Whenever a fan favorite series comes to an end, the subsequent chatter invariably turns to a silver screen adaptation. Such is the case for the dearly departed ‘Ugly Betty,’ which wrapped its fourth season in April. Betty herself, America Ferrera, has expressed her desire to make the leap to film, and her co-star Eric Mabius agrees. “I don’t think there is a cast member who wouldn’t jump at that chance,” he says. Although Mabius cautions he knows “nothing” about when a script might turn up.
Up next for Mabius is a lead role in BBC America’s high concept sci-fi mind bender, ‘Outcasts,’ which is currently shooting in South Africa. Mabius plays Julius Berger, the lone American transporter sent to colonize a new planet after Earth is destroyed.
Jet lagged off a 36-hour flight from Cape Town, a gracious Mabius took some time during a brief trip to Los Angeles to talk about his new gig, whether Julius is good or evil, and what will become of ‘Betty.’
Would you want to see an ‘Ugly Betty’ movie happen?
Absolutely. Yeah. I would love that. I mean, it’s the closest I’ve ever been to a cast and now – we really miss one another, and it would be great to come back together for.
Are you happy with the way the show wrapped?
Yeah, it was just too soon. I think that everyone was really upset with certain powers that be for ending us prematurely.
Would that be a specific recently-departed power [former ABC boss Steve McPherson]?
No, it’s business and the show is expensive to make. Listen, none of us has made any secret of the fact that we didn’t necessarily feel recognized for the efforts. I don’t think there’s a person involved who would say they felt satisfied to that extent. But we kept doing really fantastic work, in spite of that, because we knew we had the opportunity of all being brought together to do good work.
You had such an impassioned following.
The following in South Africa is bigger than any other country I’ve experienced.
That has to be a little odd walking the streets.
Definitely. I mean my wife was looking forward to getting out of that sort of thing, but there’s isn’t a place we can go — and there’s no filter or censoring oneself there because people are just not used to seeing someone that they have in their living rooms. So I’ve got both boys [his sons] on each lap and about to shovel a mouthful of food and someone will go stick a camera or a piece of paper and a pen in – literally, your face. It’s crazy. It just means that they love the show.
How’d you get involved in this project?
I was finishing up ‘Ugly Betty’ in London, and was sent the script, and I really enjoyed it. What made me really want to read it was that I found out that Bharat Nalluri was going to direct the first block. He’s a director I’ve worked with before and I just can’t say enough nice things about him. He’s brilliant and probably the smartest but most ego-free director I’ve ever worked with. He can do no wrong as far as I’m concerned. This getting out of the Hollywood paradigm really intrigued me after we had such a long run with the show [‘Ugly Betty’]. You know, it’s a little bit sad after the break-up and I didn’t want to do something that was typical or in this sort of environment that I’m used to working in. And being the only American, [it was] kind of a nice and definite shift for me.
From the clips I’ve seen, there is such an other-worldliness element to where you guys are shooting in South Africa.
Yeah. And a lot of the exterior locations are 10 minutes from where I live.
That is a dream commute.
Yes. I don’t complain. It’s great too, especially because with the ensemble [cast] I don’t have quite the schedule that I did on ‘Ugly Betty’ and I feel like I can appreciate it, and enjoy it with the family – do some touristy things for a change.
Were you there for the World Cup?
I was. It was great. We all loaded up buses and had a big cast field trip to the England vs. Algeria game, and I’ve been trying to hit up as much rugby as I can while I’m there.
It’s interesting to see the tables turned with you, the American, as a villain and not the Brits, which is usually the case.
Well, the Brits are like, “It’s back in time, mate. We’re always the bad guy in the old programs.’ It’s fun. We don’t make it relevant or we don’t bring it up, which is nice. I just think that what we see in the show is not necessarily a cross-section of the citizens that are there, it just sort of happens a lot of them are British. I mean, the show is produced by a British company [laughs] and it’s just kind of a necessity, but we’re definitely looking forward to introducing some characters from other nationalities.
‘Outcasts’ premieres on BBC America in late 2010. Do you want to see an ‘Ugly Betty’ movie?