Jane Gloriana Villanueva (Gina Rodriguez) has been having kind of a bad time in the fifth and final season of her titular CW show, Jane The Virgin. After several years of mourning her husband Michael (Brett Dier), he has turned out not to have been dead at all -- just brainwashed into forgetting his life with her. When Jane found she and "Jason" -- as Michael was now known -- had nothing in common and that she couldn't jog his memories, they agreed to part so she could return to the family she'd made with her new boyfriend/near-fiancé, Rafael (Justin Baldoni). But then Michael chanced into a memory trigger, decided he wanted to make things work with Jane, and commenced a hard sell that led to her telling Rafael she needed to explore her feelings with Michael, and Rafael telling her she should move out of their home until she'd figured things out. Impetuously, Michael suggested that they get away from all their old associations and spend some time together in his new life: a ranch, where he works as a hand, in Montana. Just as impetuously, Jane agreed, and that is where we found them in this week's episode.
Some will say the most important parts of the episode revolved around Jane and Michael being honest with each other and sorting out their feelings in the present, not through the lens of nostalgia for their shared past together. But the moment that had this commentator hooting and hollering was when Jane came face to face with Charlie, raging neighbor to the ranchers Michael works for. Instead of being a weatherbeaten old cowboy, she was a weatherbeaten young cowgirl, and she was played by Haley Lu Richardson.
First of all, congratulations to the production of Jane The Virgin for lining up a guest shot from the glorious Richardson before the series ended its run -- but then, producers did have an in: Richardson and Dier are newly engaged, as she told Busy Philipps on Busy Tonight a few months back.
But why was I so excited to see Haley Lu Richardson? Because she's a delight. You should learn who she is now so that you're firmly parked in a comfy seat on the bandwagon when everyone else starts jumping on.
Richardson first burst onto the scene in 2016 as Krista, best friend to protagonist Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) in The Edge Of Seventeen. Her hookup with Nadine's brother Darian (Blake Jenner) strains her friendship with Nadine, but Richardson is so charming and adorable that we forgive her even this.
Shortly thereafter, Richardson co-starred as Claire, one of several teenagers abducted and held by a troubled man (an understatement, as it turned out) in M. Night Shyamalan's Split.
But her breakout role came in last year's criminally underseen Support The Girls. Richardson plays Maci, a scantily clad server in a fast-casual restaurant catering primarily to straight men, and others who appreciate the female form.
Even on the worst day at Double Whammies, Maci never loses her sunny spirit, her colleague Danyelle (Shayna McHayle) commenting, "You're an angel sent from heaven to show the rest of us what a good attitude looks like. And for lonely old men to jerk off to. God sent you here for that too." These are just facts.
Earlier this year, Richardson appeared opposite Cole Sprouse — sexy Jughead himself — in Five Feet Apart, a tragic teen romance directed by Baldoni.
When not acting, Richardson amuses fans on her extremely goofy, endearingly unself-conscious Instagram feed @haleyluhoo.
Jane The Virgin may not have given Richardson much to do except spur me (get it, because Charlie's a rancher) to write this post — but honestly, in that getting the word out on her could not be more vital to our culture, her role has made this whole Montanan escapade worth it. Haley Lu Richardson is a treasure; get a confetti gun and tell everyone you know!
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Writer, editor, and snack enthusiast Tara Ariano is the co-founder of Television Without Pity and Fametracker (RIP). She co-hosts the podcasts Extra Hot Great and Again With This (a compulsively detailed episode-by-episode breakdown of Beverly Hills, 90210), and has contributed to New York, the New York Times magazine, Vulture, Decider, Salon, and Slate, among many others. She lives in Austin.