It's hard to believe that Ugly Betty, the winner of two Golden Globes for Best Comedy Series, as well as Best Actress in a Comedy for America Ferrera, barely made it on the air. And yet, that's what happened.
The now incredibly successful show based on the Colombian telenovella, Yo Soy Betty la Fea, wasn't the easiest show to market. Its subject matter (an unattractive girl from Queens navigates her way through the shark-infested waters of high fashion) and its star America Ferrara, a relatively unknown actress with only a few credits under her belt, wasn't exactly typical primetime fare.
Thanks to the star power of Salma Hayek, however, and some major convincing by dedicated studio execs, Betty did manage to land on ABC's fall schedule. The show's problems were hardly over though. It was originally slated to air on Friday nights. Had it not been for the critics who rallied around the show, forcing ABC to move the show into the primo Thursday night timeslot, Betty surely would have succumbed to TGIF crucifixion.
In this interview with the show's creator, Silvio Horta, at the Winter TCA press tour, we learn more about Betty's incredible rags to riches story, Horta's own personal investment in the show, and what TV shows inspired him as a kid.
What made you decide to take on Betty?
It's one of those things where we just came together. I loved the idea, and the idea loved me. It was just one of those things I felt like I could run with, and make my own, and have fun with it.
What inspires you about Betty in particular? Do you identify with any of her or any of the characters on the show?
Completely! I identify with everybody on the show. I think especially with Betty. There isn't a single person that doesn't feel like Betty at one time or the other. Everybody, regardless of how you look or how much money you make - there is a little bit of Betty in all of us. I feel that, I think everybody feels that. You can't help but relate to someone like that.
What are the differences between Betty and the other telenovela "Bettys"? How did you "Americanize" her?
The biggest thing is making her a first-generation Latina-American. I'm first-generation Cuban-American, and I don't think we've seen that story told before. I think this is about the way she looks, but I think it's also about economic disparity, and race issues. It was a story that I understood. [The Columbian version] was specifically about appearance. I think it's obviously an aspect of the show, but we set out to do a lot more.