Of all the questions people can ask America Ferrera about Ugly Betty, she finds one focused on her appearance continually pops up.
“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.”