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'Smash' star Megan Hilty: Bernadette Peters is my idol


March 18, 2012|By Curt Wagner | RedEye

"Smash" star Megan Hilty always wanted to perform on Broadway, at least ever since she heard Bernadette Peters sing on the original cast recording of "Into the Woods."

"Her performance transcended the recording. It just came through and just spoke to me," Hilty said of the 1987 recording, which she listened to as a 6- or 7-year-old. "I was like, 'That's what I want to do. I want to do performances like that and I want to reach people like she does.'"

Not only has the now 30-year-old Hilty starred on Broadway; she's starring in the NBC series as Ivy Lynn, a Broadway baby who gets the role of a lifetime as the title character in "Marilyn the Musical." And to put "icing on the cake" of Hilty's dream TV job, she'll be doing it with Peters in "The Workshop," airing at 9 p.m. March 19.

Broadway legend Peters plays Leigh Conroy, a Broadway legend who happens to be Ivy's mom. She visits Ivy just as the shows producers and cast are preparing to do a workshop performance for potential investors, but her disapproving attitude causes Ivy even more stress.

Despite the friction between their characters, Hilty was thrilled about working with Peters when I chatted with her in February at Eagle Street Studios in Brooklyn, where "Smash" often films.

"She was my idol. She still is. She's everything I ever wanted to be growing up," Hilty gushed. "When I heard she was playing my mother, I mean, that was just like, 'Really? Who's going through my diary and finding out all the things that I ever wanted to do?'"

Hilty, who debuted on Broadway playing Glinda in "Wicked" and originated the role of Doralee Rhodes in "9 to 5: The Musical," and I talked more about Peters, Ivy and how honored she is to be a weekly advertisement for Broadway.

For bonus moments from our chat, check out the video interview above. And for clips from "The Workshop," click the link in the "related" column to the left of the page. (You'll get to see Peters sing "Everything's Coming Up Roses.")

Ivy's mother is coming to the show and is played by Bernadette Peters. But I wanted to tell you that Ivy's reaction in the premiere when she's on the phone with her mom, who seems not interested at all in her good news about her casting, well, the tore me up.
Oh, thanks. We actually reshot that several times. We did it different ways, where I'm like not even listening to her to putting on my makeup. But [the aired version] was the one that we originally shot and it ultimately ended up being the one that they kept. 

Ivy's disappointed and sort of heartbroken. That's something I think a lot of people can relate to, because moms either don't pay attention, or they don't approve sometimes.
Absolutely. Yeah, and not just moms. We all feel like we have to live up to other people's expectations, whether they're a mother or other family member or friends or colleagues. So, yeah, that's another really identifiable moment, I think, regardless of what field you're in. You don't have to be in the theater to know that. 

Tell me about Bernadette Peters, acting with her.
She's so fantastic. She's so generous and so loving and she's such a fantastic actress on top of everything. It was kind of like getting a little master class every time working with her.

So give me a little taste about when your mom shows up in "The Workshop."
You're almost there [with your reaction to the pilot scene]. She has multiple scenes and they're all heartbreaking. And her performance is unbelievable. People are going to get a real treat when she gets on the show.

Growing up in Washington, did you think, "I'm going to be in New York and on Broadway"? 
Yeah, that was always the goal and it was always like, "I'm going to be on Broadway and that's just what I'm going to do." 

All the way across the U.S., how did you come to that conclusion? 
My love for it started with the "Into the Woods" cast album. I became obsessed with it, and specifically Bernadette Peters' performance on it. 

And everything kind of snowballed after that. I always loved theater and I was always doing youth theater things and community theater, anything I could get my hands on growing up. I went to a performing arts high school and then a conservatory after that and it just was never a question of doing anything else. 

And my parents were very, very supportive, just "OK, go and try it. We'll be here if you need us." 

Tell me about Ivy's relationship with Derek.
It's so fantastic, because it's so unconventional. Here are these two really big personalities that I don't know that I ever saw that working so well. But the two of them get something from this relationship that is completely separate from their working relationship. They both get something from it that's so interesting to me and it's almost like volatile and it's a very tumultuous relationship.

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