At first, it was surprisingly difficult to hate Frumpkis' new wife Charlene on Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce. Though we're always on the side of our girl Jo and her divorce battle, Charlene's ever-present wide grin and sweet Southern charm actually lit up the screen. That was, of course, until it became abundantly clear that (SPOILERS) her gentility covered up a sinister side aiming to move in on Jo's bakery and her baker.
But hate her or really hate her, Charlene sure is fun to watch on screen, and that's all thanks to the actress behind her, Megan Hilty, who GG2D welcomed as one of its new guest stars for Season 2. However, her stint on GG2D isn't the only reason January has been a busy month for the actress, who previously stole scenes as Ivy Lynn in the NBC musical dramedy Smash. After wowing audiences as Glinda in Wicked and originating the role of Doralee Rhodes in 9 to 5: The Musical, Megan returned to the stage earlier this month to star as Brooke Ashton in the Broadway revival of Michael Frayn's classic farce Noises Off. In fact, the rest of the year promises to be pretty busy for Megan as she performs a slew of Valentine's Day concerts with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra next month and gears up for her annual two-week run at The Carlyle in May.
Megan took some time out before a performance of Noises Off to chat with The Daily Dish about GG2D fans' reactions to Charlene, her secret to staying energized onstage, and the possibility of more Smash in the future.
Why did you want to be a part of GG2D and take on the role of Charlene?
Megan Hilty: Well, I loved Season 1, so when they called me and asked me about it, I immediately was interested. And then when they said I would be doing all my scenes with Alanna Ubach, I was like, oh, please, please, count me in. I am a huge fan of hers. So getting to work with her was amazing. And then once I was on set, getting to know that she was the nicest person on the planet, now I'm an even bigger fan of hers. She should be worried. I'm a superfan.
What was it like to be such a huge fan of Alanna's in real life and then have to play her adversary on the show?
It was so much fun because I was doing things I would never dream of doing, especially to her. It's always fun to get to play those characters that are so far from who you actually are. So yeah, we had a great time.
We heard a lot about Charlene before she actually appeared on the show, so do you think how you portrayed her on screen lived up to how fans may have pictured the character?
Guessing by how people have reacted to this character on Twitter, I think I lived up to everything that was said about her. [One user] tweeted, "So what does everybody think about Megan Hilty's character Charlene?" And all of these people started saying, "I want to kill her. I hate her." Like, oh God. At first, I was a little alarmed by it, but then I was like, "Oh, I guess I just did my job."
Did you take inspiration for Charlene from anywhere?
Oh gosh. I don't know. Not from really anybody that I know. But you know, everybody knows that type of character that has ulterior motives and trying to mask those motives with sweetness. I've certainly played characters like that before, but I can't say that I know very many people like that in my personal life.
What would Charlene's Real Housewives tagline would be?
She'd probably say something like, "I'm sugar and spice and anything but nice."
Out of the four main characters (Abby, Jo, Phoebe, and Delia), who do you identify with the most and why?
Oh gosh. I don't know. I think what makes the show so successful is you can see yourself in every character a little bit. You know, it's kind of like Sex and the City. Sometimes, you're totally one character, but mostly you're a little bit of all of them. So I guess that's what I'd say. I love the show because I identify with all of them.
As a fan of the show, what are you hoping to see happen next as we head toward the end of the season?
I am hoping to see a major spinoff series called Charlene the Southern Wonder [laughs]. I don't know. It's been a wild ride for all of them, so I don't know. I'm just amazed I get to see what happens to all of them next. I'm a big fan.
You're currently starring in Noises Off on Broadway, which is an iconic play and one that a lot of actors aspire to be in. Was that the case for you?
Yeah, I've always been a fan of the play, and I've seen it several times, but I never, never dreamed that I would actually get to do it. I don't think I really saw myself playing any of the characters. I was like, oh, I really love this play, but I don't know what I would do in it. I certainly never thought that I'd play a character where I ran around with no clothes on. Certainly not after having a baby, too. But, you know, never say never.
It was over two years ago that I had my first meeting about it. I don't think I'm gonna get it. And then about a year ago, they called and said, "Hey, if you're not doing anything next year, we'd still like you to do this." And I said, "Well, yeah. Great. I would be honored to get to do this, actually, especially with this group of actors." They're all incredible performers and watching them work has just been like going back to college, watching the best of the best do what they do.
It seems like with this ensemble group of comedic actors, it would be non-stop fun to work on this show. Is that the case?
Yeah, rehearsing has been a little difficult because it's so technical. It's hard to run the show without an audience. So once we started getting in front of an audience, we figured out the rhythm of the show. That's when it started to get really fun.
