A Familiar Face on National Primetime Network TV Hails from My Little Hometown!

July 3, 2008
By Gabriel Shore, Guilford, CT

You probably haven’t heard of Becki Newton. She was born on Independence Day in 1978 in New Haven and entered Guilford High School in 1992 (as seen on classmates.com). But now Becki Newton has grown up to play the character of Amanda on ABC’s most popular new hit, “Ugly Betty.”

“Ugly Betty,” a Golden Globe-winning dramedy that can be seen Thursdays at 8, is just one of many adaptations of the hugely successful Colombian telenovela “Yo soy Betty, la Fea”, commonly known as “Betty la fea” (which translates to “Betty the Ugly”).

“Ugly Betty” features a star-studded cast and crew. Oscar-nominated actress Salma Hayek is one of the show’s executive producers, and the show also features America Ferrera (who won a Golden Globe for her endearing portrayal of the title character), a scheming Vanessa Williams (the first African-American Miss America), and very tall Rebecca Romijn.

This critically-acclaimed show centers on Betty Suarez, a good-hearted and smart, but fashion-challenged, 22-year old college grad. This Mexican comes from a close and heartfelt working class family whom she lives with in Queens, NYC. But Betty’s world is turned upside-down when she lands a job at a well-known (for good and not so good reasons) fashion magazine in Manhattan, MODE. In this cutthroat environment, people only seem to care about appearances; they come first and everything else is second.

Betty is a fish out-of-water to say the least. The results of this premise make for great TV; Wikipedia says the series “combines elements of mystery, farce, camp, soap opera, and satire.” As with the drama of “Grey’s Anatomy” and surgery, “Ugly Betty’s” depiction of a completely aesthetic world gives you the ups and many downs of working in the style business.

Now, Becki Newton’s character is a hip, thin, and superficial “MODE girl,” (as the ones who starve themselves to look good are called). She’s the type that cuts off her circulation to wear the right outfit and maintains an obsession over her figure. Amanda, with her sidekick and best friend at MODE, (the equally funny Michael Urie as Marc, assistant to Vanessa Williams’ fan favorite Wilhemina), constantly taunts and mocks Betty about her appearance and background.

Ms. Newton’s hilarious portrayal of a delightfully snide receptionist gives this dramedy a big share of comedy. Becki’s character even has two character fan club groups on FaceBook. The developed characters and the clever, zinging dialogue really set “Ugly Betty” apart.

Ms. Newton must be a good actress, as Amanda seems to be very different from Becki as a person. According to her official ABC.com profile, Becki Newton is a University of Pennsylvania graduate with a degree in European History, who has studied abroad in South America and Europe. However, on “Betty,” she plays a promiscuous, conceited, and snotty secretary with a spoiled background.

This real-life Ivy League grad greets Betty’s dad by proclaiming “HOH-la” when visiting the Suarez’s home in Queens in an early episode. When Betty’s dad tells her that the word is pronounced “OH-la,” Amanda [very much in character] says, “No, there’s an ‘h’ in it.” Here, in one of the program’s most memorable scenes, Amanda goes on a non-stop eating binge, which she seems prone to do when her insecurities come out.

This proves that people good at their job, in this case in the performing arts, can naturally make you think that they act just like their character does. Good, versatile actors can play a character persuasively and realistically, and that’s exactly what Becki Newton accomplishes in “Ugly Betty.”

Further exhibiting exceptional comedic talent, this member of the GHS Class of 1996 plays two roles in one episode. In addition to Amanda, Ms. Newton also briefly becomes a frumpy, nerdy secretary for another magazine who speaks with an enormous lisp. You may have also seen Becki in recent Olive Garden commercials, something that was parodied using Amanda’s background in a recent “Betty” episode.

For much of the first season, Amanda floats in and out of the story line in minor ways with her enjoyably ditzy, comedic, and occasionally sentimental scenes. However, there was a recent shocker at the end of the first season that will surely be giving her more screen time.

Though this may be considered Becki Newton’s big break, she has appeared in several popular TV shows such as “Cold Case” and “Law and Order: SVU,” and will be seen in the upcoming feature film, “August Rush” (abc.com).

If you listen to the official abc.com podcast for “Ugly Betty” online, you can hear Becki, out-of-character, talk about the show and life with her co-star Michael Urie. High school did actually come up on the podcast once. Ms. Newton didn’t mention Guilford High directly, but said that her high school did not have a color guard.

So, I guess it just goes to show you that one can come from a normal, humble background in a small town like Guilford, work hard, and make it big to be seen by millions around the country every week. It’s proof of success and inspiration for any aspiring actor or actress.

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