[03/13/07 - 05:15 PM]
Live at the Paley Festival: ABC's "Ugly Betty"
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

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7:04 p.m.: Our pal Barbara Dixon is once again here to intro tonight's session, which began interestingly enough with a clip from the Israeli version of "Ugly Betty."

7:07 p.m.: Dixon then brings out creator Silvio Horta who in turns gives us a brief intro to the episode he's brought along, February's "I'm Coming Out."

7:51 p.m.: Barb is back to moderate the panel, which features Jose Tamez (executive producer), Teri Weinberg (co-executive producer), Ben Silverman (executive producer), James Hayman (executive producer), Kevin Sussman (Walter), Mark Indelicato (Justin), America Ferrera (Betty), Christopher Gorham (Henry), Eric Mabius (Daniel), Rebecca Romijn (Alexis), Alan Dale (Bradford), Ashley Jensen (Christina), Becki Newton (Amanda), Michael Urie (Marc), Vanessa Williams (Wilhelmina), Marco Pennette (executive producer) and Silvio Horta.

7:55 p.m.: Ben Silverman on how importing the show came about: "I was [an] agent at William Morris at the time and found the idea through a colleague there... [He] was scanning the globe for different ideas and looking for great concepts and he called me up and he mentioned that there was a telenovela that just aired in Columbia [and] would I be interested in checking it out. I said, 'Yeah, can you send me any promotion information about it?' And he sent me an image of the Columbian actress who played Betty and he sent me the ratings information and I said, 'I am beyond interested.' [It's a] perfect, perfect vehicle. And [I] got inside what the show was, fell in love with it conceptually and then when we launched our company Reveille, we went after those rights of [the] shows we wanted to produce and went about setting it up. And reached out to Salma [Hayek] and Pepe [Tamez], otherwise known as Jose to this audience, about being a producing partner on it with us."

7:58 p.m.: Silvio on how he got involved and his original take for the show: "It was just one of those things that I was tracking for a while. That summer before I connected with [Ben and Teri] I had done a pilot and [it] didn't go forward and just decided I'm done with TV. [I took] off and I went to Europe for two months and before I left I sat down with Touchstone and then I was just inquiring about ['Betty']... there was a script that existed and they were redeveloping it and I just asked for it. I took it with me and read it and didn't really respond to it but I kept thinking, 'There's got to be a way to do this, there's got to be a way to do it.' So I was on the phone with Ben and Teri in Switzerland, in Interlocken and I said, 'I've figured it out, I know exactly how we're going to do this - Betty is an FBI agent.' [And there was] dead silence. [Laughs.]" He later adds: "They [were like], 'You don't have to go to that extreme to make it work, just look into what you respond to this.' So I really just looked into my past, you know, how I grew up and growing up with telenovelas and growing up being first generation Cuban-American and really that's the route I took."

8:00 p.m.: Silvio on his social responsibility to the show: "This is a comedy but we certainly have to approach this with... Betty's father's immigration issue, being a first generation Latino-American, we have to deal with those with responsibility, with heart... We have sort of broad, absurd situations but we try to really ground it. We wouldn't be doing this thing justice if we didn't approach any of [those issues]."

8:01 p.m.: America Ferrera on how her journey in Hollywood mirrors that of Betty's in the fashion world: "I think for anybody who's trying to find a place in this world, [especially in] this industry is complicated. You never feel like you quite fit in."

8:04 p.m.: Barb asks the cast how they got involved with the show. She begins with Vanessa Williams who shares a long story about her father dying, "South Beach" not getting picked up, traveling to Egypt, deciding whether to commute from New York and doing Katie Couric's cancer research benefit in which she sang with Sting and Tony Bennett. She's followed by Michael Urie who quips, "Well, I was doing a Supremes number with Tony Bennett... [Actually] I was doing an off off Broadway musical about geology, playing a character also named Marc but with a big beard."

8:07 p.m.: The actors go down the line sharing their stories - Becki Newton ("I had two auditions earlier in the day and I tanked both of them so much so that on the way to my 'Ugly Betty' audition I got a call from my manager that said, 'Listen, I don't know what you're doing in the room but you should really rethink it all... So I went into the room, I was just so annoyed. It actually worked for Amanda."), Ashley Jensen ("I did [the audition] in what I thought was my best New York accent... and they went, 'Try it in your own.' So they changed [the role] from a straight talking New Yorker to a straight talking Scottish person.") and Alan Dale ("I went to one of the early auditions I think and I didn't get the job. So I was told not to forget about it because the person [they want] might be difficult... [And later on] I got a phone call saying, sure enough, whoever it was [was difficult] and I was flying to New York the next day.")

8:14 p.m.: Late arrival Rebecca Romijn details her experience: "I had fallen head over heels in love this show from the get go and really wanted a meeting with Silvio and Marco... and I came in going, 'I want to be Betty's friend! I love Betty!' And they said, 'Well okay, we have another idea for you.' Then they pitched Alexis Meade. And at first they said, 'You know the character of the masked woman?' And of course, being a fan of the show, I thought, 'Yes, that's the storyline that I never pay attention to.'"

