By Emily Feimster
Now that "Ugly Betty" has become a huge hit for ABC, the show's entire cast is starting to enjoy the benefits of being famous. After all, star America Ferrera recently took home a Golden Globe for her individual performance as did the whole cast for their collaborative efforts. Ana Ortiz, who plays Ferrera's on-screen sister, Hilda, says the best part of her newfound fame is being able to share it with her family.
"Of course my family and friends love it. I have a 15-year-old sister who is over the moon about the whole thing. She thinks it's so cool. To see how it affects her and her friends and how much they love it, that's been the biggest kick for me. I get to be the cool sister now," notes Ana, whose family still lives in her home city of New York.
Growing up with a large Latino family, Ana tells us she hasn't had to look far to find her inspiration for the outrageous Hilda. "My cousins will watch the show and they'll call me up and be like, 'You were totally imitating me! I know you were.' I'm like, 'Well, maybe I was a little,'" she admits with a laugh. "But they love it and couldn't be more supportive."
In fact, the University of the Arts grad has been so convincing with her character that most people have a hard time recognizing her in real life. Ana explains: "It's wild but I haven't really experienced too much of getting recognized because my character is so bawdy and flashy and outspoken, so when I come around and I'm wearing jeans and a tank top and my hair in a pony tail, people don't automatically put it together. But once they do, the response is so incredible."
Getting that kind of recognition has been something new for Ana, who developed her talents on the stage with the Labyrinth Theatre in New York, and it's been a welcomed change for the show's veterans. "Tony Plana, who plays the father and has been in the business like 30 years, he even says this is the first time he's gone through anything like this," notes Ana, who tells us the success has been a complete surprise, considering the show was originally scheduled for Friday nights - also known as "the graveyard of television."
Though many in the business tend to develop big egos as soon as their star is on the rise, not so has been the case for the cast of "Ugly Betty" - or so says Ana. "As a cast, we all came together really quickly," she claims. "It's sort of like we're all in this together. We've really stuck by each other through all of this and it's fun to have somebody go through the experience with you. It's like with every new thing that happens, we just grow closer."
Despite the accolades and attention that keep coming their way, Ana says the cast and crew's main focus continues to be on the work, especially since there is nothing like it on television. "Just being a Latin woman, it's nice to have a family represented on TV and to be a part of it," she tells us. "It touches the real issues - immigration, health care, single motherhood, a son who might be a round peg in a square hole and how you deal with that as a family. It's something for people to relate to. And there's such honesty, humor, and warmth to it."
In the end, Ana acknowledges that they've tapped into something inspiring, even if it is in the form of an unattractive girl with braces named Betty. "To see this young girl get by on perseverance and smarts and the love of her family and the love of herself, it lets us know if we put our minds to something, we can get it done." Indeed an important message for all.