[04/30/09 - 12:01 AM]
Live at the Paley Center for Media: ABC's "Ugly Betty"
By Jim Halterman (TFC)

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Last night the Paley Center for Media held a special "Ugly Betty Is Back" evening to mark the show's return to the schedule tonight at 8:00/7:00c. Our Jim Halterman was there to give us a Paleyfest-esque take on the event:

6:32 PM - Paley Center COO/EVP Christy Carpenter introduces the "Ugly Betty Is Back" evening and ushers "Betty" creator Silvio Horta to the stage to introduce the one-day early viewing of "The Rabbit Test" episode, which will air tonight upon the return of "Ugly Betty" to the ABC lineup. The lights are dimmed and there are obviously a number of fans in the audience from the multiple gasps heard as the episode begins. (It's a damn good episode with all the elements that make "Ugly Betty" so much fun to watch)

7:20 PM - Entertainment Weekly Senior Writer Jessica Shaw takes the stage and gives an intro into the series and how Betty Suarez has come into her own as the third season winds down. To sum it up, she says, "Where there a Betty, there's always a way or at least an awesome clashing outfit."

7:22 PM - The crowd goes into a clapping and hooting frenzy so nobody can hear Jessica actually call out the names as the "Ugly Betty" cast and crew walk onto the stage. Mark Indelicato! Tony Plana! Ana Ortiz! Becki Newton! Vanessa Williams! Silvio Horta! Richard Heus! Victor Neill Jr.! Patricia Field! Mark Worthington! Jessica jokes that America Ferrara, Eric Mabius and Michael Urie were not invited. (They're actually shooting)

7:24 PM - Jessica asks when everyone knew that the show was catching on. Vanessa said it was once the show was moved from its original spot on the ABC schedule from Friday night to Thursdays before "Grey's Anatomy."

7:27 PM - How do the writers/directors/producers balance the unique tone of the show? Silvio replied, "It's a lot of hard work. Honestly, I can't say it gets easier because every episode is a challenge, every time you're always trying to strike that fine line. Is it too broad, too cartoony, is it too serious, is it too melodramatic? I think we've been doing pretty good at it but it's always been a challenge."

7:28 PM - Of whether the Mark/Wilhelmina chemistry was planned? "It certainly wasn't intentional," Vanessa said. "and the idea was for Wilhelmina to have a new assistant in every episode and when we did the pilot Michael was brilliant and I started calling out to him�" Vanessa then does her trademark shout for "Mark" and gets huge laughs.

7:31 PM - Jessica talks about how everyone on the show has a musical theater background. Vanessa said, "The fact that Silvio allows us to sing and dance and be free�in an upcoming episode I sing with Christine Baranski; we're doing �The Man That Got Away.'" Jessica makes sure to point out the Vanessa has her 13th album coming out, too.

7:32 PM - Mark on how his singing started being put into the show. "I think it just came up in the first season. It was really early on and it just came out of nowhere. I guess the script came out and said it was Halloween and Justin was singing." Silvio chimes in, "We realized you could sing so we had to write it in."

7:33 PM - All this talk about the music in the show brings the inevitable question about the long-rumored musical episode is asked. Silvio said it would happen next season.

7:34 PM - How has the move to New York City served the show this past season? "We shot the pilot here," Silvio said, "and we all imagined doing the series here but it was cheaper to shoot in LA but when the opportunity with these tax rebates came up to shoot in New York and they said yeah, let's go back and let's not paint the skyline. Let's do the realistic thing. For me, it was so great not just the scenery but to work with the original crew."

7:35 PM - Becki responds to the question about New Yorkers coming up to them when they are shooting outside. She and America are often taken for their on-screen personas, such as one time when they were shooting in the meat-packing district when "in the middle of this dramatic scene some guy came right up to us and said "Betty, Betty! I really need to talk to you. I really love your gloves.' I wanted to say �You know she's really not Betty, right?'"

7:37 PM - Is the set of Mode modeled after Elle or Vogue? Production Designer Mark Worthington said that the inspiration came from another source. "There was one line that Silvio put in the pilot which was the "IPod-esque lobby of Mode" and there ya go, right? It's round, white, clean and shiny." Mark then tells the story of how they had to transplant the set from LA to NY when the show headed West.

7:40 PM - "How many patterns can one person wear before it clashes too much," Jessica asks Costume Designer Patricia Field. "Let's face it, it's fun, it's a comedy�I think that world, the fashion world, they have a feeling it's glamorous and it's fun and I think that's what I would want to do is make everybody happy and fulfill their dreams." Pat says that all comes down to one thing when she's dressing someone. "Character is the important thing. Betty is a happy girl, a sweet girl, a positive girl, she trusts people so she wears happy colors." Pat adds that Betty is not going to wear the outfit of a dominatrix and all eyes fall on Vanessa, who only grins. Big laugh.

