The star studded NBC musical drama Smash has made a lot of people take a closer look at Megan Hilty. The Broadway star was known to theater buffs and familiar from some television acting, but Smash showed everyone in their living rooms what she was fully capable of. She plays Ivy, the theater veteran who landed the role of Marilyn Monroe in a musical, and isn’t so nice to other young actors like Karen (Katherine McPhee).
At least Ivy was the star until a few weeks ago. The drama of Smash just keeps getting juicier as Uma Thurman guests as a movie star hired to help the Marilyn musical’s financial prospects. Smash will return for a second season and Hilty spoke with us about the season finale and juicy drama so far.
Q: Ivy is so dependent on and defined by her fame, do you feel sorry for her?
MH: A little bit I guess. I have empathy for her certainly because I think we all have moments where we wrap our identity up in what we do. In our profession it’s really hard to separate the two. So I actually empathize with her on that.
Q: Is there hope for someone like Ivy to find her self worth so that’s not everything?
MH: Absolutely and I hope that happens in season two.
Q: When Ivy is playing nice, do you have three degrees: pretending to be nice, faking being nice, actually being nice?
MH: Yes, and it’s hard to figure out which one’s right for that moment so there’s a lot of conversation with the director as to which one’s right. We usually try all of them and then we’re like, “Oh, no, it’s that one.”
Q: Have you ever seen someone bomb a performance, intentionally or accidentally, like Ivy did when she got drunk on stage?
MH: Oh, there are mishaps all the time and I’ve caused many of them. Granted I wasn’t intoxicated but they happen all the time. That’s kind of why you love live theater. You go because that’s the only time you’ll ever experience that show. You can’t recreate it. Mishaps always happen and you want to be a part of it and see how they get out of it.
Q: What’s a mishap you’ve created?
MH: Well, I was in Wicked for almost five years and it was kind of interesting because the longer I was in it the less I remembered of it. So I would forget entire scenes. Oh my God, it was the craziest thing.
Q: You should be on autopilot.
MH: You would think so, right? Eh, not so much.
Q: You’d forget the words?
MH: Oh yeah, constantly. Oops.
Q: What has the show done for your recognition, being on posters and billboards everywhere?
MH: I keep saying it's 15 dreams coming true at the same time. It's everything I ever wanted in one job. I get to represent my community essentially on television. I get to sing. I get to dance. I get to play this amazing character and posters in Times Square. It's crazy, but it's been the most wonderful and most rewarding job I've ever had.
Q: Have you felt a difference with national awareness as opposed to when you were recognized in New York for Broadway?
MH: Yeah. I actually went home to Seattle last weekend and people recognized me, people that I didn't know like in Starbucks and stuff, yeah. It's great.
Q: How has your life changed from being a Broadway star to becoming a TV star?
MH: Not too much. I’m just busy a lot which is great. I’m just always working. I’m either at work or I’m at home with my dogs.
Q: What is your album going to be like?
MH: We’re going to do it pretty quickly because I’m going to try and get most of it done before we start shooting in July. I think a lot of it is actually going to be new material. We’re not quite sure what the sound is going to be yet but it’s going to have very few covers and mostly original stuff.
Q: Are you writing any?
MH: No, I’m not. That sounds terrifying. I interpret, I don’t create.
Q: What would you do if you could pick your own sound?
MH: I would like to do kind of an old school pop kind of sound like Amy Winehouse, Adele kind of thing. So we’ll see if I can make that happen.
Q: Where will Ivy’s relationship with Derek go?
MH: Like everything else in her life, it is not in a good place. And with these threats, these new threats, even the movie star, she threatens more than just her job. She threatens everything, her personal life too so there’s a lot that Ivy’s going to have to deal with in the coming episodes.
Q: Ivy’s style compared to yours, do you love her clothes?
MH: I do love her clothes. Yes, me and Ivy have very similar body types so I appreciate that she as well dresses for her body type and loves her womanly figure.
Q: The show shows a lot of that womanly figure also. Are you happy with the way that’s presented?
MH: Yeah, I think it’s all very tasteful. I think it’s all very character appropriate. I think it’s all in telling the story so yeah, I think it’s handled really well.
Q: Have you thought about awards season?
MH: I’ve thought about it because I guess it’s coming up but those things I can’t worry about. As an actor, a long time ago I realized that there are so many things that are so out of my control and it’s just a waste of my time.
Q: What was the biggest adjustment, or did you suggest any adjustments to the show for depicting the Broadway world?
MH: Oh, there are slight things that I’ll see in the script and I’ll say, “Well, we wouldn’t really say it like this. We wouldn’t stand like this formation” and stuff and they’re very receptive to those details.
Q: When you got to do “Let’s Be Bad” did you feel like you got the best song?
MH: No [laughs]. I was very grateful. Well, you haven’t seen the rest of the songs. She [McPhee] has a Bollywood number coming up this week that is unebelievable. It’s epic. So just you wait, but I was very grateful for that song.
Q: What is your real life relationship with Catherine McPhee like?
MH: I love her. We have the best time on set. Usually if we’re on location, we’ll go shopping. As soon as the cameras go off we’re just goofballs. We’re singing crazy songs to each other and trying to make each other laugh.
Q: Do many people mistake you for your character?
MH: I think so. A lot of people stop me on the street and want to talk about Ivy because they’re like, “I just want to slap her sometimes, then I want to give her a hug.” One lady a couple weeks ago, she couldn’t think of anything to say so she looked at me and she goes, “Smash! Smash!” And I was like, “Yeah, you watch the show?” And she was like, “Yes, you are such a witch.” But she didn’t say witch.
Q: Maybe she saw Wicked.
MH: I know, right? That was my other job. I was like, “Well, my character is. I’d like to think that I’m not so much.” But she was like, “Oh, no, no, no, yes.”
Q: What do you love most about your life right now?
MH: I feel like I’m surrounded by people that I love. I love everybody that I work with and everybody I work for and I’m just really grateful for everything.