Cast diversity drew her back to TV

Actress America Ferrera, with Colton Dunn (far left) and Ben Feldman, in sitcom Superstore, where she plays an employee.
Actress America Ferrera, with Colton Dunn (left) and Ben Feldman, in sitcom Superstore, where she plays an employee.PHOTO: SONY CHANNEL

After the success of Ugly Betty, America Ferrera rejected many roles before taking on the part of Amy in the sitcom Superstore

The diversity of the cast of sitcom Superstore was one of the main reasons actress America Ferrera decided to return to television.

"In general, when you read a script, the writer will mention a specific ethnicity to the cast. Or, if it's not specified, then chances are they will be about white characters, played by white actors," she tells The Straits Times in a telephone interview from the show's set in Los Angeles. "That wasn't the case with Superstore. The characters' ethnicities weren't specified and the casting just organically took on this diversity. That was really interesting to me. I'm excited that the show represents not just working-class America, but also what the world looks like."

Superstore is centred on the lives of a group of employees working at the fictional mega supermarket Cloud 9 in Missouri. Besides Ferrera, who is of Honduran heritage, the series also stars African-American comic Colton Dunn, Filipino actor Nico Santos and Japanese-Irish actress Nichole Bloom.

In the show, Ferrera plays Amy, a long-time employee of the store who has a habit of wearing different name tags as she does not want strangers to know her name.

This is her first major regular TV role after the success of the comedy Ugly Betty (2006 - 2010), in which she played the titular role of a plain-looking, but smart and kind employee of a top fashion magazine.

The part earned her an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series in 2007.

Ferrera, 32, says: "I can't give you a number on how many scripts I rejected after Ugly Betty because I don't really keep track of these things, but I definitely took my time.

"I wanted to find something that felt exciting and challenging and I didn't know if it would be a drama or a comedy. But Superstore felt right and so here I am."

So far, filming the show has been a blast, she says.

"It's just one of those lucky things where you don't know if a bunch of people can work together, but who all manage to gel well in the end."

"At the first table-read we did, it was apparent that everyone was wonderful in their individual characters, but that we also had great chemistry. And that got better as the show went on."

She has been enjoying her time on the show also because she has more say in terms of the issues discussed in the series - she is credited as producer as well.

"I am in constant conversation with the show creator and show- runner. We're always talking about the direction of the characters and where the show is going. The writers are collaborative, so it has just been a great experience to be a part of this," says the actress, who is married to actor-director Ryan Piers Williams, 35.

Beyond Superstore, online rumours are rife that another sequel is in the making of the popular The Sisterhood Of The Travelling Pants film series (2005; 2008), in which she had starred alongside actresses Blake Lively, Alexis Bledel and Amber Tamblyn.

But she lays the piece of gossip to rest.

"There have been rumours about it coming back for a very long time. I know there have been conversations, but no hard facts to report yet.

"We're all still very close though. We're friends and we try to see each other as often as we can. We are genuinely a sisterhood in real life."

•Superstore Season 2 airs on Sony Channel (StarHub TV Channel 510, Singtel TV Channel 316) on Wednesdays at 8.30pm.

•Follow Yip Wai Yee on Twitter @STyipwaiyee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 06, 2017, with the headline 'Cast diversity drew her back to TV'. Print Edition | Subscribe