Today we are continuing BroadwayWorld's extensive coverage of NBC's hit musical drama series SMASH with a new entry in our ever-expanding collection of interviews with the cast, creative team and guest stars of the Broadway-based show - don't forget to check out the previous InDepth InterView with songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, as well (available here) - by talking to the leading lady of the show-within-the-show on SMASH itself all about her role on the series; the blonde bombshell of BOMBSHELL, Megan Hilty. In this candid conversation, Hilty and I discuss portraying a musical Marilyn Monroe and the volatile Broadway star playing her, Ivy Lynn, as well as her own personal experiences working on SMASH as we look ahead to the upcoming episodes which will feature the biggest musical sequence on the series so far and will also include guest appearances by Norbert Leo Butz, Marc Kudisch, Uma Thurman and more as BOMBSHELL heads towards its long-awaited big Boston tryout for the season finale. Additionally, Hilty and I take a look back at her prior musical theatre appearances, winning hearts the country over in her starring roles in WICKED and 9-TO-5 on Broadway, in LA and on tour - both under the direction of master director Joe Mantello - and, also, take a look ahead to the forthcoming Encores! GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES, which she will be headlining later this Spring. Plus, Hilty shares her experiences working with this week's SMASH guest star and Tony-winning legend Bernadette Peters and reflects on her forthcoming Disney animated film in the TINKER BELL series that features another dynamic diva, her SMASH co-star and fellow participant in this column, Oscar-winner Anjelica Huston (our interview coming up next week) - as well as touching on DOROTHY OF OZ (co-starring Lea Michele), her new animated TV project for Nickelodeon - ROBOTS & MONSTERS - and first news of a solo album coming soon. All of that and much, much more!
SMASH airs Monday nights at 10 PM on NBC.
UPDATE: This afternoon, it has been confirmed that SMASH is renewed for Season Two!
Let's Be Wicked
PC: You're one of the most popular performers on BroadwayWorld thanks not only to SMASH, but also your performances in WICKED and 9-TO-5 - you are the subject of a whole lot of stories and discussions, let me tell you!
MG: Oh, dear! [Laughs.] I hope it's good stuff!
PC: As SMASH has gone on, it has become clear you are the biggest breakout star from the show.
MG: Awww, thank you! That is so nice.
PC: What's it like to be recognized across the country as opposed to predominantly just in New York and L.A.?
MG: Well, yeah! I used to only have people come up to me in mid-town or in Times Square! [Laughs.] Now, it's happening everywhere.
PC: SMASH has changed everything for you.
MG: It's so great to get such positive feedback for the show - I love hearing about how much people love to watch it.
PC: Do you feel that touring gives you a different exposure to audiences than just Broadway - LA versus NY, especially?
MH: Oh, they're very, very different! It's like a rock concert out in LA - they're so appreciative of getting that kind of live performance, whereas here audiences are very receptive, as well, it's just that everyone is exposed to so much more here, so, you know, it's not quite as raucous of a time.
PC: Would you say that your work with director Joe Mantello on WICKED and 9-TO-5 helped prepare you for SMASH? His production of ASSASSINS was one of the best productions on Broadway in recent memory.
MH: I wish I could have seen it - I keep hearing about how incredible it was!
PC: It was awesome.
MG: I believe it! I mean, after working with him for so long, he's one of the greatest people I've ever worked with. And, he has such high standards that I think he helped… groom me to get where I am today.
PC: And what grooming it is! Do you feel this is a perfect role for you - a big, flashy Marilyn Monroe role like Ivy Lynn has in the show-within-the-show?
MG: Well, I never dreamed that I would do a Marilyn role, but I did dream of doing a big role that had a big, crazy arc - and, I get to do that with Ivy Lynn. She is so deeply flawed that it makes her completely compelling and totally unpredictable, and, as an actress, it's really rewarding to get to play that - and, as an audience member, you never know what she's going to do!
PC: You can say that again - a real firecracker.
MG: It's so exciting.
PC: Will there be more VALLEY OF THE DOLLS-esque hallucinations and campy touches in future episodes?
MG: Oh, yes! There will be more of that to come.
PC: Getting to some specific SMASH questions: the title of the show-within-the-show will be BOMBSHELL, correct?
PC: And the season finale centers on the Boston tryout of the show?
PC: Will you be singing the full "Never Give All The Heart" at some point soon?
MG: Well, I can't tell you what I am singing in every show! I can't give it all away! [Laughs.]
PC: That's a song so many people are waiting to hear - and download! What hints can you give us?
MG: I bet! It's an incredible song and I will tell you that you will hear more of that song, but I won't tell you who is singing it. [Laughs.]
PC: Anjelica Huston told me that the upcoming Bollywood number with Uma Thurman and the entire cast is the biggest production number in Season One. Would you agree?
MG: Oh, my goodness! It's amazing. It's, like, epic. I think it's the biggest thing that we have done on the show. And, Katharine McPhee and Raza Jaffrey are just unbelievable - they are the real stars of the number; I mean, we all have a little part in it, but, they knock it out of the park! People won't be prepared for it.
PC: What a build-up! Raza Jaffrey came from the theatre and starred in Andrew Lloyd Webber's BOMBAY DREAMS in the West End, of course - by the great Bollywood composer A. R. Rahman.
MG: Oh, yeah - he has a beautiful voice and he is a great dancer. I think that it is so great that they are utilizing him in the show.
PC: What can you tell me about working with Bernadette Peters?
MG: Well, I mean, for me, it's almost too good to believe it's true - she inspired me to go into musical theatre in the first place. I mean, I was obsessed with her from a very early age, so to have her play my mother… I still kind of don't believe it. When she came onset, I was just a complete goober! [Laughs.]
