Where Are They Now?

Former Collin Student Is Celebrity In Hit TV Series Ugly Betty

Michael Urie

Michael Urie

“See the stars of tomorrow…today” is more than a slogan for the Collin theatre department; it is a fact. The statement was proven yet again when former Collin student Michael Urie shared his acting talent with more than 16 million television viewers in the premiere episode of ABC’s new comedy “Ugly Betty.”

“I called my dad and told him Vanessa Williams is playing my boss. [My dad said,] ‘Vanessa Williams? Why, she’s one of the most beautiful women in the world?!’ Yeah Dad, and I am injecting her face with Botox,” Urie said with a laugh in an ABC pod cast interview for “Ugly Betty”.

Urie was starring in “Phenomenon,” an off-off-Broadway production, when a casting agent spotted him and directed him to audition as a guest star for “Ugly Betty.” His performance and ideas for the character landed him a role as a series regular.

“Ugly Betty” has been featured in Entertainment Weekly, TV Guide and New York Magazine as well as in newspapers across the country. Urie plays the flamboyantly dressed Marc St. James, Vanessa Williams’ assistant, and describes the comedy as “Touched by an Angel” meets “Just Shoot Me”.

According to Urie, renowned actor and “Ugly Betty” producer Salma Hayek is very involved in the show.

“She is well respected, an Oscar nominee and a beacon for the Latino community. Salma is great to work with. She walks onto the set, and she changes the energy of the room. You are in the room with a star. The show’s leading actor America Ferrera is also superb and at the top of her game,” Urie said.

Urie began his acting career at Collin performing in “God’s Country,” “Sylvia,” “Locked Away” and “Titus Andronicus.” Brad Baker, U.S. Professor of the Year for 2000 and Collin theatre chair, advised Urie to apply to Juilliard. Urie was accepted to the legendary fine arts school and graduated with the 2002 John Houseman Prize for Excellence in Classical Theatre. He played a role in the film “Uptown Girls” and was nominated Best Actor for his work in the independent post-September 11 film “WTC View.” Urie also has performed in commercials and numerous plays including off- and off-off-Broadway performances.

“While I was taking classes at Collin, I decided I was really going to be an actor. I would have been much further behind if I had gone to Juilliard straight out of high school and not gone to Collin. I still go back to things I learned at Collin,” Urie said.

Now after weeks of shooting episodes, when Urie has a question, he just asks his friend, Vanessa Williams. His admiration for her talent has increased as he continues to work by her side.

“She commands respect and plays a character that demands respect. She is hilarious, and she could not be happier than where she is right now. In the show, I am the flying monkey to Vanessa Williams’ wicked witch. She sends me on her bidding. We keep secrets from each other, but I wouldn’t be anywhere without her. It is a very complex relationship. The big wrench in the whole works is Betty. She keeps doing good and making it hard for us to do evil. I constantly fall on my face and fail—that’s funny. You have to have humility when you fail every week,” Urie said.

According to Urie, his character in “Ugly Betty” is not the most difficult role he has ever played, but it is certainly the biggest. Prior to the comedy, he was playing three different roles in three different plays simultaneously. Urie clearly recalls the ups and downs of starring in plays and then waiting in line for the next audition, and while he has reached a big goal with “Ugly Betty,” he looks forward to the future.

“I don’t think actors have pinnacles of success. Actors continue to have new life experiences until the day they die,” Urie said.