If you hear America Ferrera’s voice coming from a blonde, blue-eyed Viking, do not be alarmed. Wait, maybe you should be a little alarmed, but for different reasons. The Ugly Betty star talks candidly about her new film role and the difficulties women of color face in Hollywood in a new interview with Bust magazine.
The cover story was conducted by friend and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants co-star Amber Tamblyn. And that blonde, blue-eyed Viking is her character in the upcoming animated film How to Train Your Dragon. Yeah, wrap your head around that. As America joked with Amber: “America, we loooooove your voice, but we can’t make a cartoon that looks like you.”
And that is just the beginning of America’s truth telling. Like how about her take on Hollywood whiteface?
(T)here was a part in this movie with this director who shall remain nameless. It was a story set in Texas about this family, and they weren’t sure who they were going to cast as the male role, so they were holding off on the female role, depending on if the male role was Latino or not. They didn’t want to put two Latinos in the same movie, because then it would be “a Latino movie.”
So in my delusional state, I thought if I dyed my hair blond, I could show them that I could play anything. It was obviously very sarcastic: Is it really the color of my skin that’s going to stop you from giving me this role I could be really good at? So I stripped my hair. I looked fucking crazy. I only took one Polaroid and I burned it…. And that was one of those moments where I just thought, Wow. I didn’t even get the chance to fail at that part because of the color of my skin.
Making a movie with an all-white cast? No worries. Making a movie with two Latino actors? Too ethnic. Oh Hollywood, the dent in my desk keeps getting bigger and bigger from where you keep making me hit my head.
The interview seems to have been conducted before Ugly Betty’s cancellation was announced. Of the series she said, “I love the show, but I so hope that at the end of that run, I’ll have more to show for it than box sets.” Don’t forget your Emmy, America.
The actress also talked about her new film by her boyfriend Ryan Piers Williams. She said she at first she had no intention of starring in his independent Iraq War drama The Dry Land, about a soldier who comes home to his family and troubles.
It wasn’t a role I wanted to do until it was perfect. I kept saying to him, “If for no other reason than your girlfriend is an actress trying to look for good roles in this industry, you’d better write a fucking good role for a woman.
America said she is also doing more work as a producer and creator because it “takes you away from that whiny, ‘Why aren’t there any roles for me?’ place to ‘I’m going to create a path that feels right to me.’”
It’s wonderful to see such an obviously bright, self-aware and passionate young actress take charge of her career instead of letting the often archaic standards of the industry dictate her future. I remember seeing her for the first time in 2002’s Real Women Have Curves and liking her toughness and smarts. Some things never changes.
OK, well perhaps she gets a few more freebies these days. As remembers how she felt after Real Women Have Curves made its Sundance debut: “I’m on top of the world. I can do whatever. Uggs gave me boots for free! This s–t is on. I’m here to conquer.”
Keep on living the dream, America.