Patricia Sheridan's Breakfast With ... Megan Hilty

She plays Ivy Lynn, an ambitious Broadway actress, on the NBC hit series "Smash." It's something actress Megan Hilty knows a little about. The Carnegie Mellon University grad starred as Glinda in "Wicked" and went on to play the Dolly Parton role in the musical "9 to 5," also on Broadway. The multitalented 31-year-old will debut her first album, "It Happens All the Time," from Portrait and Columbia Records March 12. The two-hour season premiere of "Smash" airs 9 p.m. Tuesday.

Have you ever been hit on by a casting director, or is that a thing of the past?

No, never [laughing]. I mean, you always hear stories of things happening, but I really can't speak to it. All I know is that it's really never happened to me. And I guess I don't see Ivy and Derek [characters in "Smash"] as a casting couch thing because they actually have a relationship. It wasn't about getting a job for either of them. I know it can be taken that way, but it wasn't.

How do you cope with the anxiety before a big audition or your first performance on Broadway? Can you sleep?

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with Megan Hilty.

Oh yeah, I can sleep at night. I never have any problem sleeping [laughs]. I guess I am just constantly going over things in my head, but I try not to freak out about it. I'll always be nervous before anything, but I try not to let it totally control my life. I'm always nervous, so I don't want it to sound like I'm this super confident person, but I think you just have to learn how to channel that energy.

Have you ever been fearful during a performance such as when something goes wrong?

This is going to sound really weird, but I almost look forward to the mistakes because they are inevitable. I mean, it's never going to be perfect. That's what keeps it exciting. When things go wrong, you have to figure out how to get back on track.

You graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in a very competitive program. How important is that competitive spirit or having a competitor?

I don't know because I don't really look at it as competition. I mean, the right person is going to get the job. I hate thinking that we're all up against each other. You know, we are all in this community together, and I would like to think that we could all support each other. The competition part comes out of insecurity and that's it. I think if we all focus more on going in and doing the best job that we can do we will all be a lot better off.

Wow, you sound like you were raised by a Zen master.

[Laughing] I'm not saying this is like, always the case. I mean there's always going to be, I don't know, I guess, competition. We are constantly up against other people, but if you look at it like that you are just going to get in your own way.

When did you decide that you wanted to be a performer?

It was probably in middle school shortly after I started taking voice lessons. I was always obsessed with music, loved the theater and the opera. I was just constantly surrounding myself with it. I always knew I would be in the arts in some capacity whether it was on stage or screen or behind the scenes.

How much influence did your parents have on your path?

My parents were of the mindset that I'm going to figure out life for myself and they were just very supportive of all the things that I chose to do. They didn't introduce me to anything or make me go into the theater or ask me to try any of that stuff, but anytime I had a show they were the first people there. There was never any question. There was never the backup plan, you know?

So did you inherit this talent or are you just the anomaly in the family?

Um, well, now my grandfather has gotten into community theater [laughing]. He's kind of the big shot in southern Washington [state]. Before I was kind of the weirdo because nobody had done anything like this.

You have said you don't like watching yourself, but what is it you don't like watching?

I hate saying the word "artist." It feels like it is so pretentious, but I'm gonna use it anyway. I think any artist has a really hard time watching or looking at their work because you are never going to be satisfied. You are always going to find things wrong, but that's how you grow. I mean, the minute I say, "Oh yeah, I nailed that," then there is something wrong [laughing]. I'll still watch it, but I can't watch everything. It just drives me crazy.

Would you call yourself a perfectionist?

No, because I don't think there is such a thing as perfect. I don't think perfect is real or attainable.

When you are taping "Smash," do you get to sing a song all the way through, or are they calling "cut"?

We do it all the way through. We very rarely do pieces of songs. Even when we switch into fantasy, we usually do a whole song, and we do it live. Even when we are quote-unquote "lip-syncing" we are singing full out so it doesn't look like we are just moving our mouths. So we are singing full out all day long.

Was your goal always musical theater?

Originally I wanted to be an opera singer. I even went to opera camp. I'll betcha didn't even know there was such a thing as opera camp [laughing]. I just started kind of realizing that wasn't the lifestyle that was meant for my personality. I still love it, and I still desperately dream of being in an opera one day. Musical theater just seemed like that was the perfect fit for me. It was a no-brainer, and the goal was always Broadway.

Now that you are so recognized, did your personal life change? Is it harder to date?

[Laughing] I luckily don't have to worry about that because I have the greatest boyfriend in the whole world. So I don't have to worry about all that madness.

What about the other side of it, being recognized?

Oh, it's great. The reason why we do this, the arts in general, is to spark conversation, to spark ideas and thoughts about life, to put it very generally. That's not a private thing. I view it as a very public thing, so I love talking to people on the street about "Smash" and about my character. Whether they hate the show or Ivy or they love her in the show, it doesn't matter. It just means they are invested somehow, and they have opinions. I mean, that's what the arts are for, so I love it.

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Patricia Sheridan: or 412-263-2613. Follow her on Twitter at First Published February 4, 2013 5:00 AM


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