Gina Rodriguez Says She Felt 'So Connected' to New Series 'Not Dead Yet' After Her Grandma's Death

"I'm still learning from her now that she's gone," the actress tells PEOPLE while teasing her new heartfelt ABC comedy, premiering Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. ET

gina rodriguez
Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty

Gina Rodriguez's new comedy, Not Dead Yet, couldn't have arrived at a more perfect time in her life.

Premiering on ABC Wednesday, the series sees Rodriguez as Nell Serrano, a woman who returns to her California roots after a tough breakup and steps into a new role with her former employer. She, however, isn't living her fullest life and is in a major rut. But that all suddenly changes in the most unexpected of ways: she's now able to see newly deceased people.

"When I was originally sent the pilot, I was up in Oregon, where me and my husband live some of the time, and in nature and in the woods, and really reflecting on my life and changes and growing and shedding and how one is a constant student of the world," Rodriguez, 38, exclusively tells PEOPLE. "I'm consistently learning and growing, or at least trying. That's been the goal my whole life — making mistakes and learning from my failures and learning from my mistakes and appreciating and being gracious of my successes and just really chewing on life. That's what nature can do to you."

But there was something about the pilot, in particular, that struck a chord with her.

"I was so connected to this idea of someone journeying through life, believing that they're on one path and then something throws you off, and then you are taken on an entire other path. What you do with that? how you cope or transition or heal?" she says.

"I also recently lost my grandmother," the Jane the Virgin alum continues. "She lived a long, beautiful life. And she's with me always. But how I learned so much from her and how I'm still learning from her now that she's gone, or at least not here in the flesh. And just the idea that those that have passed, those that are done with this flesh existence can come back and teach you about how to live a better one because you're in it now. I just thought that was such a beautiful concept."

NOT DEAD YET - "Pilot" - From creators David Windsor and Casey Johnson (“This Is Us,” “The Real O’Neals”) and starring Gina Rodriguez, “Not Dead Yet” follows Nell Serrano (Rodriguez), a broke and newly single self-described disaster, working to restart the life and career she left behind five years ago. When she lands the only job she can find – writing obituaries – Nell starts getting life advice from an unlikely source. The series is adapted from the book “Confessions of a 40-something F**k Up” by Alexandra Potter. “Not Dead Yet” stars Gina Rodriguez as Nell Serrano, Hannah Simone as Sam, Lauren Ash as Lexi, Rick Glassman as Edward, Joshua Banday as Dennis and Angela Gibbs as Cricket. Casey Johnson and David Windsor are creators and executive producers. Also executive producing is Gina Rodriguez, Dean Holland and Wonderland Sound and Vision’s McG, Mary Viola and Corey Marsh. The series is produced by 20th Television, a part of Disney Television Studios. (ABC/Temma Hankin) ANGELA GIBBS, GINA RODRIGUEZ
Temma Hankin/ABC

Rodriguez also gravitated toward the series because of "this idea that we can learn from the people that have experienced before us." Further, she adds that she loved "playing this character that is flawed but trying so hard."

Teasing what's to come for her leading character Nell and the rest of the season, Rodriguez says fans will "end up seeing over the course of the series why" her character behaves the way she does and "what sent her off on this new journey."

"I think it's about self-reflection, and it's about growth, and it's about friendship, and it's about the power of self-healing. And then it's wrapped up in this fun, delicious, comedic [way]," she continues. "It makes you laugh, and it makes you cry. Everybody is on their own experience, but they're all trying to help each other. "

Adds Rodriguez, "I just think right now, I want to watch this kind of television that helps me escape, but at the same time helps me reflect, but in a way that's going to make me excited by the end of it. It's going to keep me hopeful. I've just been in that space for years now, to be honest."

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Not Dead Yet premieres Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. ET on ABC.

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