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On the Scene: 'Ugly Betty' takes over Outfest

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Van_l

Van_lWell, if it wasn’t already obvious, now it’s official: Vanessa L. Williams is a full-fledged gay icon.

At a panel yesterday at this year’s Outfest (i.e. the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Film Festival) titled “Ugly Betty is a Beautiful Thing,” Williams charmed the designer socks off of the near-capacity crowd. To be fair, so did the rest of her Ugly Betty compatriots — America Ferrera, Eric Mabius, Ana Ortiz, Michael Urie, Judith Light, and exec. producers Silvio Horta and Marco Pennette — but only Williams took to the stage to demonstrate how she taught costar Becki Newton (i.e. scheming Mode magazine staffer Amanda) the dos and don’ts of walking the red carpet. It was right about when Williams began explaining with a knowing grin that one must always stand at a three-quarter turn with one leg arched out to best give the camera a full womanly line that she was completely drowned out by the raucous approving applause from the audience.

The moment was but one of many highlights from the delightful 90-minute conversation between the Ugly Betty peeps and moderator David M. Halbfinger of The New York Times. After the jump, I’ll single out some of the best, including some inside scoop on the upcoming season, exec. producer Salma Hayek’s unconventional pitch to Betty star Ferrera, and Ms. Williams’ big surprise at costar Rebecca Romijn’s wedding to Jerry O’Connell.

  • Moderator David Halbfinger wasted no time asking the cast forhighlights from the Saturday Romijn-O’Connell nuptials, and though theymostly remained politely vague about the event, Williams did spill thatas a surprise she stepped in to “save” Jerry O’Connell’s awful karaokerendition of her hit “Save the Best for Last.”
  • Does ABC raise any objections to the show’s oft-ribaldhumor and racy storylines? Um…not so much. “We do murder and incest,”joked exec. producer Pennette, “and we get notes saying, ‘You can’t say Scrabble.'”
  • America Ferrera sheepishly explained that her gift forphysical comedy isn’t so much a talent as more a natural inclination totrip and fall. But really, there is nothing awkward about Ferrera inperson. She’s as eloquent speaking about the show’s appeal to minorityviewers — “No one apologizes for who they are” — as she is explainingthe immediate appeal playing a woman like Betty had for her after exec.producer Salma Hayek spent an hour pitching the show to her in a hotellobby. Of course, Hayek’s opening line was a bit unconventional — shewalked up to Ferrera and exclaimed “You’re my Ugly girl!”
  • The character with perhaps the most resonance with theaudience, Betty’s 12-year-old, musical-theater-adoring nephew Justin,was a obviously a popular topic. But show runners Horta and Pennettewere loath to speak plainly about when the character would begindealing directly with his sexuality — “if he is gay,” Horta said,before quickly adding, “which he probably is.” What was crystal clear,however, was just how proud everyone on the stage is that a characterlike Justin exists, and that, as costar Ana Ortiz, who plays Justin’smother Hilda, put it, he’s “a happy kid.”
  • There were some season 2 developments thatHorta and Pennette let slip: Judith Light — who plays Eric Mabius’ feloniousmother — will be a series regular, and speaking of mothers, PattiLuPone will reprise her role as Michael Urie’s ma, whom we last sawrejecting her son after he came out to her. Perhaps she’ll be meetinghis new beau; to Urie’s obvious delight, his character will (finally)land himself a boyfriend. And when an audience member began hisquestion by mentioning that Justin’s father/Hilda’s fiancé diedin May’s season finale, Pennette interjected: “May have died.” Oh, and there also may be a musical episode, which hopefully should make Justin doubly happy.