You're known for your work in musicals, so why did you decide to now do a play Broadway?
I thought it was important, first and foremost, to do something that was funny. It's so strange, I was thinking about this a little while ago, and the TV that I've been lucky enough to do, I've played really mean people. On stage, I play really nice people. And for the most part, they see the TV stuff, so people kind of have this idea of me that I'm a mean person, kind of like when you're playing Charlene in Girlfriends' Guide. So I really wanted to do something where I was playing a nice person and make people laugh.
And I thought it was important to do something on stage where I didn't sing. There's this really weird misconception that people who do musicals can't do plays, which is so strange. I keep getting backhanded compliments from even, like, acting professors that come and see the shows. They're like, "Wow, we didn't think that you could act outside of a musical." I'm like, "What do you think we're doing in a musical?" It's not a different switch, like I'm turning on the acting switch. It's such a strange concept that you wouldn't be able to do both.
Was there any sort of different preparation that went into this role versus for the musicals that you've been in on Broadway?
Well, this is the first time that I really wanted to be in the best shape of my life, to be honest, not for the sake of looking good — that was a byproduct of it — but I wanted to be really, really comfortable wearing little clothing because if I'm not comfortable, I'm not going to be funny. People are going to pick up on the fact that I'm feeling insecure, and they're going to be worried about me on some subconscious level and thinking about that instead of the work that we're doing onstage. So that was a really big thing for me, getting comfortable physically before the show started. And then there's other dialect work, playing a British actress and all of that stuff. Aside from that, I don't have to sing which is great. Of course, I don't want to make it sound like I don't care about taking care of my voice, but there is a different approach to doing musicals and keeping your voice healthy to sing eight shows a week.
Noises Off is very physically demanding. Do you have any tricks to keep your energy up throughout the whole show?
I got a Nespresso machine for my dressing room. Yes, I'm a big pusher of the Nespresso. I should be a salesperson... I have turned into the barista backstage to keep [the cast] really caffeinated and getting through the show.
How has being a new mom affected working on Broadway, where you're doing eight shows a week, and on TV?
Well, it was really kind of difficult for Girlfriends' Guide, because those were the first times that I was away from her [daughter Viola]. Every other time that I've traveled for work, I was with my husband [Brian Gallagher], and she just came with us. But that trip from New York to Vancouver is a really big one. So I was just by myself. It was tough, but we figured it out. It's tough on both me and my husband, who was here by himself. But we figure it out, just like everything else.
What was it like to reunite with your Smash castmates for the special one-night-only Bombshell concert in New York last June? Did you think you'd ever be singing those songs again?
It was unlike anything I've ever been a part of. Aside from knowing that the songs have some kind of life after Smash, it was so cool knowing the fan base for that show is getting bigger by the day and that there are people out there that really appreciate seeing that show. So that was really, really cool. And of course it was amazing to get back together again with all my old friends.
Were you surprised by the fan and audience reaction to the concert?
Oh yeah. Nothing could have prepared me for that reaction. It was like a huge rock concert for musical theater people. You know, the response, it was kind of overwhelming, actually.
We're going on three years after the show went off the air in May 2013. Did you ever think there would still be such a passionate fan following for the show?
I definitely thought there was potential for it because there really hadn't been anything like it that has that kind of Broadway-style choreography... It brought a piece of Broadway into people's living rooms once a week. That's exciting. I definitely thought there was potential, but it was still a nice surprise.
Since Smash, we've seen a lot of musicals on TV with NBC's live musicals (The Sound of Music, Peter Pan, and The Wiz), Grease Live airing on Fox next weekend, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, a musical TV show, currently airing on The CW. So what do you think about TV as a medium through which to experience musicals?
I think it's great, and I think as they do more and more of these shows, they're really figuring out how to do them well, which is really exciting.
Would you ever want to be a part of a musical TV show again?
Oh, absolutely. Yeah. Smash was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. OK, aside from my husband. My husband just gave me a side glance. Aside from my husband and my daughter and my dog — I have to make sure that they're covered — it was one of the greatest things that ever happened to me. I would love to be a part of something like that again.
Are there any future plans for another Smash reunion, concert, or anything like that you can reveal?
Oh gosh, not that I know of. As far as I know, everybody is off doing their own thing. Smash did great things for all of us, so it's exciting to see where everybody is.
Hopefully, there will be another Bombshell concert.
Yeah, hopefully there will be another one. There was such a great response for it, hopefully they get it together and do another one.
Watch Megan dish on how Smash was similar to the real-life Broadway during her appearance on Watch What Happens Live in 2012.
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