America Ferrera, Ugly Betty
This was the year that America fell in love with America. Thanks to 22-year-old Ferrera's winning performance as a homely girl with a heart of gold, ABC's Ugly Betty (Thursdays at 8 pm/ET) became one of the fall's few breakout hits. On a recent day off, the lovely and low-key Ferrera took a break from house-hunting to fill us in on her Bettylicious year.

TV Guide: You look so different in person. Do you get that a lot?
Ferrera:
It takes me an hour to become Betty. But I love that she's so different from me. I can [keep] a bit of myself private.

TV Guide: What's the most difficult part of the Betty transformation?
Ferrera:
Betty wears a lot of clothes — tights, parkas, all these shirts buttoned up to her neck. That drives me insane. I don't like to feel restricted.

TV Guide: Do you have a favorite Betty moment to date?
Ferrera:
The Christmas episode when we brought back Henry [Christopher Gorham]. I'm the girliest of all girls. [Laughs] I squeal in romantic comedies. I cry at the drop of a hat. So I get excited for Betty when she gets to do romantic things. It's so wonderful to have a normal person be a romantic heroine. The truth is, we are not all people who look like we belong on television. But every single person you look at, they are the heroine of their own lives. There are people who love them and desire them and need them.

TV Guide: Do you ever have strange fan encounters?
Ferrera:
Sometimes letters come addressed to Betty. They're like, "Dear Betty, I hope things at 'Mode' are OK." It's a little creepy. These are from people who are, like, 32! I'm serious.

TV Guide: Whom have you met in 2006 who was particularly mind-blowing?
Ferrera:
I did The View and met Rosie O'Donnell. I grew up obsessed with her talk show and thought she was so wonderful, and in person, she was just so sweet. She's such a big fan of the show.

TV Guide: Did Rosie give you any good advice?
Ferrera:
As I was leaving, she told me, "Don't ever date anyone who's been in People magazine. Find a normal, sweet guy from home." I was like, "OK!"

TV Guide: What's the biggest perk of fame?
Ferrera:
You know what was really cool? We got to travel on ABC's private jet to Chicago when we did Oprah. You have your own stewardess to get you stuff! They had a whole basket of candy — Snickers and Starbursts. I was high on sugar by the time I was on Oprah.

TV Guide: Was there a moment this year when your success really hit you?
Ferrera:
I was in Texas at a movie theater and, on the elevator, these people were like, "You look so much like that girl who plays Ugly Betty." So they started talking about how much they loved the show. And I thought, "I'm in Texas in an elevator, and these people know about my show." That's when it hit: The whole country is watching.

TV Guide: Is there anyone who still makes you starstruck?
Ferrera:
If I saw someone from Heroes, I would freak out. I'd be like, "Oh, my god, you're a superhero. You're not supposed to be here!" I'm the biggest dork when it comes to that.

TV Guide: Who's your favorite "Hero"?
Ferrera:
I love Masi [Oka, who plays Hiro]. I met him before our shows came out, but now I just want to say hi and, like, hug him and tell him that I love his show. And then I'm like, "Wait, he's just a normal person, he doesn't have superpowers!"

TV Guide: Any goals for 2007?
Ferrera:
I want to travel. But it's hard because I get such a short amount of time off, and I feel like I should do a movie. I wish I could go sit in the sun, but it's not my nature. At some point, when I collapse, I'll have to calm down.

Pick up the year-end double issue of TV Guide for a fun Q&A with Ugly Betty's Amanda, played by Becki Newton.

Send your comments on this feature to letters@tvguide.com