BWW Interview: Megan Hilty Talks Starring in PATSY & LORETTA
Megan Hilty stars as Patsy Cline in the Lifetime original movie, Patsy & Loretta. Hilty stars alongside Jessie Mueller, who plays Loretta Lynn. The film is based on the untold true story of the friendship between the music icons. When they first met, Patsy (Hilty) was already one of the biggest stars in country music while Loretta (Mueller) was just a coal miner's daughter, starting off with little to her name but a $17 guitar. Instead of seeing Loretta as competition, Patsy took Loretta under her wings to help her make it in Nashville.
Megan Hilty took the time to talk to us about what it was like getting to play such an iconic singer!
What was it like for you to get to play a character that was so influential, but also had such a tragic story?
Well, I would say that anytime you're playing a real person, it's incredibly daunting. Especially if you think too much about it. She was a remarkable human being on top of her singular talent, like this is there's nobody like Patsy Cline. So it can be overwhelming going into it, but when you look at it on a human level, you know and kind of take away all you know, the icon, part of her, she's this incredibly layered, sensitive, yet powerful person. Short answer - I was scared to do this, but it was one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had. And it was deeply inspirational researching her life and what she did for other people.
Were you able to watch any old interviews and performances of Patsy's to prepare for the role?
Well, the hard part for me in terms of research was that the only real things that I got to see her were the performances. And any kind of recording of her speaking is when she's in her shows or she's doing it publicly. And in several of her biographies it talks about how she was very nervous about her lack of education, so when she spoke in front of people, it was very careful, because she didn't want to sound uneducated. And so it took a lot of imagination to come up with how I thought she would speak off stage with the people she was comfortable with, because I didn't have much to go on for that. The thing that I didn't have that was helpful were handwritten letters that she wrote to other people. So, reading how she wrote in her own voice was very helpful. But, there was a lot of guesswork for the personal stuff.
This film has does a great job depicting the relationship between Patsy and Loretta, but it also shows what a struggle it was to be a female performer during this time period.
Yeah, I can speak to how hard it is being a working in show business today. I can only imagine how difficult it was when Patsy and Loretta were doing it, you know, when women were really expected to stay home and cook and clean and take care of the babies and the husband.
And these two women said, 'No, not only am I going to work, I'm going to be the breadwinner for the family, and I'm going to leave a lot.' And that must have been very, very difficult considering the social constraints for women at that time.
It makes you realize what a struggle it was for these women who paved the way for us to be where we are today.
Yeah, and one of the things that I found remarkable was that Loretta was not the only woman that Patsy took under her wing. I mean, I think Loretta was, at that time, her closest female friend, but in several of her biographies there are other female singers that say that she did the same thing for them, that she gave them stern, but loving talkings to about how they should dress, how they should handle themselves, how they should get paid, so that they could succeed in a business, that you would assume that everybody was highly competitive in.
It was powerful to watch a strong and successful woman be a role model for an up and coming performer.
Absolutely, yeah. It was inspiring to read about that even someone as trailblazing and as powerful as she was, she took the time to take care of the other women around her and realize that their success didn't take any of her success away, you know what I mean? I feel like that's the root of insecurity, right, you're afraid that if somebody else succeeds, it will take away from your success. But she, didn't think that way at all. She wanted everybody to be not only succeed but be treated fairly at the same time.
More people should follow her example because she shows that it works.
Yeah, well, that's one of the huge things that drew me to it was that it is a story about two women who love each other, who are dear friends and support each other. And yes, like any friendship, there are struggles, there are ups the downs. But, because I think so many studios and networks loves to make stories about women in high competition with each other, and they think that that's the most entertaining way to show female relationships. And this script shows just the opposite. That you can have two women starring in a show that love and support each other, and it's still really great to watch. It's just a story worth feeling. We don't have to be fighting all the time for it to be interesting.
The chemistry between you and Jessie was so strong. What was it like getting to work with her?
Oh my god. Well, I mean, I didn't know Jessie before this. I was a fan of hers because, you know, I'm a human with ears and she has a remarkable talent. But we do have two very, very, very close friends in common. And she did Beautiful with my best friend Carly Hughes who basically kind of set us up. And so we both knew of each other. And once we got to Nashville, I asked her out on a date and we went and had a lady dinner date. And just from the beginning, she's one of the easiest people to be yourself around, you know, she's wonderful, she's supportive and fun, with an amazing sense of humor. And now she's stuck with me for life. I will be her friend whether she likes it or not no matter what.
You mentioned how the film was shot in Nashville, did you enjoy being able to play a country role?
Oh yeah. For some reason, people like to hire me to play Southern people a lot. I'm not quite sure what that is, but I'll take it. But this is just a little different. Patsy, I don't know, she's different from anything else I've ever played because of how grounded she is. It was very different actually being in Nashville. And I thought it was imperative that we film it there in the middle of where all of this happened and is happening. It's very much a character in the story and just being around it. Like we really lucky enough to be invited to Loretta Lynn's birthday party with like, what 30,000 of her closest friends, and we got to pal around backstage and watch the inner workings of the country scene and see how like, everybody says, 'It's like a big family.' It is. I know, I was there. I thought everybody was like really loving and supportive, and that was very helpful to be there and to see the inner workings of the country scene. I don't know, it was a really, really wonderful experience.
Country music has many parallels to Broadway because there's so much storytelling that comes out of these songs, and even though the genres are different, the message and the heart that come from the songs are so similar.
Oh, absolutely. I think what's remarkable about both of these women's music is that they're so lyrically driven that it is reminiscent of musical theater. Because you could argue that COUNTRY MUSIC is all storytelling songs, you know. But Patsy and Loretta's music in particular, I think it really speaks to people because of the lyrics in each song, on top of their interpretation and their remarkable voices and all of that stuff. At the song core, it's lyrically driven, much like musical theater.
You really got to embody Patsy- costumes, wigs and all- what was that like?
Well, that was another big draw too. I was like, 'Well, I get to look like a person that I don't look like.' You know, like 'I get to change everything.' And that was really exciting to me. One of the first questions I asked, in the first phone call about doing this film, was about the hair. And I said, 'How much are you investing into good wig? Because I firmly believe that this could live and die with a bad wig.' Seriously, if we had a bad wigs, people would be just looking at that. They wouldn't be listening to what we were saying. No, they'd just be looking at it hair. But who designed our wigs is just a genius. And I just think she did a remarkable job. Every time we put our hair on, we'd say, 'Oh, there she is! Oh, she's here.' You know, the same with makeup, like my eyebrows, I'd be like 'Oh, there she is. There's Patsy.'
This is such an important story, and it's so great to see television and film embracing these productions centered around music.
Oh, absolutely. And I don't know if you noticed it, but they kept the entire song for all of them. And that rarely done in. I thought for sure, you know, we always record the whole song, and then they cut it up for time, but they kept the entire song for each one. And I think that it's so incredibly satisfying for an audience to enjoy the whole thing instead of just a snippet of it.
I love how these kinds of movies and shows are showing new audiences what music is all about in storytelling.
Absolutely, and I'm so proud to be a part of this one.
Patsy & Loretta premieres on Lifetime on October 19!