As the temporary shutdown of Broadway and theatres around the world continues, Playbill is reaching out to artists to see how they are physically and creatively responding to a changed world.
The series continues with Tony nominee Megan Hilty, who made her Broadway debut as Glinda in Wicked, a role she repeated on the national tour and in Los Angeles. She subsequently played Doralee, the Dolly Parton role, in the Broadway production of 9 to 5: The Musical (Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, Drama League Award nominations), and received Tony and Drama Desk nominations for her work in the 2016 revival of Noises Off. Her numerous screen credits include Smash, Desperate Housewives, Eli Stone, The First Wives Club, The Good Fight, Patsy & Loretta, and Sweet Mountain Christmas.
Hilty can currently be heard as Holly Darlin' in TrollsTopia, which is inspired by the DreamWorks Animation films and offers the next chapter in the hair-raising adventures of the trolls. Now available to stream on Peacock and Hulu, the series also features Skylar Astin, Amanda Leighton, Kenan Thompson, and more.
Can you tell me a bit about your role in TrollsTopia?
For anyone who has seen the movie, Trolls World Tour, DreamWorks TrollsTopia picks up on those themes and runs with them! After realizing there are many other kinds of trolls from different music genres, Poppy invites the ambassadors from each tribe to come live with them. I play Holly Darlin', the ambassador for the Country Western tribe. She is a southern spitfire! She is kind, has fabulous hair, cares deeply for her friends, and is always ready to party. The show is all about teamwork, friendship, celebrating our differences, and creating beautiful music together. I am so proud to be a part of this show and to share its themes (and awesome songs!) with kids and adults of all ages.
What is your typical day like now?
I get up with my kids around 5:30 AM and don't stop until they go to sleep at 7:30 PM. Our days are all about them—helping Viola (six years old) keep up with her schoolwork and making sure Ronan (three years old) stays busy. I am fortunate enough to have several animated shows, like TrollsTopia, that I can work on from our make-shift studio at home. We schedule our days around those recording times, so the kids are far away while I'm working. By the time the kids go to bed at night, we are completely exhausted.
What book/TV show/podcast/film should everyone take the time to consume during this period?
I've read (and re-read) Malcolm Gladwell's Talking to Strangers, and it's one of those books I wish every human would read. It's basically about how we have lost the ability to communicate with each other. We unfairly prejudge and misinterpret people we don't know based on our own baggage, which can unnecessarily escalate situations, often leading to terrible outcomes. It seems particularly poignant during these polarizing times we find ourselves living in today. I've also been listening to The Happiness Lab. It's a podcast all about the science of happiness, and it has helped me snap back into focus when I find myself getting really down.
During this time of reflection and re-education regarding BIPOC artists and artistry, particularly in the theatre, what do you want people (those in power, fellow actors, audiences) to be aware of? What do you want them to consider further?
I hope for real, equitable, systemic change in the Broadway community. I think we should all be listening to people in organizations like The Broadway Advocacy Coalition and taking their lead.
What advice would you give to someone who may be struggling with the isolation?
I don't know that I have any good advice... especially because I find it extremely difficult myself even though I am constantly surrounded by my family. I will say that what helps me is when I make the effort to reach out to the friends and family I haven't seen in a long time. It lifts my spirits and makes me feel like my pre-COVID-lockdown self.
How, if at all, are you keeping your creative juices flowing? Has that been helpful to you?
I have been deeply fortunate to have my voiceover career. I started working really hard to break into that part of the industry about 12 years ago, and not only is it deeply fulfilling, creatively, but it is really the majority of my work and income now that all live performances have come to a complete standstill. Every time I start a recording session, I thank my lucky stars—they are a complete joy and a godsend.
Are you working on any theatrical projects during this time?
Just my daughter's holiday program at her school. I was delighted when they asked me to lead a couple of songs in the virtual sing-along. We are all pretty excited about it.
What organization would you recommend people learn more about or donate to during this time of change?
The Broadway Advocacy Coalition was extremely generous and courageous to film a virtual #BroadwayforBLM forum. It is an enlightening, inspiring, and necessary call to action for real, equitable, systemic change in the Broadway community. You can find the recordings of these forums on YouTube.