'Ugly Betty' turning heads
By Stone Martindale Sep 25, 2006, 4:05 GMT
01/28/2007 - America Ferrera - 13th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards - Press Room - Shrine Auditorium - Los Angeles, CA © Chris Hatcher / Photorazzi
Mexican-born actress, director and producer Salma Hayek, 40, began her career acting in telenovelas, Latin America's soap-opera miniseries that draw big audiences nightly. Now, Hayek is an executive producer of "Ugly Betty," a new ABC series based on the Colombian hit telenovela, "Yo Soy Betty, La Fea," a show adapted to woldwide audiences as well.
Betty is the ugly protagonist is humiliated on her job at a fashion house. She gets a makeover. She wins over her love interest, the boss.
In the American version of Ugly Betty, Hayek has the plot more contemporary and open-ended. Betty, played by America Ferrera, is trying to earn money to pay the rent, battle her father's HMO over prescription coverage, and convince her neighbor in Queens, N.Y., to get some manners. Ferrera was handpicked by Hayek for the lead.
The one-hour series, which is co produced by Salma Hayek, premieres seven years after the original show debuted in Colombia. The series, called a telenovela or novel on television, has been duplicated in numerous countries since then, including Israel, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain , and Russia. Currently, a Mexican version is airing on Univision, La Fea Más Bella, or The Ugliest Beauty.
Betty is something of a classic icon or phenomena in storytelling circles, and Hayek wisely picked up on its appeal, knowing Betty's underdog status and quiet charm would be a huge hit in the United States.
For Latino viewers, the show's success is heartening, and reaffirms Latin television production has something substantial to offer the big boys of American network television too.
Latino telenovelas typically air five nights a week and conclude after a given period, generally three months, with a happy ending. Their storylines are usually outrageous, revolving around two or three people.
ABC's version of Ugly Betty will air on Thursday nights only. American Betty will deal with common first-generation immigrant issues. Despite language barriers and culture shock, Betty wants to be loved by all and accepted by all.
Producer Salma Hayek's acting résumé includes Frida, Desperado, Dogma, Fools Rush In, and many other great films.
Hayek worked on "Frida" for eight years from conception to production, and the film went on to earn six Oscar nominations.