Laura Kusnyer / NYC
January 11, 2008 AT 02:00 PM EST

Ana Ortiz wants you to rock your vote. The 36-year-old actress, who plays Hilda Suarez on ABC’s hit series Ugly Betty, is making her voice heard this election season by participating in Our Time to Vote, a multi-cultural and non-partisan campaign encouraging voter education and registration through powerful public service announcements featuring Hispanic entertainers like Ortiz and George Lopez, among others. Herself of Puerto Rican descent, the actress sees the booming Latino population in the United States as an opportunity to change the direction the country’s heading in, but only if everyone heads to the polls.

Read on to get her take on the “disastrous” Republican administration, news on Ugly Betty and the writers’ strike, goofy behind-the-scenes stories about América Ferrera and Salma Hayek, and an inside look at her married life.

Tell me about Our Time to Vote…
I’m really excited about it. If you get out there and tell people it’s time to vote, they will respond. People are ready for change. Latinos…are in such overwhelming numbers here, [and] we have so much potential to really make a difference, to stop being disenfranchised and become a force, a voting force that people have to pay attention to.

Learn more about Our Time to Vote

What other factors are inspiring people to vote this year?
I think [it’s] this disastrous administration. I think people are tired of it, tired of being scared. People are starting to wake up and feel their strength. It’s a really exciting time. We have really wonderful candidates running for the Democratic side right now – (she laughs) obviously you can tell I’m a Democrat – now that Hillary’s running, and Barack Obama is a black man, and Bill Richardson is a Latino. We’ve been pushed to the side as Latinos, and this whole immigration thing, you know, it’s been so insane. We’ve been completely demonized as Latinos, and now it’s going to be like, ‘guess what, folks, you’re going to have to pay attention to us.’

Are personal politics a factor for Our Time to Vote?
Our Time to Vote is definitely [non]-partisan. It’s not just for Democrats and left-leaning people. It’s for everyone. But I can’t help the way I feel.

What would you say to someone who thinks his or her vote doesn’t count?
A lot of people are feeling that way. It’s really easy to get sad about it, because the last two elections in my opinion were complete hoaxes. We’re a young, strong country. And the only way they’re not going to be able to steal another election is if we come out and there’s just no denying it. It has to be by numbers.

How will your celebrity status get people to vote?
People choose to listen to celebrities in our culture, so I feel like we should be standing from the rooftop. I don’t accept those people who say ‘you’re an actor, you can’t say anything.’ If you’re a librarian you can say something. If you’re a car wash guy you can say something. I don’t see why just because we’re actors we should shut up and be silent. We have an opportunity because people listen to us for whatever reason, so go ahead and use that.

Is the campaign interfering with “Ugly Betty”?
No, not at all. We’re on strike. It’s awful. It’s awful. We definitely support the writers 100 percent, and we’re out there on the picket line. They’re not asking for the moon; they’re asking for fairness. It just goes back again to the direction the country’s going in, this like corporate greed. It’s just sad. It’s a real shame. If we’re not back by I think the middle of February, they’re just going to scrap the season.

Any funny on-the-set stories?
There’s a lot. We really hang out all the time. Tony Prana, who plays our dad, had his second annual Ugly Betty Christmas party this year, and all of us were playing…what’s the game? You have a buzzer, and you’re trying to think of the name…

Taboo! We were all playing Taboo. Between América [and me], we’re the most competitive people, and it’s so funny because it’s really like we’re sisters, we hit each other. It’s just so much fun to hang out because it has become a gigantic family. We’re all just buggin’ out on the set all the time. América and I make up dances. It’s just great. I miss it, I miss it a lot.

Have you met Salma’s baby?
We haven’t seen Salma’s baby yet. The last time we saw her, she was super-duper pregnant. It was funny because I saw her across the room and she points to me and says ‘You’re next.’ (She laughs)

How’d you spend your New Year’s this year?
I just stayed in with my husband [musician Noah Lebenzon] and some of our neighbors and drank champagne. We stayed up pretty late. We went to bed at 3 or 4.

How’s married life?
Married life is better than I could have even dreamed. It’s nice to have somebody to stay home with, and you don’t feel like you’re missing out.

What’s the biggest surprise you’ve encountered about being married?
I mean, we lived together for about a year before we got married, but there really is a difference in being married. It’s this whole new chapter of life. It’s kind of a surprise because I just sort of felt like ‘oh, well we’ve been living together so, whatever, no big deal, keep on going,’ but it really was a change. I couldn’t say ‘husband’ without giggling for a couple of months (she laughs). It’s just a really cool feeling.

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