-- “Ugly Betty” debuted on ABC in 2006 and the finale of the beloved dramedy aired six years ago. For the first time since, America Ferrara reunited with the entire cast Saturday at the ATX Television Festival in Austin, Texas.
"We're just a family and we love each other," Ferrara, 32, said of the emotion-filled reunion, adding it's "so special and I knew I was going to cry."
The TV series was unlike any other audiences were used to watching. A show revolving around a slightly less-attractive woman seeking to find inner-beauty, while pursuing a career at a fashion publication constantly surrounded by tall skinny models. With characters and story lines pushing boundaries of topics to which viewers could relate, this show was different from the start.
"I heard about it from Salma Hayek, our executive producer," Ferrara recalled. "She said it's about this girl who's full of heart and she gets a job at a fashion magazine and she's a fashion train wreck and she has braces and glasses."
Ferrara was instantly attracted to the less-attractive leading lady role. "Right away it felt like lightning through my body," she said. "Like this has to get made. I have to be this character."
Ana Ortiz, who played Ferrera's older sister in the show, said "everyone understood Betty."
Ferrera's on-screen father, Ignacio Suarez, played by actor Tony Plana, also recalled what a revolution this show was, saying, "We've never had a show like this before, with a Latino family at the center."
He added that "80 percent" of the shows audience was non-ethnic.
Since the finale, the series has been available to stream on Hulu and audiences are still captivated by Betty's scrappy and positive character.
Eric Mabius, who plays Ferrera's boss, Daniel Meade, said, "Not to slag other shows," but viewers "seem very entrenched in a type of selfishness that our show was the antidote to."
The on-screen comedic chemistry between fashion guru boss Wilhelmina Slater and her incessant assistant, Marc, played by Vanessa Williams and Michael Urie, respectively, was something the actors truly embodied off-screen even prior to the shows conception.
Urie joked about the first day entering the makeup trailer when Williams said to him, "You're Marc? This will be fun.”
Actress Ashley Jensen said it was that inherent sense of fun that was "so special about this cast."
One episode called for Williams' high-fashion exec character to play softball with model Naomi Campbell. "I had to learn how to pitch and make sure I didn't hit her for rea," the actress said, laughing.
The shows groundbreaking commitment to diversity brought out moments of true feeling. Urie's character explored facets of life as a gay male. "When my character came out to his mother, the easy path would be for her to accept him," he said. "And she never came back, which is very true to a lot of people's story."
Mark Indelicato played the fashion-obsessed nephew of the series protagonist. He said that his character helped him "in ways that I could never imagine."
Indelicato also mentioned that being gay and proudly out the way he is now "would never be if it wasn't for that character and for these people, 100 percent."
"Mark, I remember having a really interesting conversation with your mom about that," Rebecca Romijn said to Indelicato, adding that his mom said "you were going to be able to help kids doing this role."
Ortiz excitedly jumped in, saying, "We knew you're gay and that's OK!"
Judith Light, who played Claire Meade, executive of the fictional fashion mag, said Ferrera's character, Betty, represented "the kind of humanity we all long for."
Light explained that the show could come back and "people would love it and understand it."
The show reached and influenced people all over the globe, including Pakistani activist for female education Malala Yousafzai, who mentions watching “Ugly Betty” in her biography.
"What else is there to be proud of, that kind of impact on people all across the world?" Ferrera asked.