Megan Hilty and Christian Borle on the set of Smash
A Broadway diva turned television actress (playing a Broadway diva), Megan Hilty is the embodiment of her character, Ivy Lynn, on NBC’s Smash. When a melody plays, her expression changes. Swaying to the rhythm of the music like a modern day Marilyn Monroe, the actress hits every note effortlessly, catapulting us into a Broadway theater from the comfort of our couch.
Born in Bellevue, Washington, Hilty made her Broadway debut as the understudy for the role of Glinda in the musical Wicked, eventually taking the lead role. After playing minor parts in a slew of television shows, she finally showed her chops to the masses in Smash, which also stars Katharine McPhee, Debra Messing, and Anjelica Huston. Set around the attempted production of Bombshell, a musical about Marilyn Monroe, the show has garnered momentum during its second season by stepping away from the musical and delving into the characters, as well as different genres of music—and by bringing on guest star Jennifer Hudson.
Here, Hilty opens up about Smash, her new album, and why dancing isn’t her strong suit.
Ivy Lynn is a big character. Did you have any hesitation on whether you could fully play her?
MEGAN HILTY: I saw that Ivy was a dancer, and not just a dancer but [one in] an ensemble number for like ten years, so that means she’s pretty incredible. And I told my manager, ‘This is never going to happen. I know they’re going to have me dancing—that’s not going to be pretty.’ But she talked me into it, and luckily they brought in a choreographer that makes it look like I know what I’m doing.
Well, you certainly look like a natural dancer on the show.
MH: Yeah, I mean, I can move. But I definitely wouldn’t call myself a dancer.
How is this season of Smash different from the first?
MH: Well, a lot has changed. We had new changes both onscreen and off. New characters, newer musicals, a new genre of music. We want it to be a more rich kind of feel with the new musical, which is very different from Bombshell. There’s a lot of music this season.
How close is the world of Smash to the actual world of Broadway?
MH: I mean, there are some things we have fought for to keep it as authentic as we can, but we’re not doing a reality show. It’s funny to hear some people in the theater community going, ‘Well, that’s not how it really happens.’ I’m sure doctors don’t look at ER or Private Practice and say the same thing. It’s not about that, it’s about these crazy characters and their relationships to each other.
You have a new album out, It Happens All the Time. Describe the overall sound.
MH: I started doing these pop covers on Smash, and Stephen Ferrera from Columbia [Records] asked if this was something I wanted to do. I always thought that since I was a musical theater person that if I did an album it would have to be a musical theater album. And that was just something I didn’t want to do for myself. So when he approached me about this, I thought it would be a really awesome challenge, and a great way to grow and stretch myself.
At first it was going to be an album of covers, but then Columbia started introducing me to original songs. So many of them ended up working and it changed the direction of the album completely. Now it’s about half covers, half originals. I’m so proud of it!