DIVA TALK: Catching Up With "Smash" and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes Star Megan Hilty

By Andrew Gans
04 May 2012

Hilty and Bernadette Peters on "Smash."
Photo by Eric Liebowitz/NBC

Question: One of my favorite episodes was the one where Bernadette Peters played your mom. What was it like working with Bernadette?
Hilty: Unbelievable, because she's been my idol my whole life and really is one of the main reasons why I wanted to go into musical theatre in the first place. This goes deep for me — she is the only person that I've ever written a fan letter to. So when I heard that she was not only going to be in the show, but she was playing my mother and we were going to have scenes together — like very intimate scenes together — I was such an idiot around her on set. And, I still kind of am. [Laughs.] I haven't really gotten over it, but that's okay. I think that kind of works for their relationship.

Question: What was it like for you playing the first scene with her? Do you remember what you were thinking or did it seem out-of-body in a way?
Hilty: Well, slightly out-of-body, but I was able to get it together a little bit and just play the scene with her. I tried to brace myself the night before. I was like, "Don't let this get in the way. Don't be too in awe. Just remember that this is a scene partner. Try to forget…" And, I try to do that with everybody. I mean, there's Anjelica Huston, who I'm doing scenes with, and Debra Messing and Jack Davenport and Katharine McPhee, so I've had to kind of turn that off and just say, "Look, you're just doing a scene with a scene partner. Don't worry about the things that they bring with them or the things that they've done before because that will just get in the way. Just play the scene with them, and then you can act like an idiot afterwards." [Laughs.]

Hilty on "Smash."
photo by Patrick Harbron/NBC

Question: What would you say has been the most surreal moment on the series in terms of art imitating life since you come from the theatre world?
Hilty: You know, I think it was the moment that Christian [Borle]'s character, Tom, comes to me and says, "We love you. You're perfect. But we just need a star." We've all heard it. Everybody in this business has heard it. And, it's just a reality. It's not something that I judge or anything anymore. Before I used to be like, "Oh, man!" [Laughs.] This is a delicate subject, so I'm trying to tread lightly — because it is a sore spot for people. People work their hearts out in these workshops and readings and, ultimately, what sells tickets sometimes is a star — a recognizable name. I'm not saying that they're not right for the part, but it is a sore spot for people who go into these creative processes and pour their hearts out into these characters and then [are told], "Sorry, but… In certain people's eyes, you're not a star." [Laughs.] "You're not going to sell this show" — it's hard to hear, but it's a reality.

Question: How do you view Ivy? I think people have different takes on her. How do you perceive her?
Hilty: Well, I obviously can't judge her, especially negatively, because I have to play her, so I have to love her — which I do. I think she's fantastic, and I think she's one of the greatest, well-written [roles]. There is so much to do with this character because she's a human being. She has flaws — deep, deep flaws — like all of us do. And, yeah she makes some bad decisions, and she might react to some situations terribly, but she shows remorse. She's also a really good friend, and tries to be a good partner. And, she loves her job. There are really great parts about her, but there's some parts that she needs to work on, but that's what makes her human and a totally dynamic character to play.

Question: I think that she's a lot of fun to watch.
Hilty: Well, you never know what she's going to do! [Laughs.]