It is hard to believe that the bubbly, beautiful and sweet-natured Meg Donnelly got her start playing mean girls for ABC’s What Would You Do? as there is nothing mean about her. This seventeen-year-old model, dancer, actor and singer is getting people talking about her via her funny and relatable portrayal as athlete-turned-popular girl Taylor Otto on ABC’s hit comedy American Housewife.
The team at TheCelebrityCafe.com actually heard wonderful things about her from costar Carly Hughes last winter, so we just knew that we had to speak with this young woman from New York.
Meg Donnelly spoke with Michelle Tompkins about her life-long interest in acting, her love of the theater--especially musicals, her dream role on Broadway, how she got the part of Taylor on American Housewife, what the cast and crew really think about each other, which castmate she just had to give a shout out to, her upcoming role in a Disney project, what she likes to do for fun, who is her celebrity crush and more.
Michelle Tompkins: I'm excited to talk to you. This is great. Now, you should know that Carly really bragged on you a lot during her interview.
Meg Donnelly: I'm excited to talk to you, too. I love her so much. She's Broadway royalty. I'm not even joking.
MT: She really is. I saw her in Pippin.
MD: No way.
MT: I did.
MD: Isn't she amazing?
MT: Oh, she is incredible and oh, so kind. Now, where are you from?
MD: I'm from New York.
MT: And where do you live now?
MT: Okay. How old are you?
MT: Okay. I wasn't sure—you can look younger or older.
MD: [laughter] Yeah. I definitely look like I'm 12, and some days I look like I'm 20.
MT: I'm sure your mom loves that.
MD: Yeah, right.
MT: Do you have brothers and sisters?
MD: No, I'm the only child.
MT: And I read that you're a dancer. Which kinds of dance classes did you take?
MD: Yeah. I love taking hip hop. That's my favorite. And that's pretty much it. Zumba classes are actually really fun, so I take those with my mom sometimes.
MT: Did you take dance classes when you were little?
MD: Yes. It was mostly musical theater and hip hop and Broadway.
MT: Now, do you go to regular high school or are you home schooled? How does that work?
MD: No, I'm home schooled. I went to school in New York, but now, since I'm out here in LA, I'm doing internet school. But I only have one more year left, so I’m almost done.
MT: Do you have any future educational plans?
MD: Well, since I'm working now, I'm not really thinking about it and I just kind of want to go work, but in the future, if everything comes to a pause, I would love to go to college.
MT: Now, how did you know that you wanted to become an actor?
MD: Actually, it started as a hobby. I was in a playhouse, and I was just going there for fun after school. And then, there was a recital that we do at the end of every year, and an agent came to the show and was like, "Do you want to sign your daughter?" My parents and I were like, "What does that even mean?" And I just started doing it professionally, but it still seems like a hobby. So it's kind of weird. But after a while just doing it, I'm like, I cannot see myself doing anything else besides this, and it makes me the happiest. So I think as long as you're happy doing what you're doing, that's all that matters.
MT: Now, when Carly was bragging on you last winter, she mentioned that you were a theater girl, too.
MD: Oh, yeah.
MT: Can you please tell me about some of your theater work?
MD: Yeah, I actually did a Broadway reading for a musical with Carly, and played Diana Ross — just take that in for a second.
MT: Oh, that's pretty awesome.
MD: Yeah. And so that's how I actually met Carly before American Housewife, and I looked up to her ever since. And I was in the Sound of Music Live with Carrie Underwood. I was an understudy. And that was a crazy experience. That was insane.
MT: Tell me about that. That must have been very hard.
MD: Oh my gosh, yeah. So basically they rehearsed six weeks. They rehearsed four weeks at a rehearsal space in SoHo, in New York. And then we rehearsed three weeks at where they actually performed it on all the sets in this huge set in Long Island. And it was really interesting, because they did everything, the blocked out all the theater stuff first. And then when we went to the stage it was all to do with cameras. So everything basically changed because we had to do it on camera. And it was really interesting to see that process. And then also Stephen Moyer was just amazing. And Carrie Underwood — everyone was just so nice. And Audra McDonald who's Broadway royalty was amazing.
