Posted by Kathy Lyford
The "Ugly Betty" Q&A is ready! Silvio Horta has responded to your questions and the answers are below.
I sent him all the compliments that preceded the questions and they made him very happy. He received all of your questions and he chose the following ones to answer. (I requested that he answer at least one Gio question since so many of you seemed to be interested in that character.) In some cases, similar questions were combined.
You won't find a sweeter guy in Hollywood than Silvio Horta. He never has a bad word to say about anyone and he's very humble. His family and his culture are very important to him. He's very proud of his show and I'm sure he'd want to thank all of you for watching. (I love this picture of him from last year's Emmys with all his girls.)
And I would like to thank Silvio for his time because I know he has very little of it to spare. I'd also like to thank each of you for participating and waiting so patiently for the answers. And here we go…
Q. How closely are the characters in Ugly Betty based on the other Betty show around the world?
A. "Ugly Betty" is based on the Colombian television show, "Yo Soy Betty La Fea," which roughly translates to "I am Betty the ugly one." Of course Betty's character resembles her Colombian counterpart, but in personality she is vastly different. This comes from cultural differences, my writing choices, America Ferrera's acting choices, and so on. The shape and premise of the series is the same, but the characters, their stories, their voice, etc. are different.
Q. Do you still use the green screen process since you've moved to New York and do you find filming in the actual city takes more time than in the studio with the special effects? — Lynn
A. We may occasionally use green screen effects in episodes, but we don't use them to simulate New York anymore. Filming exterior scenes in New York, for instance, is much easier and rewarding now. The city is a pleasure to work in and with and our shots come out more beautifully than we could have ever faked in Los Angeles. Part of this is because when we had to use N.Y. in the background while filming in L.A., we still had to use actual background footage shot in N.Y., and filming the actors in front of a green screen instead of a real environment added a layer of artificialness that was difficult to overcome. Now that we can film the actors in the actual N.Y. environments in which the show is set, the payoff is exponentially satisfying.
Sal and MJ are both curious about the writing process. Their questions were combined here:
Q. Do you plan the entire season or does it evolve based on audience reaction and ratings? How does the writing team work together? How many rewrites are involved? When you see an episode of "Ugly Betty," is it what you envisioned when you were writing the script? Or are there changes made which deviate from the script that annoy you?
A. One of the rewarding aspects of my job is that it does not end with the script alone. I oversee the filming of the episodes, as well as how they're edited, the casting of episodes, and so on. Even with my supervision, though, there are changes from the written script to what finally ends up on screen. Sometimes these changes result from weather, or sometimes an actor's illness, or unforeseen location variables, budget, episode length, etc. One factor that does not affect the writing or filming of the show is audience ratings and reactions, however. In part, because we plan entire seasons before they are written, but more importantly, because that's not how good entertainment is made — audiences are always going to like some things and dislike others. If everyone was OK with everything in a show all the time, I imagine that would be a pretty dull show. I think the stories we tell are fun and original and maybe they don't rub everyone the right way.
Q. What did Daniel give Betty for her birthday in "24 Candles?" Kind of random, but we didn't get to see her open it and I'm curious. — Cali
A. I was disappointed we didn't get to show this scene because it turned out to be such a great moment. We had to cut it due to time — the show was too long. After an excruciating day at work, which happened to be her birthday, Betty unwinds with Ignacio, who remembers to give Betty a gift from Daniel—he dropped it off a couple of weeks ago because, "He just wanted to make sure he didn't forget." Betty opens the gift to find a Shakespeare anthology. Inside there's an inscription: "Looks like you share a birthday with another great writer… Happy Birthday, Betty. Love, Daniel." The gift worked on many levels because Betty was writing an article for Mode at the time and it showed how much Daniel really cares about her. But we simply didn't have the time in the episode to keep the scene.
Q. Did you expect Freddy Rodriguez to have such chemistry with America Ferrera, and did the relationship grow as a result? Or was their relationship always the plan? — Kay
A. I've always known Freddy Rodriguez to be an outstanding actor, but even so, I never expected the chemistry that he brought — it was simply incredible. Obviously, we saw this chemistry immediately and that did affect certain details of Betty and Gio's relationship. In other words, we utilized the chemistry America and Freddy brought to the show by writing scenes with that same chemistry in mind.
Q. So far, the show has had many special guest star appearances — everyone from Bow-Wow to Victoria Beckham. Is there any celebrity that hasn't appeared yet whom you dream of having on the show?
— MJ and Jo
A. I've always dreamed of having Meryl Streep play a villainous counterpart to Vanessa Williams' brilliant portrayal of Wilhelmina. I have a hunch that these two actors would work magnificently together in these roles.
Q. It's been said that Betty's wardrobe in Season 3 would be adapting to show that she's starting to pick up fashion ideas from having worked at Mode. Why go that way since she's always so worried about becoming a "Mode girl"? Or do you see her developing a fashion sense separate from her becoming a Mode girl? — Sarah
A. Betty's new wardrobe illustrates the changes Betty is making in her life — not the changes Mode is making in Betty's life. That is to say, Betty is evolving — she's growing up according to her own ideals, but she's changing nevertheless. Betty has strong morals and a strong character, thus her evolution is not a compromise. It represents her own personal growth as a person.
Q. When writing some of the great witty, sarcastic, (and sometimes mean) comments typical of Marc, Amanda, and Wilhelmina, how do you and the staff decide where to "draw the line" between humor, good taste, and political correctness. I personally love that Ugly Betty pushes the envelope! — Anne
A. Knowing the line between good humor and bad taste is part of being a responsible writer. Marc and Amanda are hysterical together — as actors, (Becki Newton and Michael Urie) have a wonderful energy and it's really fun writing for them. It's sometimes a challenge, though, because we always want to surprise our audience and make them laugh. Part of that formula requires that their stories and dialogue feel new and surprising every time we see them. Basically, we write what we think and hope their characters would say and try to push it a little more each time. And then we reread it and consider whether or not the material is pushing the envelope too far. It's a delicate balance.
Q. I'm not sure why Jesse's character is being thrown in to the mix when you released statements saying that it was time for Betty to focus on her career and not her love life… Just a little confused.
A. Just like real life, an individual's decisions don't necessarily affect the way other forces or people may come in and out of his or her life. Betty is focusing on her career more than ever. But that isn't to say there won't be obstacles, diversions or romantic entanglements along the way.
Q. Do you like the character Gio? Do you think he had a positive or negative influence on Betty?
A. I love the character of Gio. Freddy Rodriguez brought more to the table than we could have ever expected. His chemistry with America was remarkable and palpable — Gio's personality, his energy and character, had Betty questioning many of her ideals, and that was important to us in writing the show.
Meghan, Bonnie and Marissa's Daniel/Daniel Jr. questions have been combined here:
Q. Can you give us any hints about what will happen with the Daniel/Daniel Jr. storyline? How does the Daniel Jr. story affect Daniel? Will this help him to grow up in different areas of his life? And if so, will this help him to grow more in his career as well?
A. Daniel Jr. definitely signifies a big change in Daniel's life: a child is clearly a lot of responsibility and Daniel understands that. The process whereby Daniel realizes just how much responsibility raising a child is, however, reveals that Daniel Jr. not only affects Daniel's personal life, it affects his career, as well as the type of person he is, and the type of person he wants to become.
And the winners of the DVD sets are … drum roll … Sarah with her question about Betty's wardrobe and Cali with her nifty question about Betty's birthday gift that we never got to see. Congrats girls! I will contact you via email to get your addresses.
Next Q&A is for "Friday Night Lights" showrunner Jason Katims. You have until Friday to get your questions in.