Silvio Horta, best known for adapting the Colombian hit Yo soy Betty la fea into an ABC comedy, was found dead in a Miami hotel room on Tuesday. He died of a self-inflicted gun shot wound, Variety reported. He was 45 years old.
The Miami-born Cuban American kicked off a promising career in Hollywood with his screenplay for the now cult-hit slasher Urban Legend. The film starred Jared Leto, Tara Reid and Joshua Jackson and followed a number of college friends who begin investigating mysterious deaths that seem to be tied to well-known urban legends. He followed that up with two niche sci-fi adjacent shows, the Christopher Gorham-starring Jake 2.0 and the tabloid-set The Chronicle, which only each lasted for one season.
It was his work on Ugly Betty, though, that earned Horta the greatest reviews of his career. Based on the Fernando Gaitán-created telenovela, the hourlong show starred America Ferrera as Betty Suárez, an ambitious secretary from Queens. Horta not only wrote the pilot but was an executive producer of the show alongside Salma Hayek, whose production company developed the property. Setting the story in the high-powered fashion industry of New York and putting a so-called frumpy and nerdy Latina front and center allowed Ugly Betty to not just entertain but become a groundbreaking cultural touchstone. Betty, a successful second-generation Latina, endured not just prejudice from her own co-workers but ended up becoming a role model for many on and off-screen.
The Suárez family – which also included Betty’s undocumented father Ignacio (played by Tony Plana), her sister Hilda (Ana Ortiz) and her nephew Justin (Mark Indelicato) – gave voice to millions of Latino families who shared similar struggles. Indeed, the portrayal of Ignacio’s naturalization process as well as Justin’s touching coming out storyline turned Ugly Betty into one of the most keenly observed Latino shows to ever grace U.S. television screens. Over the course of its four seasons, the ABC hit was nominated for 20 Emmy awards (winning three) and four Golden Globe Awards, winning Best Comedy Series for its debut season. Since wrapping up Ugly Betty in 2010, the openly gay writer-producer was only involved in a limited number of greenlit projects, including the 2015 TV movie The Curse of the Fuentes Women, which starred Sônia Braga, though some 2018 reports suggested he was working with Mary J. Blige on a show titled Move based on famed choreographer Laurieann Gibson, who’d choreographed for the likes of Alicia Keys, Lady Gaga and Beyoncé.
Ferrera, who won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Betty, took to social media to share her shock at hearing of Horta’s passing. “I’m stunned and heartbroken to hear the devastating news of Ugly Betty creator, Silvio Horta’s death,” she wrote on Instagram. “His talent and creativity brought me and so many others such joy & light. I’m thinking of his family and loved ones who must be in so much pain right now and of the whole Ugly Betty family who feel this loss so deeply.”