7:43 PM - Big reveal � Betty's glasses came directly off the face of Patricia Fields. "In the pilot, we were trying to find the glasses for Betty," Silvio recalled, "and we had this box with literally hundred pairs and we were putting them on and off America and we turned to Pat and we stared at her and said �Do you mind if we take your glasses?' so we took her glasses, put them on America and that was it. Those were the glasses."

7:45 PM - Jessica begins trying to get spoilers out of the producers. First, who else is going to be on the series for the last episodes of this season? The producers reveal Rachel Dratch will be playing twins, Tommy Hilfiger will appear as well as Billie Jean King, Rachel Maddow, Adele, and Antonio Sabato Jr playing himself and having a dream sequence with Betty. Vanessa says if she could get anyone to guest it would be Bette Midler.

7:46 PM - More spoilers. A wedding is coming and was shot at the Planetarium, Silvio reveals though he's cautious to reveal more�but he does! There are secrets coming out about Claire (Judith Light), and more relationship ups and downs between Matt and Betty including the return of Henry (Christopher Gorham) for one episode.

7:47 PM - Ana talks about hiding her real-life pregnancy this season. "It was really fun, actually. Pat's a genius and worked miracles and I was lucky that it didn't sort-of pop until the end and then we carried around bowls of popcorn and strategically throw my son in front of me. No profile shots."

7:48 PM - Tony Plana, whose character is a great cook on the show, has his own cookbook ideas. "Ugly Recipes for Beautiful Food," would be the title if he can make it happen.

7:49 PM - Jessica asks about the identity of a new boss at Mode but Silvio teases, "Every character that could be this character has already been on-screen." He does confirm that this new boss is not David Rasche, who began appearing as Matt's father in "The Rabbit Test" episode.

7:50 PM - A gasp emerges from the crowd when Jessica says she heard that Baby William is going to be kidnapped. Silvio says "The person may or may not be the real mother (hinting at Ashley Jensen's Christina)�or someone else."

7:51 PM - Jessica opens it up to questions from the still-excited audience.

7:52 PM - A fan asks if Betty will ever get her braces off and Silvio says that will happen next year. They joke that it could be a great reason for the musical episode. Silvio says, "The most iconic thing about Betty are her glasses and her braces and I've always wanted to put the brakes on it just enough to get us through until now. I think this year she's trying a lot with her clothes, we saw her in heels and Pat really pushed. I think it really shows that Betty is working in fashion. She may not get it right, she may not know what she's doing but she's putting things together and next year there will be changes."

7:54 PM - Any plans to bring back Alexis Meade (Rebecca Romijn) are squashed for now since, as Vanessa points out, Romijn is in the new ABC pilot "Eastwick."

7:55 PM - A Spanish-accented man compliments the producers on their depiction of gay characters in Hispanic homes and is so eloquent that the panel can only respond with a polite, sheepish "Thank you."

7:57 PM - Daniel and Betty will never become a romantic couple. Silvio says that from the beginning it just seemed that there was more of a brother/sister dynamic between them so "it doesn't seem like the right thing to do." He did confirm that Betty is getting promoted at work, which got more hoots and hollers out of the crowd.

8:00 PM - In response to someone asking about the political agenda of the show, Silvio says the real themes of the show is to be true to yourself. Ana adds that some political issues such as immigration and healthcare are sprinkled into the show but they don't want to bang viewers over the head with messages.

8:02 PM - Silvio talks about how they constantly have to find the balance between the work and personal stories.

8:04 PM - A fan feels inclined to point out that the response from the audience just minutes before is that they don't seem to want to hear the spoilers, which is an achievement in itself. Jessica points out that "Lost" fans have got nothing on "Betty" fans.

8:06 PM - More than a few fans would like Connor to come back because it brought a new dimension to Wilhelmina. "I'm wondering, too," says Vanessa, eyeing Silvio.

8:07 PM - Despite the big screen viewing of the latest episode, the brightly distinctive color scheme was handled in the same as other episodes. Mark Wellington says proudly, "I'm not shy about colors."

8:11 PM - "She was a compilation of a lot of strong women and some people who are in the business that are larger than life," Vanessa says of her character, which has been suspected of being modeled after Anna Wintour. "Fashion is her passion."

8:12 PM - Victor is given kudos for the inventive scene transitions in the every episode and he tells how it started with the pilot and it has since grown over the years. His dream is that as soon as you see a frame of footage, viewers instantly know it comes from "Ugly Betty."

8:15 PM - Ana, Mark and Tony all talk about how much they enjoy going into fittings with Pat, who gleefully points out that she loves dressing Michael Urie because he can truly handle anything beautifully. Pat gives a few tips where she shops for the clothes such as consignment stores and the NY staple Century 21.

8:19 PM - That's a wrap! The "Betty"-lovers jump to their feet for a standing ovation.

  [april 2009]  


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