America Ferrera sat down with the creative team behind HBO’s Girls on Tuesday night for a lively discussion during the Tribeca Film Festival. Lena Dunham, creator and star of the series, and showrunner Jenni Konner gushed about their bestie Ferrera. The pair revealed their wish for the Superstore star and activist to run for president. “America for America is such an easy slogan. There’s just no reason for us not to start now,” Dunham joked.
Ferrera showcased her presidential orator skills while deftly and poignantly zeroing in on the obstacles women face while working in the entertainment industry. She found the abundant comments on her physical appearance the most troubling. “Having played Ugly Betty on television, I got so much of, “You’re not ugly! You’re so pretty!” People wanting me to know that I wasn’t ugly and I still get [people saying] that,” Ferrera revealed. “I was 21 when I started that [Ugly Betty] and when you are in it, you don’t know what to make of it other than to say “Thank you?” But in retrospect, I find it so messed up that through all of the work that I did, the thing that people thought was the bravest thing a woman could do on television was be ugly. I thought that was so indicative of something that was wrong in our culture and the way we were having a conversation about women.”
As the moderator, Ferrera steered the talk to other topics covering the show’s legacy and story arc but made sure to punctuate the conversation on body image with a bold call to arms. “It’s not about starting and ending with how we feel about our bodies. To me, I feel like it’s more and more about: how do we get over the distraction of what our bodies are supposed to look like so we can go on to direct and write and produce and create?” she said.
Ferrera also emphasized the importance of mentoring and supporting other women in the industry. She thanked Dunham for encouraging her to move beyond acting. “You were the first person to say, ‘We’re doing this shorts series, you should direct an episode,’ and I hadn’t thought of myself as a director. And having another colleague, peer, female, say to me, ‘You can do this’ made all of the difference to me.”
As a result of Dunham’s encouragement, Ferrera went on to direct an episode of Superstore‘s current season. “And that is the importance of having people in your life and your network who see you and see your potential and are challenging you to move forward,” Ferrera added.
Watch the entire conversation on Tribeca’s Facebook page.