If you still think of America Ferrera as the headstrong Carmen in a pack of friends bonded by a magical pair of jeans or the beautiful young woman behind TV's favorite ugly heroine, time to think again. These days, she's lending her big-name star power to Dreamworks' latest 3D extravaganza and making a name for herself behind the camera too. The voice behind How to Train Your Dragon's Astrid talks about seeing the fruits of her labor after three years of trips to the sound booth. Plus, what it's like to say goodbye to her Ugly Betty alter ego.
Rachel Bertsche: Doing Ugly Betty, you're probably so used to the daily grind of a TV series. What was it like doing an animated film?
America Ferrera: It was fun and really a nice project that I did over three years. I just sort of stopped in and read some lines in a phone booth—well not a phone booth, a sound booth, but it felt like a phone booth. It was a really good time, and it was unlike anything else you do as an actor in front of a camera. And it was really cool to be a small part in a really big thing. The movie is so beautiful, and I'm so proud to be a part of it. I could never have imagined that the small little sessions I was doing here and there for three years was contributing to this really big, beautiful movie.
RB: Why does it take so long?
AF: Well, I don't really know the details, but when I came in there was a script and we put down lines. And then the animators animate for months and months and months, and then you come in and you have to redo lines to things that they animated, and then they take inspiration from what you did and they animate to your voice, and then you come in and do voice to their animation. It just sort of goes back and forth that way. I think there's a lot of complexities to doing these big beautiful visuals, especially since the film is 3D.
RB: Is it hard for you as an actor when you aren't interacting with somebody else? We see you every week on Ugly Betty when you're with such strong characters and you can react to them, and suddenly you're doing this alone in a sound booth.
AF: Definitely that's the biggest challenge. Luckily, I got to do a couple of sessions with Jay Baruchel, who plays Hiccup, and that was really nice because it really helped me to know what his energy was and what he was doing with the character. Then, when I was by myself, I could imagine and at least have a point of reference for who I'm interacting with, so that made it easier.
RB: Speaking of Ugly Betty, I know it's drawing to a close. What's that been like for you?
AF: It's a mixed bag of emotions. It's hard and very sad to say goodbye to my cast and my crew, my family of co-workers. And it's hard to say goodbye to Betty. She's a character I've played for four years, and I've come to really love her and feel close to her, and now it's sort of time to let go. Like everything in life, you say goodbye and you make room for new experiences. But I'm so grateful for having this be a part of my life.
RB: How has the experience of playing Betty changed you?
AF: In so many ways. I can't even begin to summarize, but it's been an enormous chunk of my adult life. I started when I was 21, and now I'm 25, and I think for anyone those are very big growing up years. But I consider myself very lucky that I had this very strong working family to help me take all the good stuff from this experience and really use it to grow. While it's sad, I can still look back and think that at almost every turn, I really did always appreciate it. And I always did remember to take the best out of it and be thankful for it and acknowledge what a wonderful thing it was in my life.
RB: So you have two movies out now, Our Family Wedding and How to Train Your Dragon, and your TV show is coming to a close. Do you have plans for more projects, or maybe a vacation?
AF: I don't have any projects that are planned yet, but I plan to rest, I plan to maybe do a little bit of traveling and maybe spend some time on some of the organizations that I've been involved with. I've been an education ambassador for Save the Children, and while I've gotten to do some small trips here and there, I haven't gotten to spend as much time as I wanted to, so I'll probably do a little bit of that. Then there are some projects I've been developing as a producer. So, it's open-ended. There's not really anything that I'm 100 percent committed to doing right now. There's a film that I produced for the better part of the last two to three years called The Dry Land, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and we'll be taking it around to festivals throughout the rest of this year and will probably come out in the late summer, early fall.
RB: You also play the wife of the main character in The Dry Land. I was so taken aback when I read that since my first thought is of you in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Now you're playing a wife! You've sort of grown up before our eyes.
AF: It all happened in stages. I was 20 when I played a 16-year-old in Sisterhood, so my movie age and real age have never really coincided. But it is nice to play someone my own age, and I think not just for actors but for anyone it's like: 'Oh my god, I'm 25. Should I be acting 25? I don't feel 25.' So sometimes in my own real life I don't know what age to act, anyway.
Printed from Oprah.com on Sunday, March 9, 2014
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