Another Monday, another crazy chapter of Jane the Virgin. This week, we finally got to hang out with Jane’s cousin, Catalina—and witness some seriously awkward tension bloom once more between Jane, Michael, and Rafael. Another source of drama? The fallout from Petra finally revealing that she’s woken up from the paralytic prison where she was imprisoned by her own jumpy twin.
It’s been about a year since actress Yael Grobglas first found out she would also be playing Petra’s identical sister, Anezka. As Petra makes her comeback and prepares to wreak havoc of her own once more, Vanity Fair chatted with the actress about seeing double, her recent appearance on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and the surprising real-life inspiration behind Anezka: a cat named Pablo.
Jane the Virgin is actually Grobglas’s third CW project. The Israeli actress made her Stateside acting debut on a CW pilot called The Selection in 2013. The series didn’t go forward, but her next role—Olivia D’Amencourt on Reign—wound up lasting several months, during which the actress found herself shuttling back and forth between Toronto, Tel Aviv, and Los Angeles. And then came Jane.
“When I got the Jane script, I thought it was so incredibly unique, and I was laughing out loud—and then I was crying,” Grobglas said, adding later, “There was nothing I could even compare it to. And I think they’ve been very true to that. It’s been its own world.”
In addition to becoming her TV home, the series has given Grobglas a chance to play her own twin—a rare, coveted acting opportunity she has not squandered. Grobglas said she received the first script featuring Anezka about a year ago—with no warning of what was to come. As her co-stars began teasing her and asking if she’d read the script that introduced Anezka, Grobglas began to worry she was being killed off.
“It actually fooled me,” Grobglas said. “I thought, Shit. My character’s leaving! Then my twin sister showed up. So that was wonderful.”
The less-polished Anezka is the polar opposite of cool Petra—and if you’re wondering where the inspiration for the mousier twin came from, the answer might surprise you.
In describing Anezka over the phone, Grobglas recalls that show-runner Jennie Snyder Urman “used words such as, ‘She’s a passionate eater,’ and, ‘She scratches and yelps when she leaps backwards.’ And I immediately said, ‘Oh, I know someone like that!’ And so, that’s how Anezka actually got based on my cat, Pablo. He’s kind of been my inspiration for the character ever since.”
The different women’s “physicality” helps Grobglas keep the two women straight. On one hand, you’ve got the glowering Petra in her killer short-and-high-heel combos, and on the other, you’ve got Anezka, whose natural state involves slouching and drab attire. It’s no surprise, then, that the term “normcore” came up as the Jane team designed the character.
Grobglas’s own contribution? “I was like, ‘All right, but she has to have high tops,’ ” Grobglas said. “And so it’s almost as if the moment I put on the shoes and I get into that physicality of the two separate characters, you can’t really confuse them.”
But her roles are trickier than playing two separate characters—up until very recently, Jane fans have been watching Grobglas play Anezka as she plays Petra—whom she actually has paralyzed in a hospital bed. (I know! Straight out of a telenovela, right?) Anezka is pretty good at playing the one she calls “Beautiful Sister,” but even she has her tells.
“I added little things like, you know, she doesn’t know how to walk in heels, so once in a while she kind of bobs around on her heels a little bit—even as Petra,” Grobglas said. “Little giveaways like that.”
Now that Petra’s back, Anezka, Rafael, and basically everyone in the free world should probably watch their backs. From this week’s episode, it appears the perpetual chess match between Petra and Rafael has already resumed. It’s hard to blame Petra for any vengeance she takes against Rafael—he did, after all, fail to notice that someone was impersonating his own ex-wife. Looking back to when she first read the Jane the Virgin script, Grobglas wondered if she wanted to play a villain on a show that could continue for a long time. But after a conversation with Snyder Urman, Grobglas realized—to borrow from another CW show—that the situation’s a lot more nuanced than that.
“She doesn’t think of herself as a villain; she’s not a villain,” Grobglas said. “She just comes from where she comes from, and with her history, she doesn’t have the love and support that Jane had growing up. . . . Both [Petra and Anezka] are super-manipulated by their mother, and I don’t agree with their decisions, but I admire both of them for separate things. Definitely Petra—I admire her a lot. I think she’s tough as nails.”
And speaking of that other CW show, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Grobglas appeared recently as C.E.O. of a company called Miss Douche—which is, unsurprisingly, looking to rebrand. Grobglas first met Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna two years ago at a CW upfront presentation, shortly after Crazy Ex was first picked up. When she received the offer to appear on their comedy, she jumped at the chance.
The one catch? Once Grobglas found out what the exact role would be, the Paris-born, Israeli-raised actress admits she had a little research to do.
“I’m like, ‘I’m playing what? I have a douching company? All right.’ Google, ‘What the hell is douching?’ Got it.”