Amid all the shenanigans on ABC's "Ugly Betty"-- Amanda's search for her father, Christina's search for money to pay for her estranged husband's medication, Wilhelmina's search for a surrogate to carry her late husband's child -- something got a little lost: Betty!
No more, assures the show's star, America Ferrera, hanging out in her trailer after shooting a scene for the show's third of five new episodes. The first, airing Thursday (8 p.m. ET/PT), finds Betty once again the center of attention as she celebrates her 24th birthday. She fantasizes about what her special day will be like, only to be faced with a different reality.
Ferrera, who celebrated her own 24th birthday Friday, faced disillusionment, too, with the direction her show was taking. "I've always loved the show, but we went through some creative shifts," says Ferrera. "Because so much was happening in each episode, there wasn't enough time given to certain story arcs."
But back to work after the writers' strike, this Emmy, Golden Globe, SAG, NAACP Image and ALMA award winner says, "I couldn't be more happy."
Entering her trailer, Ferrera is welcomed with slobbery licks from her Great Dane, Lucy, who has been known to do her business on the lawn in front of the writers' office. "Lucy lets them know how she feels about the scripts," Ferrera jokes.
The man in charge of those scripts is series creator Silvio Horta, who acknowledges that "the strike gave us a moment to step back and look at the things we did well, and not so well. It was getting a little sitcom-y, and we started to get a little off the tracks. As fun as the stuff at Mode (magazine) is, it needs balance with the family. We felt we were short-changing that part of Betty's life, and those characters and actors are so terrific. It's going to get back to the heart and to Betty's point of view."
No longer will the show try to give a story line to everyone in every episode. Now, Horta says, "You'll find there'll be two or three story lines -- the biggest one being Betty's. And when we get into Marc, Amanda and Christina, there will be a little more interaction with Betty and her point of view."
Ferrera agrees. "I think the show's journey is Betty's journey. There's a lot going on in these five episodes, but it's very focused. An arc begins and kind of ends for Betty, specifically concerning her love life."
Thursday will see the return of boyfriend Henry's pregnant ex, Charlie, leading to "ultimate highs and ultimate lows" for Betty, says Ferrera. "Rough days" lie ahead. And by season's end, Betty will choose between Chris Gorham's Henry and Freddy Rodriguez's Gio.
Ferrera describes Betty's two-year romance with Henry as "the type of love that makes you sick." Gio represents "the type of relationship where everything seems so easy."
Rodriguez surprised Ferrera by returning with a buzzed scalp. But Ferrera has nothing but praise for him. "When Gio's character got introduced, I found a whole other side of Betty," she says. "He brings out the side of her that is the street-smart girl from Queens and dares her to be her most stripped-down, raw self."
As for Betty and Henry, Ferrera says, "They definitely have obstacles. And that's definitely going to be confronted in these five episodes." (Horta refuses to reveal if both actors will return next season.)