8:16 p.m.: Christopher Gorham proves to be a ham as well: "I came in late in the game. I completely missed pilot season because I was doing another show last year called 'Out of Practice.' [A few people applaud.] But I got a call from Silvio, because I worked with Silvio before on a show called [grins knowing applause is coming] 'Jake 2.0.' [And they do.] Both of [those] are dead to me. [Laughs.] And Silvio called and said, 'Listen, I don't know what you're doing tomorrow morning but we have this part and it started out as a one-episode thing and now they think it's going to be a three-episode thing and if we get our back nine then it might turn into more of a thing, but we're not really sure. But it'd be really great if you could just come in and meet with America, it'd be really grand. We'd love you to come in.' And I had nothing to do so..."

8:18 p.m.: America Ferrera on how she got involved: "I was at a hotel, like having dinner, and I just heard this [imitates Salma Hayek], 'America! You are my ugly girl!' And I turned around and I'm like, 'Who is this?' And then it's Salma who'd I'd only [met] briefly in passing once or twice and still, like at that moment, was still taken aback by just how gorgeous she is. I was like, 'Why is this woman talking to me?' And I had no idea what she was talking about. I said, 'Why am I your ugly girl?' And she was in a meeting with somebody and I was in a meeting with somebody and she just kind of made it our meeting... [She] was like [again imitates Salma Hayek], 'You two talk, I have to talk to America!'"

8:20 p.m.: Mark Indelicato on getting cast: "I went on an audition like a normal audition. And unlike Mr. Chris over here, Mr. Big Shot, I had to go through a couple more auditions before I got to meet with America." America adds that back then, he was a foot and a half shorter than he is now. "I want higher high heels on the show." Mark adds, "She won't let me live that down."

8:21 p.m.: Everybody loves the riffing. Kevin Sussman follows suit when talking about his pre-"Betty" days: "I was living in New York. Michael Urie was doing the geology musical that I didn't get."

8:23 p.m.: Silvio on the look and feel of the show: "I always imagined the show would be very colorful... and when I met with the pilot director, Richard Shepherd, he just said exactly what I wanted to hear. He saw it the same way I saw it. [I'd seen 'The Matador'] which has that flair and [he] just understood the tone, that very delicate balance between comedy and emotion."

8:24 p.m.: Teri Weinberg on creating clothes for Betty and co. each week: "Of course with Betty, I mean that's like, you know, has been sort of a science. I mean we sit down each week, you know, with out designer, and you know, just piece by piece we go through the episode, think about the scene and with each character match how they look in each scene so it's a beautiful, colorful environment."

8:28 p.m.: James Hayman on how the show has evolved since the pilot: "I think it's changed a little bit. I think there's always a shift, a practical shift from what you can do in a pilot and what you have to do every eight days. I think we make a little movie every eight days. It's quite amazing. And I think that the look in trying to maintain what Richard and Silvio initiated is a very architectural look, a very graphic look. We keep that alive. That's the Mode world. We use very wide lenses. We photograph in a certain kind of frame that always sort of intensifies or supports that world."

8:34 p.m.: Michael on being Marc: "Marc is so subtle. [Laughs.] Marc's like 95% wardrobe. You put the pants on and I put the vest on and that's just kind of how you have to walk."

8:38 p.m.: Christopher on what he love about Henry: "I like Henry and how he's bringing sexy back."

8:40 p.m.: America on her favorite thing about the characters on the show: "I think the best thing about all these characters on the show are that nobody apologizes for who they are. Not a single person. No one's crying about... being out of place. Wilhelmina is evil and she's evil and that's it. And she's not going to apologize for it. And Marc is who he is and Amanda is who she is. We don't have to like each other but hey, you're a bitch and I'm ugly and that's great."

8:43 p.m.: Time once again for Q&A. Someone asks a very well-written, thought-out question about how the show has changed the idea of beauty. "Is that for me?" Christopher quips. Ben then offers his take: "I think it'll take a long time to change pop culture but it's nice to be a cog in the wheel of good."

8:53 p.m.: America on working with Patti LuPone: "She was working with us for literally a week every day and like the second week she comes in and goes, 'Oh my God, I finally watched this show!' [I was] like, 'Great, I'm so glad you did your research!'"

8:55 p.m.: A fan asks about any pranks that have gone on behind-the-scenes. Becki and Michael then share a story from the Halloween episode in which he had to wear a dress and she had wondered what he was wearing underneath. "He goes, 'Well, let me show you,' pulls the dress and whatever he had under it had moved... I think I just threw up in my mouth." Michael adds, "She saw Captain and Taneal."

8:57 p.m.: America on trying to stay good in this business: "It's really hard for me to talk about this without crying. I'm so stupid but [everyone] I'm up here with, I love them so much. We just have to remind ourselves that every day to be so grateful, so grateful. I think that's what Betty does too. It's not about what I don't have, it's about what I do have."

8:58 p.m.: Someone asks about working with Salma. "I have thoughts I can't tell you about," Alan jokes. Vanessa brings us home though, "I don't want to name drop but I did do a series with a very famous executive producer who I met at the upfronts and that was the last time I saw her. Salma was there [for everything]."

9:00 p.m.: And that's a wrap. We're into the final stretch!


  [march 2007]  


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