It's rare for any performer to go straight from college to working alongside some of the greatest names in acting and music. But in a just a few short years, Megan Hilty has become one of the most accomplished young talents in Hollywood, with extensive film, television, and stage credits.
Starting out as the stand-by, Megan made her Broadway debut opposite Tony winner Idina Menzel in Stephen Schwartz' production of Wicked, directed by Joe Mantello, eventually taking over as principal "Glinda" in the production working with a cast that included Shoshana Bean as "Elphaba," Rue McClanahan as "Madam Morrible," and Ben Vereen as "The Wizard." Upon completing her run in Wicked on Broadway, Megan performed in the TheatreWorks production of Vanities: The Musical at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts in Mountain View, California.
Then it was back to Wicked, this time with the touring company. While she was finishing up her run as "Glinda" on tour and preparing to open the Los Angeles production, she got a call from Joe Mantello, the director of Wicked. He was directing a workshop of 9 to 5, a musical based on the iconic movie, that was being written by Patricia Resnick (co-author of the film). Dolly Parton was writing the music, and Joe wanted Megan to play "Doralee," Parton's role from the film. Megan found that the most daunting part of the role was walking in Dolly Parton's shoes.
After the initial 9 to 5 workshop, Megan joined Eden Espinosa as lead in Wicked's standing LA production at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. During this time period, Megan also made guest appearances on numerous televisions series: Shark, The Closer, CSI, Desperate Housewives, The Suite Life of Zach and Cody, and Ugly Betty, and provided the singing voice for "Snow White" in Shrek The Third.
In September 2008, Megan starred in 9 to 5: The Musical's world premiere in Los Angeles and then opened the show on Broadway in 2009 alongside Allison Janney as "Violet," Stephanie J. Block as "Judy," and Marc Kudisch as the villainous "Mr. Hart." Megan was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical, an Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Actress in a Musical, a Drama League Award, and an Ovation Award for her work in the show.
After 9 to 5 completed its Broadway run, Megan made her symphic debut with the Cincinnati Pops, appeared in the films Bitter Feast, The Happiest Man Alive, and What Happens Next, had a guest starring role on the series Bones, made her solo concert debut at Feinstein's at Loews Regency in New York and recorded the role of the China Princess in the animated feature film Dorothy of Oz. She also performed in the concert David Foster and Friends alongside Seal, Donna Summer, Earth, Wind, and Fire, Martina McBride, Lara Fabian, Ruben Studdard, Ne-Yo, and many more. The concert aired as part of PBS's Great Performances series in 2011. She also starred in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes at New York City Center's Encores! which led into her starring role on NBC's SMASH.
Now Megan returns for Season 2 of NBC's SMASH, which premieres on Tuesday, February 5 with a 2-hour episode. She will also be performing with The New York Pops at Carnegie Hall on Friday, March 8 in Luck Be A Lady: Megan Hilty Sings the Songs of Sinatra and More. On March 12, Megan will release her debut CD It Happens All The Time, which will feature fresh interpretations of compositions by such contemporary songwriters as Hogarth (Amy Winehouse, Duffy), Wayne Hector (James Morrison, One Direction), Glen Ballard (Alanis Morissette, Wilson Phillips), Ne-Yo and Carrie Underwood. It Happens All The Time will display a side of Megan that even her fans have yet to see.
1. On February 5, SMASH is returning for its second season. What have you enjoyed most about starring on this show? What do you identify most with about your character "Ivy"? What hopes do you have for her this season? I'm really excited about this season because "Ivy's" going through huge changes in her life, both personally and professionally. She's trying to turn it around to the point where she's even questioning whether she's going to stay in the business or not. That's a very real question all of us have gone through. Is it worth it? Is this what I need to be doing? She is just going through a lot of life changes, which adds a whole new dimension to her. That's what I've enjoyed most about playing her.
3. On March 8, you will be performing at Carnegie Hall with The New York Pops and Ryan Silverman in Luck Be A Lady: Megan Hilty Sings Sinatra and More. What are you looking forward to most about performing with The New York Pops? I am looking forward to hearing The New York Pops play all this amazing music, which is why I wanted to do this type of concert in the first place. I'll get to hear this amazing orchestra play these big band songs. It's fantastic.
4. What do you relate to most about Sinatra music and other songs of that era? What do you enjoy most about singing this music? I love his focus on the lyric. I connect to them more. I think they are beautiful and create such gorgeous images. The songs are more about the arc of storytelling rather than how high you can sing and hitting ridiculous notes [laughs].
5. You are releasing your debut album, It Happens All The Time, just a few days after The New York Pops concert on March 12. What was it like when you realized this dream was coming true? What do you hope listeners come away with after hearing your album? It's funny because it didn't really happen until recently, when I saw all the artwork come together and we were picking out the layout for the front cover and the back cover and things for the insert, that this was really happening [laughs]. I've been working on the album for nine months now, which I guess is kind of fast for an album, but it just dawned on me this was happening and it's very exciting! It's not a musical theatre album which is what I think people would expect me to do, so hopefully it's not a disappointment, but these are songs I really connect to and I'm excited about the arrangements we put together.
Me: I think being on SMASH has helped people see you can sing more than just musical theatre.
Megan: Yes, it has helped and that is what inspired the album in the first place. We started doing pop covers on Smash and that started this conversation between me and Columbia records, "Is this album something I really want to do?" and the answer was yes. I never really wanted to put out a musical theatre album. Not that I don't love musical theatre albums, I own hundreds of them. For me, I didn't want to do that. It Happens All The Time is the exact album I wanted to do.
7. You have a legion of fans from starring in Wicked. Looking back, what is the one most cherished memory you hold close to you from the show and would you ever consider going back into Wicked? Absolutely, I'd love to go back into Wicked. I LOVE that show. I spent 4 1/2 years doing it. I actually grew up in that show. To pick one memory is so hard, but I guess it would have to be making my Broadway debut in a bubble, opposite Idina Menzel. It was one of the most magical and terrifying [laughs] night of my life.
8. You also got to originate the role of "Dorelee" in the Broadway musical 9 to 5. What was the best part about working with Dolly Parton and what did you learn from working with her? It was really incredible and inspiring to watch how she works. For being a living legend, she is down to the most down to earth and accessible person you could imagine. She's extremely kind and generous. She's also a great businesswoman. I came up with this saying while working with her, "What would Dolly do?" because if I ever found myself in a tough situation I would think about how she would handle herself. She always treated everybody with dignity and respect, but she also commanded it for herself. It was a really inspiring thing to watch.
9. How do you stay grounded in an industry that has sometimes lead others down a darker road? Having a great family and friends, and my dogs. No matter how glamorous the day was or what famous people I met, I always go home and have to pick-up poop. That's how I end my days [laughs].
Me: Very glamorous.
Megan: Yes, glamour [laughs], but that's real [laughs some more].
10. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer? I'm constantly learning new things about myself through what I do. In working on characters, I always have to ask myself how do I connect to this and why do I connect to this or how can I connect to this. I'm continually self-examining myself.
11. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? I am obsessed with Tina Fey. If I could ever be lucky enough to work on something with her that would be it.
Me: I think you guys would be great together.
Megan: Oh my goodness, I got to meet her at the Golden Globes and I almost fainted.
12. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? I became obsessed with Bernadette Peters growing up (which is ironic because now she plays my mother on Smash [laughs]). I was enamored with her performance in Into The Woods. I must have played that CD a million times and then I got my hands on the videotape and that was it. I wanted to do what she did.