America Ferrera: we don’t ask men what’s it’s like to play an ugly person

America Ferrera and most all of the cast of Ugly Betty including Vanessa Williams, Ana Ortiz and Rebecca Romijn reunited at the ATX Television Festival in Austin, Texas over the weekend. They’re trying to convince Hulu to reboot the series starting with a two hour special, which is sure to make fans happy. Ferrera started a hashtag during the panel #HuluBringBackUglyBetty. I checked and it’s still getting a lot of tweets, particularly because Ferrera and the Ugly Betty cast were on Good Morning America yesterday. It’s the show’s 10th anniversary and the final show aired six years ago, which seems crazy to me. Time goes so fast. EW has some quotes from the panel, and you can see the full very long panel video here. The GMA video is just a few minutes, and you get the sense that the cast gets along so well and that they genuinely like each other. The show also had a commitment to diversity in that many of the leads were Latino and there were gay characters, which were positively portrayed. Here’s some of what Ferrera said:

“It’s funny when people are like, ‘Oh, what was it like to play an ugly character?’” the actress shared Saturday at the cast’s reunion during the ATX Festival in Austin, Texas. “I mean, we never ask men that. You know? We just say, ‘What a great performance. Good for you for taking on that character.’”

With the crowd clapping and hollering with gusto, Ferrera added: “I think it’s kind of sad when, as a woman, the bravest thing you can do is be ugly, you know? It’s like, who cares? And then what? That’s what the show is about. It was about valuing a person for everything that they have to offer beyond the surface.”

Between their appearance on the red carpet and lively panel with Entertainment Weekly’s Jessica Shaw, ATX gave the cast the chance to touch on a myriad of memories from the show’s four-season run — including how Ferrera first learned about the role from Salma Hayek.

“I hadn’t heard anything about the show, and she just ran up to me and said, ‘You are my ugly Betty!’” said Ferrera, sharing her best Hayek impression. “And I was like, ‘I don’t know what that means, but I’ll be whatever you want me to be.’ And then she pitched me the show. She said it’s this Colombian show, and it’s about this girl who looks like a train wreck. I was like, ‘Got it. Good.’”

Before Ugly Betty got everyone’s attention with the 2006 premiere, Hayek convinced Ferrera to consider the role by explaining how Betty “comes into this world of fashion, and she turns everyone else beautiful from the inside out.”

“And I just knew right away that that show had to exist,” Ferrera continued. “I knew that little America growing up with so few realistic portrayals of women — beautiful … and real — I just knew immediately that that show was going to exist and that it was going to resound with people. And so from there on and out, I was a million percent in.”

And six years after the series finale, she’s also on board for Betty’s potential comeback, having promoted a social media campaign to convince Hulu to reboot the show.

“I mean, it took 20 minutes for everyone to say yes to my email to be at ATX,” said Ferrera, pointing out the cast’s enthusiasm. “I think they’re going to be at the reunion movie.”

[From EW]

It’s true, men aren’t asked about playing unattractive characters because we focus on other things about them. That’s changing though, especially around issues of weight and the physical training required for a role, which I don’t know if that counts necessarily but it’s a start.

I didn’t watch Ugly Betty when it aired because I was overseas, but I’m going to give it a try on Hulu now. All four seasons are available, which is bad news for me since I have a tendency to binge watch. I hope they get their two hour special on Hulu. #HuluBringBackUglyBetty

Here’s America giving those quotes:

Look at how thrilled everyone looks! I love reunions.

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20 Responses to “America Ferrera: we don’t ask men what’s it’s like to play an ugly person”

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  1. Locke Lamora says:

    It is brave for a woman to be ugly. Or, to look like what society deems as ugly. For centuries, a woman’s only value was her looks. And as much as we want to think things have changed, they haven’t all that much. The amount of vitriol hurled at women who are fat, or who are not “feminine” enough, or who don’t shave, etc. is huge. And the media, beauty companies exploit that. And I don’t really see a change. Maybe the things a woman has to have to be beautiful have changed, but the fact that she has to be beautiful to be regarded as a acceptable member of society hasn’t.

