Femme on Fire: Megan Hilty

By Michael J. Lockhart

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Femme on Fire: Megan Hilty:

A Broadway vet by the age of 30; Megan Hilty grew up across the stages of America. As a graduate of the prestigious Carnegie Mellon School of Drama she has performed starred in hit shows such as *Wickedand *9-5, *literally following in the footsteps of her role models. *

In her first major television role on NBC’s hit new series *Smash; our newest Femme on Fire plays an ambitious stage actress determined to do what it takes to play the iconic Marilyn Monroe. Speaking to us from New York, Megan tells us about getting behind the camera, blasting her critics and how she’s going to conquer it all her way. *

Playboy.com: Tell us about how you got started in the show biz?

Hilty: I was totally a theater kid growing up. I actually started out wanting to be in Opera of all things, but then I couldn’t see myself living that lifestyle. I loved the theater and wanted to do anything I could to be a part of it.

Playboy.com: How did Smash come about for you?

Hilty: I was working on Broadway for a while, and I was looking around at careers I wanted to emulate. It seems they figured out the key to longevity in this business was to diversify what you’re doing. I had already fallen in love with LA from being out there with Wicked and I thought I’d give it a chance and go out and do pilot season. I did two pilots for NBC and when the first didn’t get picked up, the next was Smash. It sort of stuck out like a sore thumb for me; it’s a TV about my world. It kind of seemed too good to be true.

Playboy.com: Tell us about your character Ivy Lynn.

Hilty: I think she’s pretty fantastic [laughs]. She’s a real person and she’s deeply flawed, but vulnerable at the same time. She’s somebody who has very real goals, and she’s willing to do just about anything to make her dreams come true. She’s a big personality, so she’s going to be put into situations where she might not behave as she should because the stakes are so high. That’s the thing about her, she’ll always surprise you.

Playboy.com: Are we going to see a ruthless side to her?

Hilty: I would call her intelligent [laughs]. She’s a smart cookie and can quickly assess a situation to figure out what she wants.

Playboy.com: How realistic is the show compared to what you’ve experienced in real life?

Hilty: The show is very authentic. There are so many people involved in the project that actually come from this world, so it’s deeply rooted in reality. We aren’t doing a reality show, but we do take liberties for dramatic effect.

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Playboy.com: The concept of having two performers in a fictional competition for a role is interesting since you come from doing curtain calls, to Katherine (McPhee) from the world of reality television voting. How is it working with someone from such a completely different background to you?

Hilty: It’s fantastic! If you think about it all of us come from wildly different backgrounds. You have Anjelica Huston, who’s a huge movie star and you have Debra (Messing) who’s a huge TV star; Katherine is a music mogul, and you have me from the Broadway world. We each bring something completely different to the plate. I think that’s why it works so well.

Playboy.com: What was it like to work with an acting legend like Anjelica Huston?

Hilty: It was very daunting at first. I was very nervous to meet her. But she’s gentle and so supportive; you almost think of her as a mythical creature who’s all powerful, and regal on screen. She’s just so enchanting because of that combination.

Playboy.com: Nothing to do with the Addams Family, right?

Hilty: NO! [laughs]

Playboy.com: So you finally have some nights and weekends off now that you’re not on Broadway every day. Any cast nights out that you can tell us about?

Hilty: We try to do that as often as we can. When we’re on location, it’s my job to find where we are going drinking (laughs). Especially when we’re in midtown, my old stomping ground. We’ll finish shooting and I’ll say, “OK, everybody. We’re going over to this bar!” It’s a really great group so anytime we can hang out after school is a great time.

Read on to hear Megan's take on internet commentary, her first Playboy, and what comes next.

Playboy.com: You’ve been trending across the Internet this week. Do you check what’s being said online?

Hilty: Really?! [laughs] I don’t Google myself or look at anything like that online. All it takes is one bad thing to start off my day the wrong way. The curiosity is always there, but it just takes one… it takes me a while to get over. I really don’t have the thickest skin when it comes to that but I think it’s getting better.

Playboy.com: One big topic is about you being an accurate fit for Marilyn, and the show breaking casting stereotypes with regards to your body shape. What has been your reaction to that commentary?

Hilty: What’s really interesting for me, and it’s been coming up a lot in interviews for me, are questions like, “What kind of padding are wearing when you’re playing Marilyn? What are you doing to beef up for the role, or to fill out the Marilyn curve?”

I’m like, “Sorry guys, I’m not padding myself. I’m just a real person.” [laughs] Now it’s been turning into “Megan’s smashing the stereotypes on TV,” and if that’s the case – it’s great. But I’m just a real person on television. I feel like it’s turned into something that is bigger than it should be –but I do feel like I look different than a lot of people on television. I used to think I’d never be on television as everybody is skinny and perfect; but it seems to have happened in spite of my body type. It’s coming out like I’m so wildly different, but I’m not.

Playboy.com: You’re right, and as you might know, our first cover model for Playboy in 1953 was Marilyn herself and those curves defined a generation of women.

Hilty: Exactly. I couldn’t agree more! I think I’m just fine! [laughs]

Playboy.com: What was your first time reading Playboy?

Hilty: Oh gosh. It was when Hef’s three girlfriends were on the cover. I loved *The Girls Next Door *and I think that was my first adult experience reading the magazine; it’s so artfully done. They’re so beautiful and I was intrigued to see my ladies.

Playboy.com: What would entice our readership watch Smash?

Hilty: I think its scaring people, because people are like, “It’s about musical theater. That’s so far away from me – I don’t get that. I don’t like people bursting into song.” Our show isn’t like that, it’s a very sexy show. You’ll see quickly the world of Broadway is risqué, and we stay pretty true to that.

Playboy.com: Does Ivy get more risqué?

Hilty: Just wait for Monday [laughs]. She’s very comfortable in her skin.

Playboy.com: Who would you say are your role models?

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Hilty: Audra McDonald, and Kristin Chenoweth, and Alison Janney – all these people who seem to transcend different types of art. Women who are in different films, and TV, and voice overs…I want to do everything just like them.

Playboy.com: What do you have upcoming.

Hilty: We’re shooting through March, but I’ve got a stage production coming up; I’m doing Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. I’m working on an album with Columbia and Sony Masterworks, and I do a lot of voice over work. I’ve got a film out this fall called Dorothy of Oz, I work for Disney…and I’ve got a new cartoon coming out on Nickelodeon called Robot & Monster. I love that part of my career, I get to go into a booth and act like a crazy person for four hours.

Playboy.com: Got a favorite voice role so far?

Hilty: It’s got to be for Robot & Monster. Kids will like it but adults will enjoy the humor. [My character] is JD, and she’s a big blue alien-looking creature – but she’s got this huge rack which is hilarious!

Playboy.com: What was your favorite on-set experience?

Hilty: I love going to work every day, and it sounds so mushy but I love working with these people. It’s literally everything I love in one job. This is totally my dream role.

Playboy.com: What’s the hardest challenge you’ve had to overcome so far in your career?

Hilty: I think the hardest thing that I’ve had to overcome was being OK with my performance and not trying to be somebody else. I hope that’s not too cliché. My first job was with Wicked and while I didn’t take over for Kristen Chenoweth, I was her replacement’s standby. The bar was so high, and I thought forever I had to do their performance. It was only when I realized that I may not be as pretty, or funny, or touching or anything but I need to be OK with what I bring to the plate. It was a really tough lesson to learn, and it’s something I still have a problem with. It’s something you have to remind yourself of. It may not be the best, but it’s the best that I can do.

SMASH airs on NBC Monday's @ 10/9c


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