MT: Oh, I love that. But we didn't actually see you on it since you were an understudy. Is that correct?
MD: Yeah, I actually was in the audience for one part, when they're performing.
MT: Do you have any plans to go back to the theater?
MD: I would love to, yes. I actually miss home so much. So I think going back to theater is definitely something I want to do. Maybe when I get a little bit older, there’s more opportunities on Broadway, but yeah, that would be amazing.
MT: Would you prefer to do something like a Broadway musical, or would you want to do a drama play? Do you have a dream Broadway gig?
MD: I don't know if I could even do this, but I would love to be Mimi in Rent. That's always been my dream roll. Rent is my favorite musical of all time. I would love to do that. I would love— maybe like a Shakespeare in the Park type thing. I love Midsummer Night's Dream. It's my show.
MT: I think that's the one that they did this year.
MT: I think so. Now, what was your first professional, otherwise known as paid, gig?
MD: I did a Target ad. It was just jeans, Target denim. Around the same time I did an episode of Sesame Street with Juanes and we sang about hands, head and feet in Spanish.
MT: Do you speak Spanish?
MD: No, I don't. I actually speak Japanese, though.
MT: Oh, wow. How did that come about?
MD: Well, actually there was this Japanese boy in my school, as an exchange program. And I befriended them, and I was like, "Oh my gosh. This is so cool." So then I just started learning Japanese. And then they helped me out. They're back in Japan now.
MT: Now please tell me again about being on What Would You Do? What kind of characters did you portray?
MD: Oh. Well the first one I did I was harassing homeless people [laughter].
MT: Oh no!
MD: Yeah. I was just a teenager, and we were basically having this homeless man do stuff for money, really awful things. And people were walking by and people— it was in New Jersey, everyone was just like, "Excuse me?" And they came after us. That was scary, but it was so much fun.
And then the second one I did was, it was me and this other girl, we were trying to tell our friend to take diet pills in a restaurant and see if people would sign in. And a lot of people did which is really cool.
Then the third one, finally, I wasn't a bully. I had to go to Portland, Oregon, and I did this episode where we were in this cafe and this predator came up to me and it was like, "I want you to get in my car and we'll practice music and stuff like that," and see if people sign in.
MT: I bet many people did on that one.
MD: Yeah, yeah. That was really fun, especially going to a different place and filming, It was really cool to experience there.
MT: Now, how did you come to hear about American Housewife?
MD: Well, I got the call from my agent and it was like, "Can you go on for this? ABC Studios in New York asked." "Oh, God, it's so cool." And at the time it was the second test for Taylor. [laughter]. It was originally called The Second Fattest Housewife In Westport. Yeah, that what it was called first. And that's how I found out about it.
MT: Now tell me about the audition process?
MD: So I went to the headquarters in New York that they have— and it's just reading the script I knew I wanted to play Taylor because she is just relatable and she's so funny. And the show was so funny, the script. We had one scene was about me talking to Greg about his history profession which was hilarious because I was making fun of him the whole time. The second one was about Katie and Taylor, about tampons what to do with that. The first time using tampons, that was funny. And I went to three auditions, and then the flew me out for a screen test, which is basically like you just read all the sites in front of all the executive producers. And they were all so nice. I remember they came out and they were like, "Oh, really-- I just love your daughter." And I was like, "Oh, my gosh, yes." So they ended up casting someone to the pilot.
MD: Yeah. So I'm not even in the pilot. And then, they ended up recasting it. And I thought when the agent gave me the new sides, I thought it was going to be the best friend, like Taylor's best friend on the show. "No, it's Taylor." And I was like, "What? There's no way." And after I didn't get the pilot, i was actually thinking about taking a break for a while because I was like, "It's been a year that I haven't done anything, so I just going to take a break and just focus on school and kind of give it up for a little bit. And then he was like, "Oh, they are recasting right now." I was like, "Oh, my gosh." Then I went three more times, and then I flew up for another screen test. Yeah, I got Taylor. It was an experience [laughter].
