Potential “gasp!” moment incoming: Betty Suarez would initially “have problems” with the Barbie movie, says America Ferrera.
The actress memorably played the title character on Ugly Betty between 2006 and 2010, an assistant at the fictitious MODE Magazine who – for those who somehow don’t know – refused to conform to the brand’s stereotypical beauty standards.
Ferrera, who plays Mattel employee Gloria in the live-action Barbie, tells GAY TIMES that her signature character wouldn’t have the most enthusiastic reaction to the Greta Gerwig-directed film (to begin with, anyway).
“I think Betty would have problems,” Ferrera says. “I think she would feel like, ‘I don’t know [Justin], I feel complicated about Barbie. I feel like she has a very complicated legacy and she hasn’t always made women feel great about themselves, and I don’t think we should be supporting this.'”
Thanks to the direction of Gerwig, however, Betty’s opinion on Barbie and the brand would shift after watching the adaptation. Ferrera adds: “I think [Justin] would be like, ‘C’mon aunt Betty, we’re going! Wear this neon pink thing I’ve got for you.’
“They would go and then Betty would come out going, ‘Oh my god, that was so amazing! I love Greta Gerwig, that movie was incredible.'”
Ferrera admits that she didn’t play with the dolls growing up, because she never saw herself “reflected” in the “Barbie world”.
“It felt unattainable to me. The fact that we live in a time where young people coming up right now can see more of themselves reflected in incredibly dominant mainstream culture. That’s a big deal. It matters. It really matters,” she says.
“Greta could only do that because Barbie has done that. The brand has really diversified the dolls. They’re all Barbie and Barbie is all of them.”
Ferrera praises Gerwig for writing Gloria as a Latina woman. She recalls a conversation she and the director had about the character’s ethnicity: “I asked her, ‘Why did you do that? Did they make you do that?’ She was like, ‘It’s just the way it always was in my head. This is who this woman is.’
“I was so grateful for that for so many reasons. First of all, the fact that we can have Latina representation in such a big, summer movie is fantastic. But also, just to get to be part of the fun. We often see ourselves represented in very gritty and rough stories about our struggles and our deportations and our rough lives.
“To get to be included in the fun, in the brightness and the culture-making moments that are about joy is, to me, really special; on a macro level but also on a personal level.”
In the film, Ferrera’s character delivers a powerful monologue about the various issues faced by women in a male-dominated world. (She deserves an Academy Award, Golden Globe, Pulitzer and Nobel Prize for this scene, just FYI.)
Ryan Gosling (aka Ken) recently lauded Ferrera’s speech, saying: “It feels so true and what’s even more powerful about it is that it feels so authentic to you, because you have had so many moments in your career where you’ve said the truthful thing at the right time. Your TED talk is a great example.”
Ferrera describes the scene as “awesome” and says she “loved” the filming process.
“We shot it for two days. Greta and I had spent months talking about it. There was a lot of build up, I felt a bit of pressure to do it well and get it right. By the time I was doing it I was like, ‘Finally, I get to just say the thing,'” she reveals.
“But, it was on the page. Greta wrote this beautiful monologue and when I read it, it hit me as the truth. I don’t know any women in my life who it’s not true for, and so, I just wanted to do what she had written justice.
“It’s so incredible to hear that it’s resonating and connecting with audiences and that it feels as cathartic for them as it felt as an actor to get to do it.”
Narrated by Helen Mirren, Barbie stars Oscar nominee Margot Robbie as ‘Stereotypical Barbie’. Additional cast members include Kate McKinnon, Issa Rae, Hari Nef, Alexandra Shipp, Emma Mackey, Sharon Rooney, Dua Lipa, Nicola Coughlan, Ana Cruz Kayne, Rita Arya, Ariana Grenblatt and Rhea Perlman.
Deep breath for even more star power: Ann Roth, Annie Mumolo, Will Ferrell, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Simu Liu, Scott Evans, Ncuti Gatwa, John Cena, Michael Cera, Jamie Demetriou, Connor Swindells and Emerald Fennell.
Barbie is out 21 July.
Watch GAY TIMES’ interview with America Ferrera here or below.