America The Beautiful
After four seasons playing TV's wanna-be fashion writer Ugly Betty, Emmy-winning 25-year-old actress America Ferrera bids goodbye in April to the red glasses and braces. This week, Ferrera is hitting the big screen as a Latina from a big family marrying an African-American in the culture-clash comedy romance Our Family Wedding.
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Ferrera's favorite wedding
SheKnows: What is the most memorable wedding you've ever been to?
America Ferrera: I would say, my friend got married in Puerto Rico. I like when friends decide to have destination weddings. I traveled 26 hours to get to this wedding. I was in Santorini shooting The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 and my friend was getting married and I traveled for 26 hours to get to this wedding and I basically made it through the ceremony and the dinner and passed out for the whole party. But it was a good dinner and a good ceremony and it was a beautiful place to pass out.
SheKnows: Sounds memorable all right. I know you grew up in Woodland Hills and it's about 80 percent Caucasian and 20 percent Hispanic. Have you ever had an issue, like in the movie with intolerance? If not, do you have an opinion about that?
America Ferrera: I went to a public school (El Camino Real High School) where there were a lot of kids who were bussed in from all areas of Los Angeles so we actually had an incredibly diverse student body; every background, religion, race so I grew up with friends from every background. I would walk into their homes whether they were Filipino or Black or Italian or Greek or Arabic and always think to myself how much it felt like my home. Maybe it's a different language, maybe the food is different, maybe the music is different but the love of those things and the way that they're incorporated into their lives and their family just felt so similar so I always grew up not understanding racism at all and actually feel most uncomfortable in very homogenous groups because I don't really know how to relate to that.
SheKnows: So you didn't have any confrontations with girls of other races?
America Ferrera: I had confrontations with all sorts of girls (we laugh) and it had very little to do with race. I think there is a cultural clash in this film but I think the more important clash, the deeper clash, is the generational one. There is this (older) generation that taught their kids to be color blind and yet have not really embodied that and then the generation that truly is. I'm not gonna say that everyone in my generation is (color blind). That's just not true but the way that the people I know and the people my age move in and out of cultural experiences and are in multi-racial relationships, that sort of racism is not a part of our language.
Maybe that's because I grew up in one of the coasts and not in the middle of the country. It's so foreign to me that idea of such exclusivity. But it exists here in LA. You have minority groups living side-by-side; Korea town, downtown LA, Little Armenia, East LA, Compton, whatever and you have all these minorities sort of sectioning off and yet they're having such similar experiences and there is so little engagement between them. I think that's an incredibly interesting phenomenon that needs to be studied.
Latin in Hollywood
SheKnows: There is even discrimination in the film industry between Latino cultures. Casting directors will cast a Mexican playing somebody from another Latino country.
America Ferrera: I think with the business based in LA, Mexican is the predominant Latin culture that people are familiar with so that's what they write about and that's what they make movies about. I've played Puerto Rican, I've played Mexican. There's enough discrimination between colors of skin, it would be a horror if there were world discriminations within the Latin American culture.
SheKnows: Did you give any input to the filmmakers about the Latin culture you grew up in?
America Ferrera: I certainly had Latin experiences in my household but I didn't know about goats being slain at weddings. I was like "is that really real?" And it is and I didn't know that. So, I'm not the expert for that. I went to fifty Bar Mitzvahs (laughter). I'm an expert at Bar Mitzvahs.
SheKnows: Didn't you do the voice work for a film coming up?
America Ferrera: I did. For the last couple of years I've been doing the DreamWorks movie How to Train Your Dragon which is a beautiful animated film.
SheKnows: Do you like or dislike the process of recording a voice for an animated film? How hard is it to take away most of your actorly tools and just use your voice?
America Ferrera: It's hard. It's definitely a learning curve. I did a voice for the movie Tinkerbell for Disney and that was sort of breaking the ice but it's hard. It's just a different way of performing. You think you are doing something and you're like 'Oh!, I was so emoting in that moment'. Then they play it back and it's "Oh God! No I wasn't!" (we laugh). Your gestures and your face and nothing translates other than your voice so it's learning to use a different muscle. And watching it, it's of course, your voice. It's like hearing a message that you left years ago. You're like "Ahhh...that sounds so terrible." But, everyone else sounded amazing. Craig Ferguson, he was so funny in it and Jay Baruchel who is the lead character and Gerard Butler. They're so good in it.
SheKnows: Whose voice are you?
America Ferrera: I play Astrid who is the kick-ass Viking. She's blonde and has blue eyes and she's very tall and has a killer body (laughter). She's a kick-ass dragon slayer so that was really fun.
Read on for more America Ferrera