AMERICA FERRERA IS TIRED. “We wake up and it’s like, what city are we in?” the Ugly Betty star says, distractingly spinning her iPhone next to a tall Starbucks drip on a W Hotel conference room table. The “we” includes her fiance, Ryan Piers Williams, and the actor Ryan O’Nan. They’re in town on a soggy May morning to promote The Dry Land, coming to theaters August 13. Williams wrote and directed, and all three are talking it up in a cross-country, soul-sucking, new-city-a-day tour. “We were all in Washington, DC, on Monday, New York on Tuesday,” Williams says, as Ferrera chimes in, “Boise on Thursday, Seattle on Friday.”
Life hasn’t been quite as relaxing as the 26-year-old actress expected it to be after wrapping the final season of the TV show that made her a household name. “I just thought, like, oh, sleep in, read all those books that I’ve bought that I’ve never read, catch up on a bunch of movies and wander the streets of New York going to theaters,” she says. “I mean, I’m glad I’ve had free time to tour with this film…a film like this that we all sort of begged, borrowed, and stole to make, so we have to do the same thing in releasing it. I haven’t really caught up on any of those books.”
Not that Ferrera has ever been the type to laze about the house. Before she was old enough to rent a car, she’d already won an Emmy, a Golden Globe, and a SAG award for her portrayal of sartorially challenged magazine assistant Betty Suarez; Time magazine called her one of the 100 most influential people in 2007, about the same time she was finishing a degree in international relations at the University of Southern California, where she met then–film student Williams.
She signed on as executive producer before even seeing the script of The Dry Land, a drama about an Iraq War vet (played by O’Nan) with posttraumatic stress disorder. He struggles to reenter civilian life in small-town Texas and to salvage his marriage with Sarah (Ferrera).
The trio hopes to tour military bases with the film, possibly even Fort Lewis, for the August release. But today’s only obligations are some early morning interviews and attending the 6:30pm SIFF screening at Harvard Exit…otherwise, freedom.
“Where should we go to eat?” Ferrera asks. They tried Il Fornaio last night, and thought it was good. “I think I want to see Kurt [the Cobain exhibit at Seattle Art Museum],” says Williams, “and the Pike…Market?” “Where’s good sushi?” Ferrera says, perking up. “Or any places to shop?”