  2. Calico Cat says:

    I’m pretty sure Danny DeVito was asked what it was like to play the Penguin. Or Michael Chiklis the Thing. Or the dozens of people who played the Phantom of the Opera, or Frankenstein, the Mummy. Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger. Yeah, I’m a nobody and I just thought of all those males playing ugly types.

    • Locke Lamora says:

      They played villains with extensive prostetics on their faces. She played someone with glasses and braces. Kinda not hard to see the double standard.

    • RuddyZooKeeper says:

      So, mutants, monsters, and villains – or in male actor speak, characters with depth who women are STILL often sexually attracted to. Absolutely not the same as being aesthetically common or (God forbid) ugly.

      • Calico Cat says:

        Well, okay. There’s Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder. There’s Depp in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. There’s James Franco in Spring Breakers. Gary Oldman in True Romance. So there goes that argument. I’m just saying, she’s wrong. Guys have been uglifying themselves for roles as well, and I’m sure they’ve been asked about it.

        Oh, and this reply was really meant for Locke, sorry!

    • Lisa says:

      But were the questions about how they looked? The discussion around those characters usually centers around what it’s like to play a villain, or a murderer, or someone whose insides are ugly. Or what it was like to gain weight or get ripped for a role, which a lot of actors have done… and they’ll talk about how awesome it was to eat oreos 24/7 or what it was like to be in the gym all the time. It’s really a different conversation.

  3. QQ says:

    Love her!.. I didnt watch Ugly Betty but not for lack of trying, This was a Colombian Soap and by the time they did this U.S version there was already a Mexican, Venezuelan one and Miami production ones ( which is really a mix of all 3 nationalities above) and Countless others in other languages, I think I’d say The Brazilians blessedly didnt stoop to this gimmick

    Obviously the version that ran in this country had more polish and obviously was far less Campy but again it was a Maximum Capacity of the premise for me

  4. Mimimonster says:

    Rambling comment: while I agree that men are not asked that question, they are also not on shows where the title role has “ugly” in her name. I imagine that’s a big part of why she’s fielding that one. Context does matter sometimes.

    The show’s name always bothered me anyway. When I was first living in NYC, my roommate at the time was hired by the company that produced Ugly Betty to play a stand-in Betty for a party celebrating the launch of the show. She is one of the most beautiful people I know and was asked to dress up in a “nerdy” way. I found the whole thing rather perverse and laughable that nerdy or dorky equals ugly. Like it’s ok to call someone ugly if really they’re beautiful and just dressing up like a nerd.

    • Lisa says:

      “it’s ok, you’re only pretend ugly! Haha!” is what I imagine the casting directors would say if confronted about it.

  5. Luca76 says:

    Oh I loved the first seasons of that show so much. I know everyone raves about Jane the Virgin but IMO Ugly Betty was so much better. But the show really did run its course after a while. While I wouldn’t mind a reunion movie to see where everyone is a whole season might be too much.

  6. Suzanne says:

    Christian Bale in American Hustle?

  7. Saraya says:

    She sounds exhausting.

  8. Abby says:

    Aw Ugly Betty was my SHOW! I loved it so much. I worked at a horse magazine right out of college when that show was on, and I really loved her positive, can-do attitude. It made me so mad when it was canceled and crap shows stayed on the air for years and years. I’ll definitely watch a reboot!

  9. Solo says:

    I loved Ugly Betty too. Mark and Amanda’s friendship was my favorite part.

  10. Lisa says:

    People are being weird about this, but I think she’s right.

    Not too long ago, Dustin Hoffman talked about what it was like to play an ugly woman in Tootsie. He said that he wanted to be as pretty as possible in character, and the makeup artist said that was as pretty he as they could make him.

    Then he said that Tootsie was not someone he would’ve ever approached at a party, and that made him realize that he had missed out on meeting some great women because he had judged them by appearance alone. He realized that women are under pressure to be beautiful all the time and that their worth is measured in a way that is different from men’s. He fell into that trap simply by asking them to make him sexier, because he just assumed that, as a woman, he should be sexy. He’d never had to ask for a guarantee of attractiveness, not only because, lbr he is an attractive guy, but because it was never expressly demanded of him by himself or anyone else.

  11. Alarmjaguar says:

    I loved Ugly Betty! I’d totally watch