MT: How did you celebrate after you got the part?
MD: Oh, my goodness. My mom and I were actually walking on a street and I got a call from my agent and they said that I got the part. And my mom and I were jumping up and down crying in the middle of the street, we were both balling. And since it's New York, no one even cared there. They thought it was normal. But we were thrilled. It was great.
MT: Now for those not familiar with American Housewife, what can you please tell us about Taylor?
MD: Yes. Taylor is the oldest daughter of three. In season 2, she used to be very sporty, but now she's kind of transitioned out of that, and basically, her only hobby is being popular kind of [laughter]. She has more sense of a style, she's kind of struggling through being a teenager like getting attention from her parents. And I think she's definitely relatable to every teenager out there.
MT: I think the Katie character of the mom is relatable. My sister actually feels very much like her.
MD: [laughter] Yeah, you know I feel like Katie is kind of the unspoken voice that every single mom has. Even if you don't act upon your actions like Katie does, everyone thinks like Katie, for the most part. And I think that's really cool because people watch it and they're like, "Oh my gosh. I think that."
MT: So what's your favorite thing about the show?
MD: I think my favorite thing is the crew and the cast. It doesn't even seem like a job. And also the fans, too. It's been such great feedback from everyone. Just the fact that the crew and the cast are so amazing, it makes watching the show and seeing the finished product so much better.
MT: I'll bet the set's fun between takes.
MD: Oh yeah. Constantly just joking and pulling pranks on each other, and teasing each other constantly. It's amazing.
MT: Are you working on any additional TV or film projects?
MD: Over the summer I worked on a Disney Channel movie.
...i've been dreaming of this moment since forever. after i recorded this, i balled my eyes out and i'm still shaking. there are no words!!! pic.twitter.com/E6EBJ6tzM5
— meg donnelly (@ImMegDonnelly) September 30, 2017
MT: What is it called?
MD: Oh, it's called Zombies, and it's a musical.
MT: Well, tell me a little bit about that. What kind of character did you play? I'm guessing a singing zombie, or a singing mean girl.
MD: No, actually, I am a girl who falls in love with a zombie.
MT: Even better.
MD: Yeah, basically it's set in this town called Seabrook and it's segregated into two parts, humans and zombies. So they're not allowed to talk to each other, and zombies have a curfew. So the movie starts out with it's the first year that zombies can meet humans in school. And my character Addison who's a human, and then Zed who's a zombie, we narrate the movie from our points of view of the world. And then they meet, and then all the chaos that happens after that.
MT: Does it have a release date of when it's supposed to air?
MD: Oh yeah. Actually, we don't have a specific date yet, but in January.
MT: Okay. Great. Now, what are your career goals?
MD: I really want to do music, because I love singing. And I think that's something I can achieve maybe from Zombies coming out maybe since it's a musical there will be opportunities for that. My ultimate goal is doing music and acting and having a balance between that, hopefully.
MT: Now when you're not working, what do you like to do for fun?
MD: I definitely love to hang out with my family or friends. I love going on adventures and just meeting new people. I think that's so much fun just driving around or walking anywhere. I definitely like to do spontaneous things, and I also love surfing, too, which I can do a lot more since I'm in California, which is really cool.
MT: I’ll bet. A little harder, in fact, not impossible, but a little harder in New York.
MD: Yeah, it's a little hard. [laughter].
MT: Now, what are some of your favorite movies and TV shows?
MD: Well, SpongeBob is definitely my favorite show. I love SpongeBob and I love Seinfeld, too. I watch that all the time. And then movies, I love the movie Airplane! It's so funny. It's like my sense of humor. And then this movie Stomp the Yard, it's like a dance movie, and it's so good. Yeah.
MT: I think that one has a hip-hop vibe to it, is that right?
MD: Yeah, yeah. It's like stepping. It's really cool.
MT: Now, where is somewhere you haven't been yet that you want to visit?
MD: Japan. I want to go to Japan so bad. And I also want to tour Europe, too. That would be amazing. I want to do Paris and Barcelona, but I would love to travel more Ireland and Greece, Italy, England. That would be so cool.
