‘Smash’s’ Megan Hilty: The arts should spark conversations

Megan Hilty stars in "Smash."
(SHNS photo by Mark Seliger/NBC)
Story by Patricia Sheridan
(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Thu, Feb 7, 2013
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She plays Ivy Lynn, an ambitious Broadway actress, on the NBC hit series “Smash.” It’s something actress Megan Hilty knows a little about. She starred as Glinda in “Wicked” and went on to play the Dolly Parton role in the musical “9 to 5,” also on Broadway.

The multitalented 31-year-old will debut her first album, “It Happens All the Time,” from Portrait and Columbia Records on March 12. The two-hour season premiere of “Smash” aired Tuesday, Feb. 5.

Excerpts from an interview:

Q: Have you ever been hit on by a casting director, or is that a thing of the past?

A: No, never. (Laughs) I mean, you always hear stories of things happening, but I really can’t speak to it. All I know is that it’s really never happened to me. And I guess I don’t see Ivy and Derek (characters in “Smash”) as a casting-couch thing because they actually have a relationship. It wasn’t about getting a job for either of them. I know it can be taken that way, but it wasn’t.

Q: How do you cope with the anxiety before a big audition or your first performance on Broadway? Can you sleep?

A: Oh yeah, I can sleep at night. I never have any problem sleeping. (Laughs) I guess I am just constantly going over things in my head, but I try not to freak out about it. I’ll always be nervous before anything, but I try not to let it totally control my life. I’m always nervous, so I don’t want it to sound like I’m this super-confident person, but I think you just have to learn how to channel that energy.

Q: Have you ever been fearful during a performance such as when something goes wrong?

A: This is going to sound really weird, but I almost look forward to the mistakes because they are inevitable. I mean, it’s never going to be perfect. That’s what keeps it exciting. When things go wrong, you have to figure out how to get back on track.

Q: When did you decide that you wanted to be a performer?

A: It was probably in middle school shortly after I started taking voice lessons. I was always obsessed with music, loved the theater and the opera. I was just constantly surrounding myself with it. I always knew I would be in the arts in some capacity whether it was on stage or screen or behind the scenes.

Q: How much influence did your parents have on your path?

A: My parents were of the mind-set that I’m going to figure out life for myself and they were just very supportive of all the things that I chose to do. They didn’t introduce me to anything or make me go into the theater or ask me to try any of that stuff, but anytime I had a show they were the first people there. There was never any question. There was never the backup plan, you know?

Q: You have said you don’t like watching yourself, but what is it you don’t like watching?

A: I hate saying the word “artist.” It feels like it is so pretentious, but I’m gonna use it anyway. I think any artist has a really hard time watching or looking at their work because you are never going to be satisfied. You are always going to find things wrong, but that’s how you grow. I mean, the minute I say, “Oh yeah, I nailed that,” then there is something wrong. (Laughs) I’ll still watch it, but I can’t watch everything. It just drives me crazy.

Q: Would you call yourself a perfectionist?

A: No, because I don’t think there is such a thing as perfect. I don’t think perfect is real or attainable.

Q: When you are taping “Smash,” do you get to sing a song all the way through, or are they calling “cut”?

A: We do it all the way through. We very rarely do pieces of songs. Even when we switch into fantasy, we usually do a whole song, and we do it live. Even when we are quote-unquote lip-syncing, we are singing full out so it doesn’t look like we are just moving our mouths. So we are singing full out all day long.

Q: Now that you are so recognized, did your personal life change? Is it harder to date?

A: (Laughs) I luckily don’t have to worry about that because I have the greatest boyfriend in the whole world. So I don’t have to worry about all that madness.

Q: What about the other side of it, being recognized?

A: Oh, it’s great. The reason why we do this, the arts in general, is to spark conversation, to spark ideas and thoughts about life, to put it very generally. That’s not a private thing. I view it as a very public thing, so I love talking to people on the street about “Smash” and about my character. Whether they hate the show or Ivy or they love her in the show, it doesn’t matter. It just means they are invested somehow, and they have opinions. I mean, that’s what the arts are for, so I love it.

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