UPDATED with cause of death: Silvio Horta, who created the ABC comedy Ugly Betty and shared its 2007 Emmy nom for Outstanding Comedy Series, was found dead Tuesday at a hotel in his native Miami, and today the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner ruled that Horta died by suicide. He was 45.
Horta created the U.S. version of Ugly Betty, which starred America Ferrera and aired more than 80 episodes over four seasons from 2006-10. Ferrera won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for playing Betty Suarez, a smart, sweet-natured and wholesome Mexican-American from Queens who lands a job at a trendy fashion magazine in Manhattan. Betty embraced her unique appearance — including bangs, heavy-rimmed glasses and train-track braces — and independent attitude in the cutthroat world of New York fashion.
Eric Mabius, Tony Plana, Ana Ortiz, Becki Newton, Michael Urie, Mark Indelicato and Vanessa Williams also were series regulars for the show’s entire run. It was based on the 1999-2001 Colombian telenovela Yo soy Betty, la fea.
Horta also shared a 2007 WGA Award for Ugly Betty and a PGA nom the following year for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Comedy. He won ALMA and NAACP Image awards for writing the pilot episode of Ugly Betty and earned ALMA and NAACP noms for writing in the show’s second season as well.
Horta would go on to sell a raft of projects to broadcast networks, working with the likes of Aaron Kaplan, Brett Ratner, Jennifer Lopez, Mark Gordon and fellow Ugly Betty EP Salma Hayek.
Born on August 14, 1974, in Miami, Cuban-American Horta got his start in the business more than two decades ago, penning the script before creating the feature Urban Legend. He went on to create, write for and executive produce the 2002-03 Sci-Fi Channel series The Chronicle before creating the drama series Jake 2.0, which ran aired during the 2003-04 season on UPN.
In October 2018, Fox gave a script commitment plus penalty to Move, a one-hour music-fueled dance dramedy from Horta, Mary J. Blige and Gail Berman’s The Jackal Group Written by Horta, it was inspired by the life of famed choreographer and creative director Laurieann Gibson.
In early 2015, NBC gave a pilot order to The Curse of the Fuentes Women, which Horta created, wrote and exec produced. Hailing from his Silent H Prods. and Warner Bros TV. Its logline: When a magical and mysterious young man inexplicably emerges from the ocean, he breathes new passion into the lives of the Fuentes women – the beautiful but lonely Lola, her ailing mother Esperanza and her troubled daughter Soledad.
Horta also had a pair of network projects in the works later in 2015. NBC gave a put pilot commitment to an untitled comic-book drama starring Harry Potter alum Rupert Grint that Horta wrote and co-created with Kaplan, and Fox bought The Divine Monster, a twisty family drama Horta co-created with Ratner that chronicled the fall of the wealthy Vega family of Miami.
After Ugly Betty ended its run in 2010, Horta signed a two-year, seven-figure overall deal with Sony Pictures Television — after fielding interest from several studios. He would have three broadcast-network project during the 2011 development season: Mrs. Miller, an action comedic-drama for ABC he co-wrote from Will Gluck’s Sony-based shingle Olive Bridge Entertainment; a comedy for Fox based on the blog Texts from Last Night with Happy Madison; and an untitled Latino family dramedy executive produced by Lopez, also at Fox.
In 2012, ABC put into development Bastards, a light drama about a Latino family he created with Hayek, Gordon also was an EP on that project, which followed a colorful Cuban-American family whose lives are turned upside down when it’s revealed that the family patriarch had a child with the family maid more than 25 years earlier.