Bye bye Betty

It’s time to finally bid goodbye to everybody’s favourite fashion secretary as Ugly Betty gets ready to ditch those glasses and braces with the end of the series. Welcome back, the real America Ferrera

By New York Times

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Published: Sat 17 Apr 2010, 10:04 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 11:58 AM

‘It’s never fun to say goodbye’ :America Ferrera on finally letting go of the character that catapulted her to stardom on Ugly Betty

“I’M A HUGE romantic-comedy lover,” America Ferrera says. “I love watching them. I love when they work. I love when they have a lot of heart.”

Romantic comedies that work aren’t that easy to find, so Ferrera felt as if she’d struck gold when the script for Our Family Wedding landed on her desk. The film follows the plight of a young couple, Lucia Ramirez (Ferrera) and Marcus Boyd (Lance Gross) – she Mexican, he African-American – as they prepare for their wedding. The imminent nuptials are a shock to their families, and particularly to their respective fathers (Carlos Mencia and Forest Whitaker), whose ego clashes and cultural differences threaten to ruin their children’s special day.

“I felt like Our Family Wedding was funny and had its bigger comedy moments, but, because of the underlying issues of race and this young couple being in love and having to deal with their families’ race issues, could also be really powerful and emotional,” says Ferrera, who herself is of Honduran descent. “I have interracial-couple friends. I am in an interracial relationship. It just felt like a story that my generation could really relate to.

“So I thought it could be exactly what I love about romantic comedies, something that could be fun and funny, but would have some heart to it.

“The film is this romantic comedy and about this relationship with the man she loves,” the actress concludes, “but it’s even more so about her relationship with herself. A big part of it is choosing her own vision for her life over just trying to fulfill her parents’ vision for her life.”

Ferrera enjoyed watching firsthand as Whitaker, an Oscar winner as a dramatic actor, tried his hand at comedy, while comedian Mencia worked to capture his character’s more serious moments. But for her the key figure in the Our Family Wedding mix was Gross, a relative newcomer best known for the television series House of Payne (2007-2009).

“He’s such a sweetheart. He’s got such charm and a beautiful, charming smile. It was easy to work with him and easy to find the chemistry between us,” Ferrera says.

During the shoot, Ferrera says, director Rick Famuyiwa and his actors took great pains to keep the comedy funny but honest. In other words, everyone knew that there was a fine line between amusing and offensive.

Still, she acknowledges, what makes one audience member laugh may deeply insult the person sitting next to him or her.

“My feeling was always that people will laugh at things when they feel true and that, the moment things go over the top and get ridiculous, that’s when it can be offensive. I think, as long as each scene was based in something that felt like a real experience, then people wouldn’t take it as something offensive.

“For me, one of my favourite moments in the movie is when my grandma smashes the cake that they bought for the wedding because she wanted a more traditional Mexican cake,” she continues. “I crack up every time when I see that scene, because smashing a cake in a fit is something that someone in my family would do.

“Maybe somebody who hasn’t had that experience would find it ridiculous, but, because I’ve experienced it in my own life, it makes me laugh and it doesn’t offend me. I understand the experience, so I find it funny,” she continues.

While she’s upbeat discussing Our Family Wedding, there’s also a tinge of sadness in her voice. It has been only a couple of days since ABC announced that the current season of Ugly Betty, the show’s fourth, would be its last.

The news was a blow to Ferrera, who rose to stardom on the show, in which she plays the average-looking, braces-wearing, semi-awkward Betty Suarez, who works and interacts with the glitzy, gorgeous and hip folks at the trendy fashion magazine Mode. She received the word from the show’s creator, Silvio Horta, who had been informed by ABC.

“It’s never fun to say goodbye to something that’s become such a huge part of my life,” Ferrera says, “and to our cast and crew who’ve been like a family to me. It’s been four very wonderful and fulfilling years of my life, and I’m just grateful for the experience I’ve had with it.

“Right now we’re in the midst of trying to give the show the kind of wrap-up it deserves, that justifies the story that we’ve been telling,” she says. “We’re completing 20 episodes, and we got about five episodes’ notice. So that’s the hope, to end it on a high note. I just want to stay 100-per cent present in this experience, because it’ll be over very soon and I want to enjoy the time I have left as Betty and with my cast and my crew that I love so much.”

Fans can no doubt expect to see Betty’s braces removed before the credits roll on the final episode. But what else in the way of closure does Ferrera anticipate?

“I know what I want for Betty,” she says cagily, “and I’ve been having a lot of conversations with Silvio about it. We’ve been trying to come up with an end that feels fulfilling to both of our visions for the character, but I don’t really want to talk about it. I want people to watch it.”

The end of Ugly Betty sets the stage for the next phase of Ferrera’s career. She’s only 25, and her future looks bright: She along with Jay Baruchel and Gerard Butler are among the voices in the 3-D animated adventure How to Train Your Dragon, and she co-stars in and produced the upcoming independent film Dry Land, a war drama that’s currently on the festival circuit and likely to arrive in theatres later this year.

“I was very, very fortunate to continue doing film projects even while I was on ‘Betty,”’ says Ferrera, who most notably squeezed in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 (2008). “I’m looking forward to whatever’s next, and I just want to be involved with creative people that challenge and inspire me. It’s about growing as an actor and as a creative person within this industry. I produced Dry Land, which was at Sundance. I have directed a short film, and there’s another short that I may direct. So there’s acting and producing and possibly directing.

“But I have no idea,” Ferrera concludes. “There’s a lot I’m looking forward to, and I’m just going to take it as it comes and hope the experiences keep getting better and better.”

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