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America Ferrera talks about playing an illegal immigrant on 'The Good Wife'

March 30, 2011 |  6:42 am

 
America-Ferrera In its second season, "The Good Wife" has increasingly attracted A-list guest stars like Rita Wilson, Miranda Cosgrove and Michael J. Fox. No one in Hollywood, it seems, can quite resist the show's potent mix of fast-paced drama and political commentary. The latest name to join the ever-growing roster is former "Ugly Betty" star America Ferrera, who returned to the show on Tuesday night in the second of three scheduled appearances.

She plays Natalie Flores, the undocumented former nanny of Wendy Scott Carr, Peter Florrick's opponent in the race for state's attorney. Eli Gold, Peter's ruthless campaign manager, may have helped bring her immigration status to light, but that doesn't mean he has no heart -- he does, along with a sizable crush on Natalie, an aspiring day trader. Ferrera's final appearance is scheduled for April 12, leading fans to wonder: Could there be romance ahead for this odd couple? I recently chatted with Ferrera to find out.

Were you a fan of the show before you landed the part?

I don’t keep up with a lot of television. I do a lot of my TV watching on DVD box sets afterwards. But I’d heard so many wonderful things about the show and then I was approached by Robert and Michelle King with this character, Natalie Flores, that they wanted to discuss and maybe tackle some issues that had to do with a lot of the conversations around immigrants in this country. Then I sat down and watched a couple of the episodes and realized very early on that it was a show with a lot of wonderful writing and wonderful acting. I thought that it could be really interesting to explore this kind of character with the Kings.

It seems that Natalie is, by design, a character who defies the stereotype of the undocumented immigrant -- she's very assimilated and working as a day trader.

Yeah, absolutely. I mean I think there are a lot of realities to the lives that immigrants live in this country. A lot of times we’re exposed to one stereotype over and over again and while they can be very true there are also a lot of people living in this country as immigrants building extraordinary lives. I thought it was interesting to focus on a character who had the kind of will to build an extraordinary life like Natalie, to get an education, to be a day trader, to build a life that at any moment could be taken away from her and, you know, I’ve certainly known people who’ve been in that situation.


In Wednesday night's episode, Alicia says that the defeat of the DREAM Act has made it harder for politicians to support undocumented workers like Natalie. You have been very outspoken in your support of the DREAM Act; can you talk about it a little?

I think that the main issue that Natalie’s character highlights is that a lot of the people that the DREAM Act would benefit are talented, intelligent, gifted people who have so much to offer, who are not being given the opportunity to give those talents to our country and to our economy because they’re being denied an education. While we hope that we live in a country where education should be a birthright, unfortunately that’s not the case. We’re denying education to a lot of people and we’re taking away their options for being productive citizens and, in a self-fulfilling prophecy, turning them into what we accuse them of being — not educated, not productive and not giving back.

So before Eli revealed Natalie’s illegal status, it seemed like there might be some attraction between these two. Is that fair to say?

Yeah, I think there was a certain energy and chemistry that the Kings wanted to play with between Natalie and Eli. That’s certainly something that continues throughout the arc — that these two people who come from such different worlds and different backgrounds could kind of share a romantic chemistry.

What do you think Eli sees in Natalie?

I think she’s smart and that she’s uncharacteristically open and trusting. I also think a big part of it is expectations. He thinks he’s going to find a woman who is a nanny and an illegal citizen and he has preconceived notions of who she’s going to be. He could never imagine that a person who was all of those things could also be all of these things — intelligent and interesting and all of these things.

By the end of this week’s episode, she seems to have forgiven Eli. Do you think that he earned it?

The second episode quickly becomes less about Natalie’s struggle and more about her father’s.  Eli saved her family, saved her father’s well-being and his ability to stay in the country, and for their family to stay together. He sort of wiped the slate clean and whatever hardship his actions created in her life he’s a good person, and it seems as if he understands better the ramifications of his political agenda.

There’s one more episode with Natalie coming up on April 12.  Does this mean there’s romance in store?

I’m not sure what I’m allowed to say, so I’ll not say.  But you know, anything is possible.

-- Meredith Blake
Twitter.com/MeredithBlake

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Photo: America Ferrera as Natalie Flores. Credit: David M. Russell / CBS

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