Mexican-born actor Jaime Camil is incredibly humble. As he tells it, “You have to be thankful to the audience…that people are requesting your services and you’re being hired to do something.” Camil burst onto the scene, for U.S. audiences at least, playing the gregarious and charming Rogelio de la Vega on five seasons of The CW’s “Jane the Virgin.” Now, with “Jane” having concluded its run last year, Camil is transitioning to a new role as an actor and executive producer for the CBS multicamera sitcom, “Broke.”
“Broke,” akin to classic sitcoms like “Green Acres,” follows struggling single mom Jackie (Pauley Perrette) and what happens when her once wealthy sister and brother-in-law (played by Natasha Leggero and Camil) come to live with her after going broke. Camil has deep connections to the property, which initially started out as a Colombian television production. Camil played the title role when it was remade in Mexico as “Qué pobres tan ricos.” It was only natural that the series would pop back up again during a discussion with “Jane the Virgin” showrunner Jennie Snyder Urman.
Initially, the two were collaborating on a proposed spin-off series for his “Jane” character, Rogelio de la Vega, but Urman was drawn to Camil’s previous discussion of the plot to “Qué pobres tan ricos.” Because Snyder had an overall deal with CBS, she suggested Camil pitch the Americanized reboot as a 30-minute sitcom.
“Because I’m from Mexico and I don’t know how the Hollywood industry works, I said, ‘Oh, yeah, sure!'” Camil said. But the development process was difficult. “If I knew that the odds are not in your favor, and how difficult it is to place a show on CBS in the multicamera format, I would have said no way!”
Struggles in production aside, “Broke” breaks a glass ceiling at CBS. Camil is the first Latino to lead a comedy series on the network since Desi Arnaz on “I Love Lucy” in 1951. Camil noted that “it’s crazy” when that factoid is brought up.
“I should not be the second one,” Camil said. “There should have been more, but at least here we are.”
Though the actor can’t fathom putting himself on the same pedestal as Arnaz, he does believe starring in “Broke” is indicative of studios pushing for greater inclusion.
When the show debuted during last year’s up-fronts at Carnegie Hall “every single president of a network [was saying] ‘We are going to be more inclusive. We understand diversity; we embrace diversity,” Camil said. For Camil, “Broke” being on such a widely-watched network on CBS means a greater proliferation of diversity. Lines are said in Spanish and Camil sees their inclusion as “not a gimmick, but as a very organic and natural way include the language” in a way similar to “Jane the Virgin.” It’s definitely progress, since a 2017 look at the amount of shows starring Latinos illustrated progress, but none of those leads were on the Big Four broadcast networks.
Comedy has always been a verdant landscape for Latinos going back to the Cuban-born Desi Arnaz in “I Love Lucy.” The recent return of “One Day at a Time” on Pop TV also illustrates how Latinos are able to discuss important topics with enough levity to attract universal audiences. Camil doesn’t think it’s fair to compare the two series as “each show lives in its own universe and they’re very different from each other.” He hopes that audiences who enjoy “One Day at a Time” will give “Broke” a chance.
For Camil, he’s made his career in the United States playing comedy but has also dabbled in practically every other genre, from action to drama. Camil’s Hollywood transition was certainly a slow one, despite him working in film and television for 27 years. However, Camil looks at everything on the bright side and believes all his choices have resulted in the amazing career he has now. When he initially traveled to Hollywood for the first time, he committed to living in Los Angeles for a year. “I’m here two months and my dear friend Rosy Ocampo, the showrunner of my last four projects in Mexico, called me,” he said. He initially turned O’Campo down but she convinced him to come back to work on the project which was the Mexican incarnation of “Broke.” “If it wasn’t for that I wouldn’t have gotten in contact with ‘Broke.'”
His turn as Javier in “Broke” contains similar comedic elements to Rogelio de la Vega, but Camil isn’t afraid of being typecast. “It would be very dumb for me, and I will say for any actor, to walk away from something that gives so much joy and pleasure to the audience,” he says. And with the continued need for grander representation in every genre of media the time is ripe for Camil to continue shattering the barriers that still exist. He may be the second Latino to lead a comedic series, but fingers are crossed he’ll inspire many more.
“Broke” airs on CBS April 2nd.