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Silvio Horta, the creator and executive producer of the ABC series Ugly Betty, has died in Miami, his agent confirmed Tuesday. He was 45.
Horta died by suicide, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed. According to the Miami-Dade County medical examiner, Horta died from a gunshot wound to the head.
“Through his friendships, his love and his work in TV and films, Silvio touched the lives of millions,” his mother, Anna, and sister, Hilda, said in a statement. “Silvio had an ongoing struggle with addiction and depression, but through it all, he always found a way to turn his struggle into laughter. He was a kind and beautiful man. He may be gone, but his light will shine on.”
Ugly Betty, adapted from the Colombian telenovela Yo Soy Betty La Fea, was a breakout success, earning America Ferrera an Emmy for her turn as Queens kid Betty Suarez. The show was co-produced by Reveille and ran from 2006-10, with Horta serving as showrunner and head writer.
In June 2016 at an event to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the series’ debut, Horta revealed that he originally envisioned Betty not as a fashion writer but as an FBI agent working undercover at the magazine.
“I’m met with just crickets,” Horta recalled of his pitch to executive producers Ben Silverman and Teri Weinberg. “They said, ‘Look, we think what was done originally worked and stay with that. Don’t shy away.'”
He added that ABC “wanted to call it Betty the Ugly. I think they were thinking, like, Alexander the Great. I never got it.”
The son of Cuban immigrants, Horta was born on Aug. 14, 1974, in Miami. His parents divorced when he was 6. He graduated from Coral Gables Senior High School in 1992 — the same year he came out as gay, he said — and attended NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Horta left New York for Los Angeles in 1996 and sold his screenplay for Urban Legend (2008), a horror film that starred Jared Leto and grossed $72 million worldwide. He then created the Sci-Fi series The Chronicle and UPN’s Jake 2.0 before Ugly Betty broke big.
In a 2008 interview, Horta said that the success of Ugly Betty was not all that it was cracked up to be.
“My first year doing this, people would constantly ask me, ‘Aren’t you happy? You must be thrilled. You’ve got a hit show. You must be having the time of your life.’ Well, no, I’m not. It’s all consuming,” he said. “I was so exhausted by the time I got home on Friday night, I was just paralyzed. I didn’t want to go out. I didn’t want to socialize and I had so much work to do. That was it. That was my life.”
Horta had struggled to follow up his success with Ugly Betty. He had multiple shows in development — he signed a two-year deal with Sony Pictures Television in 2011 — but nothing ever got on the air.
Memorial services will be held in Miami and Los Angeles.
Lesley Goldberg contributed to this report.
Updated 9:45 a.m. Jan. 8 to add statement from his family, information about services.
Updated 10:15 a.m. Jan. 8 to add confirmation of Horta’s cause of death from the Miami-Dade County medical examiner.
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