Gina Rodriguez already has several beloved characters under her belt, but her latest show "Not Dead Yet" is shaping up to be her next iconic role. The ABC comedy, which premieres on Feb. 8, chronicles the misadventures of Nell Serrano, a thirty-something journalist returning to her old job at a local newspaper. Since leaving a promising career to follow her fiancé to London, Nell now finds herself back in her hometown single, sad, and spiraling only to be assigned to her least favorite beat: obituaries.
Between catching up with old friends, bumping heads with her roommate, and getting used to her nemesis being her new boss, Nell is finding it hard to reconnect with the life she left behind and the dreams she gave up on. But things start to get a little weird when she discovers that she can communicate with the subjects of her obituaries. Once she gets over the shock of realizing she can talk to dead people, she finds that she can learn valuable lessons from the lives they lived — even if sometimes that advice leads her into trouble.
At a recent event hosted by ABC and POPSUGAR celebrating "Not Dead Yet," Rodriguez and the rest of the cast and crew came together at Harriet's Rooftop in West Hollywood to watch the pilot episode, share some laughs, and talk about the show. She was joined by her castmates Hannah Simone and Josh Banday, who play Nell's friends Sam and Dennis; Lauren Ash, who plays Nell's boss Lexi; Angela Gibbs, who plays Nell's recently-widowed friend Cricket; and Rick Glassman, who plays her uptight roommate Edward. Creators and showrunners David Windsor and Casey Johnson, as well as executive producer Dean Holland, also attended. In keeping with the show's themes, the event also included complimentary permanent bracelets (think "til death do us part"), professional aura readings and portraits, and an on-site poet who wrote custom poems for guests, just like Nell's obituaries.
"The show is about people evolving and shedding and growing and f—ing up and trying again, making massive mistakes and learning about themselves… That's what life looks like, so the show should reflect what life looks like. And we got an incredible cast of the best actors out there," Rodriguez told POPSUGAR at the event. One of the great things about the show, which is set in Pasadena, California, is that the cast looks like Southern California in real life: diverse. It also deftly navigates the way female friendships change with time, with distance, conflict, children, and new friends coming into the picture.
Another key theme of the show is the intergenerational friendship that develops between Nell and Gibbs' character, Cricket, whose husband is the first deceased person Nell encounters in episode one. "Cricket is a woman who hasn't stopped living. And she's still vibrant and the rug has been pulled from underneath her but she is brave and bold and flawed and vulnerable," Gibbs said during the panel discussion. Through this friendship between a boomer and a millennial, the audience gets to see what happens when advice and growth are a two-way street. "We need that from this younger generation," Gibbs added. "I think it's a mistake when we get older and we think we know it all."
"Not Dead Yet" is a quirky and surreal take on everyday experiences that are actually pretty real for most of us. Who hasn't felt like a failure or like they're behind schedule? Who hasn't made a mistake they wish they could take back? And how many of us wish we could have just one more conversation with a loved one who has passed? "To have the opportunity to talk to those who have crossed over and what they would have done if they had another chance to do it is really a fascinating concept," Rodriguez said. "What do we listen to? What do we revisit from the people who have come before us? What choices do we make when we're faced with failure or loss or grief? I find that to be a really interesting space to work in."
The first two episodes of "Not Dead Yet" premiere Wednesday, Feb. 8 on ABC, and will also be available to stream on Hulu.