Grinding in Hollywood: McAllen native reflects on time at ‘Jane The Virgin’

McAllen native Hayley Muñoz with CW show “Jane the Virgin” actress, Gina Rodriguez. (Courtesy photo)

When McAllen native Hayley Muñoz walked into her dressing room before shooting her season 5 scenes on the CW show “Jane The Virgin,” she said she appreciated the small details: Her character’s name on the door, her paperwork in a manila envelope, the day’s sides with the scenes to be shot that day, the call sheet outlining the details of the day, and her ironed costume hanging neatly above her character’s shoes.

Muñoz appreciated the care taken during the September 2018 shoot, thanks to an attentive crew member who worked with her on the show.

Since season 4, Muñoz served as the writers’ PA, which meant she handled the logistics so the room could focus on crafting scripts.

She recalled having a moment with actress Gina Rodriguez before shooting a scene. Muñoz had credited the show’s star for her casting, speaking with pride about “how Gina’s talent would encourage a shift in the industry to cast more strong Latinx leads” during a conversation with someone she’d later learn was an executive producer on the show.

“She was like, ‘Girl, you did not get this job because of me,’” Muñoz recalled Rodriguez saying. “‘You worked hard and you talked from the kindness of your heart about somebody else and that’s all you.’ “I was getting teary-eyed because it was so nice. I remember thinking, ‘Shoot, I’m going to shoot right now, and Gina Rodriguez is making me cry.’” It was an improbable jump from behind the scenes to in front of the camera, but it was the kind of opportunity Muñoz chased when moving to Los Angeles in 2015.

Muñoz’s first experience in the industry was working on Edcouch-Elsa native Valente Rodriguez’s productions of “Gone Hollywood” and “Los Scavengers.” After working as a PA on “Gone Hollywood,” she was asked to co-costume design for the second film, which she did before leaving to attend the University of Texas at Austin.

The crew was a “family of hard workers trying to support each other,” she said.

During her senior year at UT, Muñoz studied in LA through the school’s program, called UTLA, where she took classes and worked a development internship at independent film and TV production company Wind Dancer Films.

She got a glimpse of how written source material evolved into projects by “writing coverage,” which she described as “book reports” of scripts, books or anything that could be adapted to the screen.

After graduating, she moved to LA with no job, and took a gig giving tours on the Warner Bros. Studios lot.

She said it was a “great job” because she met friends who went west to break

into the industry but needed to makemoney. It was also an opportunity to be in the action and perform, she said, because guides would tailor tours based on daily changes of the working studio lot.

A college friend recommended Muñoz for a client services manager position at Japanese post production audio facility specializing in anime voice over, where she stayed for about nine months.

Her next opportunity was as a production assistant for post production on the Disney XD show “Kirby Buckets,” which led to a similar role on the CW pilot for “Dynasty.”

She remembers working on a Saturday among a skeleton crew of editors and the director, Brad Silberling, when they struck a conversation about “CW shows and ‘Jane The Virgin’ came up.”

Silberling said he worked on “Jane,” she recalled, and asked what he did on the show.

“He humbly said he worked on the pilot, and I later found out he was an executive producer for ‘Jane The Virgin,’ and I was dying,” she said.

It was one of the last days on the job, and he asked about her plans. Muñoz suspects it was her work ethnic on “Dynasty” that led him to offer to look into positions on the show.

A PROFESSIONAL PROBLEM SOLVER

Hayley Muñoz. who has served as the PA for “Jane the Virgin” since season 4. (Courtesy photo)

Muñoz was soon offered a job as the season 4 writers’ PA. Her responsibilities included handling lunch for about 20 people, stocking groceries, preparing documents, tidying the writers’ room and more — a professional problem solver, taking care of anything that could distract writers from writing.

She called the work “extremely fast paced.”

“I’ve never worked so hard in my life,” she said. “I found my rhythm, and when I was asked back for season 5, I was more comfortable in the position and better at time management.”

While working on the show, Muñoz met with a writers’ group twice a week, and a paid acting class once a week, which she’d miss the first hour because of work.

The “Jane” team found out she was an actress when she asked to get out of work early during season 4 to participate in an acting-class showcase. Muñoz was surprised the showrunner, Jennie Snyder Urman, remembered that email, but Urman thought she might be good for a season 5 character during the writing process.

But Muñoz knew this wasn’t a guarantee she’d get the part. She updated her résumé and got her boyfriend to shoot a headshot in an alleyway.

Muñoz said she hardly remembers the audition because she was so excited, but she made an impression because casting recommended her for the part of Temp.

Muñoz remembers Urman asked to see her on the set to tell her the news, and Rodriguez happened to be there.

“And I made Gina Rodriguez hug me too, because I was so happy,” she said.

Temp was originally meant to be on one episode with a single line. Muñoz would go on to film five episodes and appear in six, while still fulfilling her responsibilities as writers’ PA.

Muñoz’s latest gig is the showrunner’s assistant for Melinda Hsu Taylor and Noga Landau, executive producers for CW’s “Nancy Drew” series — “the kind of job you take if you want to be a television writer,” she said.

She hopes to write for TV one day.