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EXCLUSIVE: America Ferrera Finds Her (Comedic) Voice on 'Superstore'

by Philiana Ng 12:23 AM PDT, June 14, 2016
Photo: Getty Images

Nearly a decade ago, America Ferrera -- then playing the titular heroine on Ugly Betty -- became the first Latina to win a lead actress Emmy. Now, the 33-year-old has the chance to do it again, this time as the star of NBC's quirky workplace comedy, Superstore.

"Ugly Betty was such a huge experience for me in every way as my first time on TV. It was such an important character to me and such an important show," Ferrera told ET of her celebrated four-season run on the ABC dramedy. "I broke out in such a big way that I try not to compare anything else that happens in my career to that experience."

After Ugly Betty went off the air in 2010, it took the University of Southern California alumna a few years to get her bearings straight and most importantly, recharge. It was kismet when Superstore came along, though Ferrara wasn't initially looking to lead a half-hour sitcom.

"A straight-up comedy has never been in my wheelhouse," she explained. "Ugly Betty was a comedy, but it was also a dramedy. It allowed for dramatic moments and that was always the way I imagined myself as an actor."

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Even so, Superstore allowed her to expand her breadth of acting knowledge, even if it was uncomfortable at times. "It was a little outside my comfort zone," Ferrera admitted.

Created by The Office's Justin Spitzer, Superstore follows a motley crew of employees in a Target-like big box store as they go through the daily grind of working in retail, with loyal floor supervisor, Amy (Ferrera), as the glue that holds everything together.

"I was taken by this world and Justin's writing and the possibilities we had to explore these everyday working-class people in a very familiar setting," Ferrera said. "It was exciting to give life and dimension to characters that could very easily be written off as stereotypical, non-consequential people."

Perhaps one of the main reasons why the group gels onscreen is through the way in which they were brought together: color-blind casting.

MORE: America Ferrera Talks 'Powerless' Feeling as an Actor of Color in Hollywood

"[Justin] never landed on 'This is a black character, that's the Latino character, that's the Asian character,'"said Ferrera, who also serves as a producer on the show. "He was just open to finding the best actors and that included people of color."

"As a producer, I am absolutely supportive of that and constantly having those conversations about how do we defy expectations, how do we defy stereotypes, where are the opportunities to undercut what people expect from this character?" she added.

Ferrera is embracing the challenge of starring in Superstore, which was renewed for a second season, and working behind the scenes alongside Spitzer to help mold its future.

"I get to engage in a different way as a partner, and with the other producers, in conversations that I'm really glad to be part of," Ferrera said. "It matters to me to have a voice."

Additional reporting by Stacy Lambe.

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