Every week, the cast and crew of NBC’s megastore-comedy, Superstore, are taking EW readers behind the scenes of each episode. This week, guest star Tony Plana, who plays Amy’s father, clues us in on what really went down in the 16th episode of season 2, “Integrity Award.”
For starters, this episode is hilarious! I was so excited and proud to be part of it, playing Ron, Amy’s (America Ferrera’s) Dad. Finally watching it confirmed my expectations. The story lines are wacky fun; they also say so much about people. I mean, who doesn’t want to be recognized for what they do? Who among us doesn’t wish we had an inside connection to those powers that make our work harder or easier? And who isn’t curious about the parents of someone you’re interested in romantically?
Except that in the Superstore universe what’s normal often borders on the obsessive. Glenn takes self-promotion to a new level of absurdity. Dina plays Mateo’s relationship with Jeff for all it’s worth. And Jonah pulls off a ‘squeeze play’ (I’m a Sports Dad after all) that brings him home to Amy’s parents, torturing Amy with every second of “quality time” spent with Connie and Ron. And we all feel “I’m not that crazy” normal as a result. I will enjoy watching this one many times over.
Behind the scenes there was the surreal experience of once again being the father to America Ferrera in another but still zany reality — from Queens to Cloud 9. This month it’ll be seven years since our tearful goodbye in Ugly Betty’s final episode. Although we’ve stayed in touch and enjoyed our frequent cast reunions (check out last year’s Austin’s ATX Television Festival), I’ve missed our working together (I do continue to give her unsolicited advice).
Ugly Betty was a glorious four-year experience. We all became “Familia.” Those who have had the privilege of playing parents on long-running series know that we develop a deep and lasting bond with those who play our children. But unlike a real father, I often got to observe my “daughter” in the workplace. Let me tell you, she sets a tone. I recognized that tone when I walked onto the set of Superstore; it was playful, focused and collaborative, just like on Ugly Betty. I was proud of her then and I’m proud of her now! What can I say? Of course I’m biased — I’m Papi — and who’s going to tell me different?
So it felt perfectly natural to be on the job with her, to catch up during hair and makeup (family, triathlons, producing), rehearse our lines, and just enjoy each other’s company (between tweets and texts). She actually busted me for saying, “Hey, someone just TWITTERED me.”
But that familiarity became elusive once we started filming. Throughout each scene I had to stop myself from calling her “Betty” (I quickly switched to ‘Mija,’ Spanish for ‘dear daughter’). Every time I looked at her I kept thinking, “Something is missing. She’s not wearing her glasses! What happened to her braces? And what’s with her hair? It’s shorter and lighter…where am I?” I was on two sets at once, seven years apart. The flashback intensified when the first scene we shot was in her childhood bedroom with Jonah throwing me back to all those crazy boyfriend confrontations during Betty. No wonder I felt an extra satisfaction putting some Daddy Fear in him.
Then something started to happen every time. The Amy and Jonah that America and (impressively gracious, generous, talented) Ben had created were so strong and complete and funny that they started pulling me back to present day. Betty wasn’t there anymore and neither was the America of seven years ago. It was a stronger, wiser, and, yes, an even more beautiful woman who still made me laugh — but in a different way. Yes, I know. My daughter had grown up…