MT: Well, you being so busy, you'll probably have to find a way to carve time to do these adventures.
MD: Yeah, very true, very true. Hopefully, there will be time at some point.
MT: Now, is there a kind of part you haven't played yet but want to play?
MD: That's a good question. I don't know. I don't think there's any, yeah, I don't think so besides Mimi from Rent.
MT: Well, no. Mimi is a great character. That's good. One of my recent young woman actor interview subjects said how much she wants to not play the mean girl anymore. [laughter].
MD: Yes. Oh, my gosh. That'd be amazing. I feel like I always get, yeah, I always go in for mean girls, and especially What Would You Do? I was always the mean girl, but I’m not.
MT: Now, were you ever afraid when you were doing What Would You Do? that someone would strike you or scream at you or something like that?
MD: Oh, yeah, and they do, but there's a security guard for every time we do something like that, so you kind of feel safe just knowing that there's someone there, but it's still terrifying. You have an earpiece in your ear, and then when you say something, when they say something to you, you have to say it, and sometimes someone is yelling at you, and they're just like, "Okay, now say 'mind your own business'," and I'm just like, "Oh, my God. What's going to happen?" and then I'm just like, "Mind your own business," then in my head, I'm like, "Oh, no." But it's so much fun. It's really exhilarating actually.
MT: Now, who are some actors or directors whom you'd really like to work with?
MD: Who I'd really like to work with? Quentin Tarantino would be awesome. That'd be cool.
MT: Do you have a favorite of his films?
MD: No. Honestly, I love all of them.
MT: I'm kind of a classist. I'm a Pulp Fiction fan.
MD: Yeah, Pulp Fiction is so good. Honestly, I kind of wanted to do an action movie like the Avengers or something. That would be so cool.
MT: Being a bad ass would be nice.
MD: Yeah, be Black Widow. That would be so cool.
MT: Now, do you have a celebrity crush?
MD: Chris Hemsworth. Especially in the Avengers. And his movie—there was a premiere last night. When I was 11, he was my phone case and he was—I had pictures of him everywhere. I was obsessed. Now, I'm not obsessed but I just appreciate him, you know? [laughter]
MT: He's nice to appreciate.
MD: Very, and the Avengers was a big thing for me, and especially Thor.
MT: Now, are there any charities that you support that you'd like to mention?
MD: The Red Rose Foundation is pretty awesome, and the Trevor Project is really cool. It serves the LBGTQ plus community. Yeah, and it's amazing that they have hotlines if you need to call for help. They really help out the community, and I think that's really cool.
MT: How do you like your fans to connect with you?
MD: Through social media, like Twitter and Instagram. I love responding to them when I can. It's really awesome because they're all so cool.
MT: What are your handles?
MT: Now, what's next for you?
MD: I don't know. Well, I guess I'm doing a lot of promo stuff for Zombies, and there's a music video coming out Oct. 27, which is really cool. And I'm filming American Housewife, so I think I'm just going to see if there's any auditions for anything along the way. That would be awesome, but right now, I think I'm just going to see how American Housewife does and how Zombies does. And see where that goes. I'm so excited.
MT: That's wonderful. Was there anything you want to add that we didn't cover that you want people to know about you?
MD: No. I don't think so.
MT: Well, I wish you best of luck in all your endeavors, and I do have to stop to see you on Broadway sometime.
MD: Yeah, thank you. That would be amazing. Oh, I do want to give a shout out to Deidrich. He's my TV dad, and he's my best friend, so I'm going to give a shout out to him.
MT: Oh, I think he'd like that. Okay. Do you goof off on the set? He seems like a funny guy.
MD: Oh, all the time, yeah. He's like a mentor to me. I look up to him so much. But then, we also talk about everything and he gives great advice. And then we joke around all the time, so yeah.
Learn more about Meg Donnelly by following her on Instagram @MegDonnelly and catch her on American Housewife on Wednesday nights on ABC.
[Featured image by The Riker Brothers]