Megan Hilty is a genuine Broadway star. The fact that her talent and voice gets piped into our houses every Monday night on NBC's Smash is one of the reasons I love living in 2012. People have gotten on planes to see this woman perform in shows like Wicked and 9 to 5: The Musical, but all you have to do is turn on your TV to see her up close, embodying all the ambition and heart of struggling starlet Ivy Lynn. Earlier today, I got to ask Ms. Hilty a few questions about one of TV's best new shows, and she had some pretty tantalizing hints about where Smash—and Ivy—are headed next.
A lot of people are rooting for Ivy; you're such a likable actress and you bring so much heart to the character. Is there any way Ivy is going to end up keeping the part of Marilyn?
Well, I have to say speaking from experience just because an actor starts out in a role in the workshop, they won't necessarily play it when it goes to Broadway. So she could lose her job in a SECOND. Having the threat of Karen there all the time, played by the beautiful Katharine McPhee, is a huge threat to her, so the drama will ensue!
And from your own Broadway experience, is that a realistic reflection of how Broadway works?
Oh absolutely, I can't tell you how many times I've personally done a workshop or my friends have done workshops, and done these things from the ground floor pretty much, and heard, "We love you, nobody can do this better than you, we just need to find a star to do this." And it's just a part of the business. So it's very real, and a lot of heartbreak comes with it, but so does a lot of great drama, which is why we're making the show!
Your character knows a lot about Marilyn Monroe, and you do this perfect imitation. Is that something you had to put together for the show or were you already a Marilyn fan?
I wasn't a Marilyn fan. Growing up I thought it was very cliché for blondes to love Marilyn, so I kind of resisted her for a long time. And then in college I read a biography of Arthur Miller, and when I got toward the end it described their tumultuous marriage, and that I found intriguing. So that's when my love and respect for her started "to start," because I started to read more about her and how fascinating she was. (laughs)
So your connection is more with the tragic side of Marilyn?
Absolutely, because that's who she was. All she wanted was to be loved, and that is a very very basic human need. And I think that's why so many people connect to her, and why we're still talking about her today.
Speaking of being loved, you have this great chemistry with Derek—Ivy and Derek have this whole steamy romance. Can you tell us anything about where that's headed?
Yeah, I think it was an unexpected romance for everybody involved! (laughs) I don't think it was supposed to last as long as it has. But it is a fascinating relationship because it's not a normal boyfriend-girlfriend situation. But they do get something that they need from each other, and it's fascinating to watch.
I know in a previous episode Derek told Ivy that there's something wrong with his kitchen, some work being done, and we were kind of left wondering along with Ivy, was he keeping her at arm's length?
You'll find out tonight! We didn't know either when we shot it, we played it both ways: that he knew he was lying to me, and that he was telling the truth. You'll find out more tonight.
Very exciting! And you guys have that sexy rehearsal performance space in the show, is that where you rehearse in real life?
Yeah! It's actually our studio out in Brooklyn, so we rehearse there and we shoot there. It's very cool.
How has it been working with Katharine McPhee? Is she taking to the Broadway work ethic?
She's fantastic, and she's actually trained her whole life to do this too, so she has an amazing work ethic and she's there every day working like a dog. When we're not shooting, we're in the recording studio or we're in the dance rehearsal and she has a really great attitude about it.
I am a big fan of the show so far; I want to be watching Smash in six years. Where do you see the arc of the series going for a second and third season?
It could go several different ways, and that's how it was explained to me. Depending on how audiences react to the first season, that will tell us where we're going to go, should there be a second season. We may continue on with the Marilyn musical, we may abandon that and go to another one, or there may be rival musicals. The possibilities are endless, which is why I think it's so brilliant to tap into the whole Broadway world, because you really can do just about anything.
How do TV and Broadway compare to one another? Do you prefer one over the other?
Oh no, I couldn't say that I prefer one over the other, which is why it's so great I get to do both in one show!