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America Ferrera Talks Life on the LES and Her Film at Tribeca

By Serena Solomon | April 24, 2014 6:39am
 Actress America Ferrera and her husband and director Ryan Piers Williams talk about their life on the Lower East Side.
America Ferrera and Ryan Piers Williams
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LOWER EAST SIDE — Actress America Ferrera, whose new film "X/Y" premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, is a native of Los Angeles, but she chooses to live in New York.

She moved to the Lower East Side in 2008 with husband Ryan Piers Williams, 32, the director and writer behind "X/Y," for her breakout role as Betty Suarez on New York-based TV series "Ugly Betty" and just never left.

"He [Williams] grew up in Texas. I grew up in Los Angeles, but New York is where we really found ourselves," said Ferrera, 30, who admits that career-wise L.A. would be a better option for the two.

The journey of personal discovery is also a theme in "X/Y," which chronicles the lives of those in generations X and Y (generally considered to be those born between 1966 and 1994), and their fight for connection in a culture swamped with superficial relationships thanks to social media and smartphones.

Ferrera plays one of four friends who each have a chance to tell the story from their own perspective.

Ferrera and Williams chatted with DNAinfo New York about the new film and their life on the Lower East Side.

When you get a moment of downtime in New York, what is the first thing you do?

Ferrera: We are walkers, especially on a beautiful day like this. I think that is the one thing I have always loved about New York: When it's a beautiful day everyone is out and it is such a wonderful communal feeling of "We are all so grateful for this beautiful weather."

Williams: We love to go to restaurants in our area. There is a great one called Rosette [the new restaurant at 171 East Broadway, which also appears in "X/Y"]. We pop into art galleries on Orchard Street all the time and there is a great place called Dimes [a café at 143 Division], which is amazing. I ride my bike all the time. We SoulCycle and I do Bikram Yoga. We really like to chill in our area.

Why do you live in New York over other cities?

Ferrera: For me it is the live theater. The first time I saw a live show I thought "That's it. I have to live somewhere where I can watch a live show every night."

I love Public Theater [425 Lafayette St. in NoHo] and all the downtown theaters like the Classic Stage Company [136 E. 13th St. in the East Village] or the Labyrinth Theater Company [155 Band St. in the West Village]. I also make my way to Midtown many times each week for a good show. It's an expensive habit.

What has kept you on the Lower East Side for six years?

Williams: It's so eclectic and it is so diverse and it still feels like one of the true neighborhoods. I love Chinatown. It is a fascinating area.

Ferrera: And it's always changing. There are parts of the city where you feel like 'Well, this part of the town knows what it is and it's not going to change,' but down [on the Lower East Side] I go away for a couple of weeks and come back and there is a new place open or sadly there is a place shut.

X/Y has an intense mix of love, dating, friendship and career pressure. Is this a New York story or is it universal?

Williams: I see it as a universal story, but New York allowed me to tell the story in the exact way that I wanted to.

They [the characters] experience intense periods of isolation, yet they live in this world where they are hyper-connected. And New York is the epitome of that. We are so connected with each other on the street, on social media. We are so close to each other in proximity yet your experience of New York can be so isolating and lonely. I thought that in making this movie about this generation and the paradox we face, New York would be the ideal place to tell that.