MH: Oh, you know, I was just totally star-struck - I couldn't talk to her or relax at all.
PC: So, she even surpassed your already high expectations somehow?
MH: Oh, she is just so lovely and so down to earth and supportive and generous - and, she is such an incredible powerhouse performer. It was kind of like getting a little master class every time I got to do a scene with her - I just kept pinching myself! [Pause.] Like I said, I still can't believe it's real because it's too good to be true!
PC: How fabulous. Was it especially intense to film your confrontation scenes?
MH: Oh, yeah - and, we've got a couple of scenes like that. I'll just say that a lot of Ivy's behavior is explained once her mother shows up. [Laughs.]
PC: You can say that again.
MH: They have a very interesting relationship. But, you know, sitting front row center and seeing Miss Bernadette Peters - I just couldn't ask for more than that!
PC: Will there a duet in the future - since you have pretty much wrapped Season One at this point, perhaps in Season Two?
MH: Not until Season Two! There are all kinds of possibilities for that.
PC: Speaking of "so many possibilities," would you like to take on a Sondheim song on SMASH?
MH: Oh. My. Goodness. That would be almost too much! And, if I could do a Sondheim song with Bernadette Peters… [Pause. Sighs.] that would be just incredible.
PC: The best of all possible worlds.
MH: That would be the end! [Laughs.] The end.
PC: Would you want to be a part of a Sondheim show in the future if you had the chance to be - INTO THE WOODS, perhaps?
MH: Oh, God - INTO THE WOODS is my favorite show of all time! If I could do anything - anything - in it, I would.
PC: Instead of that in the Park, though, you are headlining GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES at Encores! in another role made famous by Marilyn - what can you tell me about the show?
MH: Oh, I am so excited! It's my first Encores! production. I just went and saw MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG and I was like, "Oh, great - so I just have to go into this knowing everything! Good to know." [Big Laugh.]
PC: You really do!
MH: But, it's still so great. Encores! is such a prestigious, New York thing to do, you know - and, I've always loved the show and I am a huge fan of the music. I can't wait! I can't wait to meet the cast and see who I get to play with.
PC: Did you ever sing "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend" growing up or did you have another favorite from the score?
MH: Well, actually, my favorite is "Bye, Bye Baby", but I think in the stage production someone else sings it - Jane Russell sings it in the movie. But, I think that's my favorite number from the show, even more than "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend".
PC: You are clearly prepared for the role having played a Marilyn-influenced lead not only in SMASH, but, also, in Michael John LaChiusa's THE WILD PARTY when you were in school, did you not?
MH: I did that in college, yeah - I got to play Queenie. It was one of my favorite things that I ever got to do, actually. I just love those dark, juicy roles.
PC: It's a brilliant show.
MH: It is. You know, I don't like anything that's predictable and Queenie was one of those unpredictable, wild, wild girls.
PC: Indeed. Her songs in the second half of the show are especially astounding.
MH: Oh, all her material is just perfection! I'd love to sing that stuff again.
PC: Is rehearsing an onscreen production number like "Let's Be Bad" significantly different than preparing for "Defying Gravity" or the big songs in WICKED or other stage shows you've done?
MH: Only slightly. It depends on what the shot is - if they are doing big, wide shots, then I play to the back of the house; if they are doing steadicam work that's close-in, you know, like any actor, you gauge accordingly to where your focus is, so it changes with every shot. That's what makes it so challenging.
PC: Do you consider SMASH a meta-series in that it is a drama, a comedy and a musical simultaneously?
MH: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. It's so many things and there are so many layers to it - just the Marilyn themes alone!
PC: You can say that again.
MH: I mean, yeah, we are doing a show about Marilyn, but, the themes in the personal lives of the characters mirror what happens to Marilyn in the show. There are so many different layers and that is a testament to good writers, in my opinion.
PC: What can we look forward to in the next few weeks? Norbert Leo Butz is a guest star coming up?
MH: Well, Norbert comes in in about Episode 9, I believe.
PC: Is his character a Joe DiMaggio replacement in any way or something entirely different?
MH: Oh, no - he's completely different. He's in the show that Ivy is in on Broadway.
PC: HEAVEN ON EARTH.
MH: Yeah, he's the star of HEAVEN ON EARTH. And, of course, Marc Kudisch does a great number with us in Episode 14, too.
PC: How wonderful - your 9-TO-5 co-star.
MH: Yeah, you know, they are really doing right by Broadway - they are casting all the greats and they are all coming out and giving stellar performances. So, hopefully, we are representing our community the best that we can.
PC: What can you tell me about your upcoming TINKER BELL film, SECRET OF THE WINGS - co-starring Anjelica, as well.
MH: Yeah! It's so great. You know, a big thing for me has always been to develop a voice-over career, and, so that's kind of all the stuff that is going on in my career besides SMASH. So, I've got the TINKER BELL series with Disney that I get to do with Anjelica - which is awesome! She's amazing.
PC: And DOROTHY OF OZ with Lea Michele, as well.
MH: Right. I am doing DOROTHY OF OZ, and, I have a new series on Nickelodeon called ROBOTS & MONSTERS that will come out in August. And, I can tell you that I just signed a record deal!
PC: Congratulations! That's such great news.
MH: Thank you. In the next couple of weeks I'll be starting to put that together and figure out what the sound is going to be and everything. It's thrilling! I am so excited.
PC: Let's hope we shall see BOMBSHELL on Broadway some season very soon, as well.
MH: You know, I hope so, too - because it would be great!
PC: And SMASH renewed for Season Two sometime very soon, too.
MH: We're all crossing our fingers! [Laughs.]
PC: It seems destined to be. Thank you so much for this today, Megan.
MH: Thank you, thank you, thank you, Pat. Bye bye.