Tony Plana Tony Plana

Betty's father, Ignacio, had a turbulent third season on Ugly Betty. He spent most of it recovering from a heart attack, and his girlfriend, Elena, left town for a nursing job. Nevertheless, Tony Plana, who plays the Suarez patriarch, says Ignacio remains optimistic and is ready for whatever comes his way. Plana tells how Ignacio's personal life has changed, where he'll be working this season and how his family is evolving before his very eyes. How are things going for Ignacio now that he's a citizen and has a new lease on life?
Tony Plana: He's got quite a crazy family still, but also his horizons have expanded in terms of his personal life — especially after his heart attack. I think he took a look at his life and said, "I'm always there for everyone else, but I got to take a look at myself and see what I want to do in this last stage of my life." He pursues the career he left in Mexico and takes on a new job as an assistant chef in the city. It challenges him, but he's enthusiastic about it.

Video: Ugly Betty's pretty makeover What's the situation with Elena now that she's moved to California?
Plana: Ignacio has a long-distance relationship with Elena, which comes into play this season. They try to see each other periodically, but it's mostly him going out there because her schedule is less flexible. It's challenging, but there's constant communication. There's nothing like love to motivate learning when you want to communicate, so Ignacio learns how to email and becomes more computer-savvy. I think their relationship is going to be explored more in the second half of the season. What does Ignacio think about all of Betty's changes?
Plana: He sees that she's evolving, advancing in her career and taking on new challenges. She's a new editor, changing her look and [getting] involved in a controversial relationship with a guy who's now her boss. It seems like she's taking on more mature relationships — or at least not getting into relationships with someone who has a girlfriend who's pregnant! Of course he worries he's losing his little girl, and if she's changing her values, and all that stuff parents worry about.

Video: The Ugly Betty cast has a big night out in New York City Is he still obsessed with Hilda's new boyfriend, Archie?
Plana: He's thrilled that she's dating the councilman and thinks this guy is a godsend, considering he has a job and no criminal record! I think Ignacio hopes Archie can elevate his daughter to the next level, but there are some complications coming up there. Even still, I think Ignacio says his prayers every night that they'll get married and Justin will have a stepfather he can look up to and emulate. How will Ignacio help Justin adjust to high school?
Plana: Justin's not your typical high school kid. He's artistic, sensitive and in some ways eccentric, so he gets a lot of push-back at school. Ignacio has to support him through this. He actually becomes more compatible with his grandson by embracing his interests and starting to learn about fashion. We have a little contest in one of the episodes where Ignacio is identifying designers while Justin quizzes him on them. It's very funny and sweet.

The new season of Ugly Betty airs Fridays at 9/8c on ABC. Catch encore airings Thursdays at 7/6c on TV Guide Network.