In less capable hands, Ugly Betty's sister Hilda could have been a bad caricature: the pretty, talkative girl from Queens with too much makeup and a son conceived on her prom night. But thanks to the show's writers and actress Ana Ortiz, she's also a warmhearted woman the audience can root for as she tries to make something of her life. Ortiz's own life is changing pretty drastically this summer, too: She's marrying musician Noah Lebenzon in Puerto Rico on June 9. (See the TV Guide News Report for a related story.) In between wrapping the show and planning her big day, Ortiz dished to TVGuide.com about Betty's dramatic season finale and what her first year as a Suarez has been like.
TVGuide.com: Thanks for calling. I hear you're a little bit busy these days!
Ana Ortiz: It's crazy. I've never been good at time management, so it's definitely a whole new set of learning skills I've got to get used to, with Betty and wedding planning. I've never had to do publicity before. It's wonderful and I love it, but it's definitely time-consuming.
TVGuide.com: First off, what can you tell us about the finale?
Ortiz: It's actually very intense. For a comedic show, there was definitely a lot of drama. It was a really difficult [shoot], and not just because it was my last night of taping [for the season], though that actually fed into the emotion I had to play. I can tell you that some tragedies befall the Suarez family. In all likelihood, there is probably going to be a death. Everything's a cliff-hanger for us, too — definitely with [Wilhelmina] and Claire Meade, there's some really juicy stuff that goes on. And tragedy! We were at the table read and the whole cast was crying! We were like, "Wait, where's all that laughter?" Justin is doing West Side Story at his school, and that sort of ties into the whole show.
TVGuide.com: That all sounds very much like a real telenovela. Did you ever watch the original Colombian Betty la Fea?
Ortiz: All the women in my family watch the novelas. When you're a kid and your parents like something, you're like, "This is boring. I hate it!" So it was always on in my house, but I never really watched them. Now we watch them, especially Betty la Fea, and they're so cool!
TVGuide.com: Your family is from Puerto Rico. Is it strange to be playing a Mexican?
Ortiz: Because it takes place in New York, I haven't altered anything about how I approach her. I sort of really made her me and my family, times 10. I didn't focus on whether she's mexicana or colombiana. To be perfectly honest, we were never really told [their nationality], it sort of developed through the show. Tony Plana (Ignacio) is Cuban, America Ferrera (Betty) is Honduran, and little Mark Indelicato (Justin) and I are both Puerto Rican, so we were just sort of playing it how we felt.
TVGuide.com: When you were cast on the show, were you ever scared of that old saying that actors should avoid playing opposite children?
Ortiz: It never really crossed my mind. We became so attached to one another, pretty much from "jump." Mark's amazing. His mom's around all the time, and she's really become like a sister to me. The other day we were talking and he was about 30 feet away from us, and he goes, "Mom!" and we both turned around and said, "What?"
TVGuide.com: Were you surprised by the controversy over the fact that his character is apparently gay?
Ortiz: I wasn't surprised, because I've lived in America, and I know how people react to such nonsense. The only thing that troubled me was how it would affect Mark and his life. He and his family have handled it with such grace, intelligence and heart. And I love the character, and he loves the character, which is the most important thing. He's not intimidated by it, and he's still just this goofy kid who's hanging around backstage. All kids should be this well adjusted. His family is like the Italian version of the Suarez family, super-close to one another, in everybody's business. This kid is going to stay in check.
TVGuide.com: What's going on with Hilda and Santos?
Ortiz: We're planning a wedding. [Kevin Alejandro] is so wonderful. Working with him just made everything so easy. There was a part of me that really did fall in love with him, watching him with little Mark. It doesn't hurt that he's a total fox.
TVGuide.com: Is everything wrapped up for your own wedding?
Ortiz: Pretty much. I have to find a wedding ring.
TVGuide.com: Are you doing anything differently for your wedding, now that you're a successful TV star?
Ortiz: I guess the only thing that's different is that I actually can afford to have a wedding. We rented this really beautiful colonial estate in Puerto Rico, as opposed to staying at a hotel. We're having the wedding party stay there. It's a private beach, right near the wedding.
TVGuide.com: Who from the cast is going?
Ortiz: America, Ashley Jensen (Christina), little Mark and his family. Becki Newton (Amanda) is going to see if she can make it. Michael Urie (Marc) is doing Hamlet, so he won't be able to come.
TVGuide.com: So you guys are all friends away from the set?
Ortiz: It's really amazing. I can't believe our luck. You hear so many horror stories of people being so unhappy. It sounds so corny, but every once in a while one of us will host a little get-together at their house. Tony is sort of everybody's dad, not just to the Suarez family. Coming from New York, it's hard to meet a lot of people out here — it's such a big city, and it's so spread out. So it's wonderful to have this family on set. I've worked on a lot of different shows, but it's like you're in and you're out. This is very concentrated, and we all have a really wonderful chemistry with one another.
TVGuide.com: When you first started, did you have any idea this show was going to be a success?
Ortiz: As an actor, you always hope for the best and prepare for the worst. There's always somewhere in the back of my head that's like, "This could really change my life. And this could really change the way people think." I knew what we were doing was really special. I knew that I fell in love with my character more than I have ever experienced. But I don't think I ever realized that people would love it as much as we did.
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