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 Wicked and 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.
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.