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Interview: Becki Newton of "Ugly Betty"

Interview: Becki Newton of "Ugly Betty"

Many people know Becki Newton as the catty, petty, insecure receptionist at Mode Magazine, the spiteful Amanda to America Ferrera's Betty on "Ugly Betty." But I know Becki as someone altogether different. She's warm, friendly, thoughtful and very funny. She's not really like Amanda at all, but she's insightful enough to know what goes into portraying an Amanda kind of girl. Recently I got to sit down with Becki and pick her brain about the show, her coworkers and who she looks to for inspiration.

How did you end up on "Ugly Betty"?
I auditioned for it last pilot season. I had read the script… I’d love to say that I found this part out, but it was just pilot season. I came across this script and I read it and I laughed out loud throughout the entire thing. And I did say to my husband, “I have to play Amanda.” I went in for the audition and imitated every girl that was ever mean to me. Imitated. The way girls look at you and make you feel really bad? I was like, I knew exactly what that look was. So I just went in and went for it. It was more fun than I’ve ever had in an audition.

I wondered if you ever gathered inspiration from certain people.
You know, I did… because the show is supposed to take place in New York, I thought of a lot of actresses in waiting rooms. So in situations where girls try to play the intimidation game? And it’s the way that girls carry themselves, the way they look at other girls… it’s a lot of looks. But a lot of it, too, it is the way they dress. There’s a lot of effort involved ‘cause I’m trying to look like there is no effort. But Amanda definitely practices her walk, in the mirror, nightly, trying to perfect it. And you know, once I got this part, I was trying to think of who I look to for inspiration, remember Carson Kressley from “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”? [He was] honest, but people loved him for it. He’d say really offensive things like, “Wow that’s ugly and you look horrible,” but the way he said it was weirdly honest and endearing and I thought, that’s an example of someone who’s brutally honest but you’re still laughing while he does it, strangely enough.

More of the interview if you

Do you like playing somebody so bitchy?
Yes. Yes. I think that the bitchy…ness allows me to play around a lot, and I think Amanda’s a big hot mess. So the fact that there’s a little pathetic underneath all the bitchiness? I can get away with a lot and people still feel sorry for Amanda. They want to hate her, but they’re like, “That poor girl. She can’t help but go stuff her face to like, eat her pain away.” You know what I mean? The writers do such a good job of keeping it layered so you end up going, well, Amanda sucks, but she can’t win, so I can’t really hate her. At the end of the day, as much as Amanda tries to thwart Betty and tries to get in everyone’s business, she’s still sitting at the reception desk answering phones and reading a fashion magazine.

So, I know that you’re not really like Amanda, but are any of the other actors like their characters at all?
I think that we all overlap. At the beginning I said that I was nothing like Amanda. But as time goes on the characters become more developed we all do overlap a little bit. I can say Vanessa Williams is one of the warmest, loveliest people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.

She’s a mom, she has four kids, she’s this regular mom, who happens to be Vanessa Williams. She’s really like, a warm, normal chick. People are shocked to hear that because she’s so successful, and is so beautiful and is known for so many accomplishments.

And she’s so convincing as this cold, spiteful…
Oh, she is! She’s just a great actress. It is an amazing experience to just watch how she operates, and I completely understand why she’s gotten where she has. She has an amazing work ethic combined with this incredible talent. I don’t believe that there is anything she cannot do.

Has there ever been a scene or an episode that you have found to be the most fun?
The most fun was, last season it was an episode called “Fey’s Sleigh Ride” when Marc, Amanda and Betty team up to blame “Fat Carol” for all their problems. Fat Carol the Size 2. It was the most fun I’ve ever had. The fact that the three of us had to team up, and Marc and Amanda had to include Betty in their plans. It was early on, and it was the first time we worked together, the three of us, and I loved it. It was, start to finish, the best experience.

Victor Garber. Is he coming on the show?
Yes, he is. He did this episode we’re filming now. I didn’t get to work with him, but I ran into him in the parking lot. I walked by him and he says, “Hi! I’m Victor.” I was like, “I know!” I love him. He's incredible. He’s done everything, so it was kind of amazing to see him in person.

Do you have any scenes with him?
No, because he’s a part of a different story. But I may overlap with Posh. Maybe. I don’t know.

I would imagine that would be a great pairing – Posh and Amanda?
I don’t even know what would happen. Amanda’s head might explode. She wouldn’t even know what to do with Posh. Posh is more Amanda than Amanda is, probably.

On a similar note, who would win in a catfight between Amanda and Wilhelmina?
Wilhelmina. Amanda would start crying and run away. Amanda pretends that she has it all together, until someone more threatening walks into the room. She would run away and cry. Immediately.

That season finale was great, but dark! Can you tell us anything about what’s coming up for Amanda?
We start Season Two and her world’s been rocked by the fact that her mother’s Fey Sommers. Amanda is a total mess at the beginning of Season Two. She may or may not get a pet. I can’t say much more about that! But we’ll see more of the situation with food, how she tends to binge in times of stress. Marc also gets a love interest, which is very interesting. Amanda, I’m sure, will have lots of feelings about that. I think she thinks they’re married somehow.

Do you prefer comedy over drama?
I do, personally, because I find that I tend to not have a lot of dignity. I kind of don’t mind falling flat on my face, I don’t get embarrassed easily — I think that lends itself to comedy. I make myself laugh all day long and I think when an actor’s having fun, people will have fun watching that person.

If you could do anything at all in the world after this, what would you want to do?
I truly don’t think about that much because I am so fulfilled right now. I thought I was gonna have to wait until I was older, maybe gain a couple hundred pounds and lose all my teeth to play character parts, so the fact that I’m in my twenties, playing a character part that’s so funny, I get to wear cute little outfits, it really is everything all wrapped into one that I ever wanted.

If you could work with any actor or actress who would you work with?
I’d love to work with Debra Messing. I think she’s hysterical and great. My husband worked with her on “The Starter Wife,” and he told me all about her and I got to meet her a few times and I just think she’s great and so funny.

What is it like working with America Ferrera?
This girl, she’s incredible. She is so committed, I mean, she wants Betty to be a real person. And I think that on any show — not that I have a lot of experience — but on any show it comes from the top down. She is Betty. And she wants to keep it so real, and not cartoony. I definitely look up to her because of that. When we’re working together, a lot of the time we have to stop because we both start laughing. My sides hurt the next day because I can’t stop laughing. I get in trouble every once in a while because I can’t keep a straight face. It’s not cute, it’s Friday, it’s 2 AM, everyone wants to go home, I’m like, “ha ha! Just one second!” I can’t keep it together.

Photos courtesy of ABC

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