way. Why do you think she is like this?
Petra has such a different background from Jane’s. She’s had to fight for herself. She doesn’t have a warm, supportive family around her. For me as an actor, it’s the first time that I’m playing a villain, a character that is not motivated by needing people to like her. She basically looks out for number one. This is really a different approach to building a character. It has been a lot of fun.
You’re now playing two parts on the show—Petra and her twin sister Anezka. How are you approaching both roles differently?
What’s interesting is that I worked on building them to be complete opposites. Anezka is based on some of my cats. She has some cat-like characteristics. She has personal space issues. She leaps backwards, scratches and makes strange noises. For me, it is so much fun to play both of them in a scene with other people. I get to play them reacting to things completely differently. It’s a ball for an actor to play two characters on the same show.
Who do you like more, so far?
Every time I get into Anezka’s shoes, I feel like I can be crazier. Then when I go back to Petra, I realize how much I miss playing her. So I really don’t have a favorite.
How do you think this twist is going to develop?
I honestly don’t know. We find out a day before we start filming an episode at the table read.
How would you describe the premise of the show?
What I love about Jane the Virgin is that the situations can be larger than life, but the actual characters are down to earth. It’s like you and me being tossed into these crazy circumstances, and watching us have to deal with it can be really funny. It is basically having grounded characters in a huge telenovela situation.
How would you describe the style of the characters you play on the show?
Petra never wears the same thing twice. In my opinion, she has the best wardrobe on the show—maybe except for Rogelio. Rachel, our designer, is a genius and keeps us very involved in the whole process. It’s been amazing.
Which of your characters’ style do you identify with more?
Neither completely, but probably Anezka. She’s a bit normcore, and grungy.
How would you describe your personal style?
Masculine meets feminine.
Who are you style icons, and why?
At the moment, I love Caroline de Maigret. She’s a French model who is just amazing, and has got my style pretty spot-on. The way she combines jeans and beautiful jackets is really relaxed, but chic.
What are the key items that every woman needs in her wardrobe?
A black bra, a white button-down, a great pair of jeans, a leather jacket, and one fantastic bag.
By Barry Samaha