Smash Star Megan Hilty Likes to Read Marilyn Biographies

Broadway baby Megan Hilty (Getty Images)

In the feature on the death of camp in today’s paper, we spoke to Smash star Megan Hilty, who plays one of two actresses auditioning for the role of Marilyn Monroe. “Last year, I was gearing up for yet another pilot season–” Ms. Hilty laughed ruefully “–and the script for Smash just kind of stuck out like a sore thumb. A TV show that was centered around my life and my world and things that I knew so well, and I immediately wanted to be a part of it.”

Smash looks at the behind-the-scenes Broadway world, but Ms. Hilty saw a limitation immediately: “The character breakdown was that she was a dancer–in the ensemble for ten years. Knowing people who’ve been in the ensemble—I know I’m not a dancer, I don’t have that skillset. I really, really want to be a part of this, and I don’t want to put myself through a horrifying dance call and waste everybody’s time and my dignity.” Happily the show’s choreographers were able to set her straight.”

As for the show’s similarities to that other musical on the air: “People who haven’t seen it, compare it to Glee. How many shows feature music numbers? I think we’re wildly different in tone and subject matter—but we do owe everything we have to Glee.”

We asked, in the season that has seen Michelle Williams get nominated for an Oscar for playing Marilyn then trotting that character out on magazine covers, if it was possible to distinguish oneself playing Monroe. “Well, she is certainly having a moment!,” said Ms. Hilty. “My whole career so far is taking things other people have established and trying to make them my own!” (Ms. Hilty took over a lead role in Wicked and played the Dolly Parton role in the musical adaptation of 9 to 5.) “I can always hide behind Ivy Lynn. I’m playing a character who’s playing Marilyn Monroe. That makes it a little less daunting. But I’m constantly doing research and—all of her biographies are wildly different and all cover different parts of her life. No one biography has her whole story! There’s always something else to learn and infuse into the character.”

Smash Star Megan Hilty Likes to Read Marilyn Biographies