Born and raised in Longmeadow, actress Meghann Fahy, 27, stars in the popular Freeform series The Bold Type, about a group of young women working at a fashion magazine based on Cosmopolitan. The show’s second season premieres later this spring. Fahy began her career on Broadway in 2010 in the Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Next to Normal. Her first TV role was on the soap opera One Life to Live, and she has had recurring roles on The Jim Gaffigan Show, The Good Wife, Necessary Roughness, Political Animals, Chicago Fire, Gossip Girl and Blue Bloods. In film, she has had supporting roles in Miss Sloane, opposite Jessica Chastain, as well as the independent features Burning Bodhi, Those People and License Plates. She lives in New York.
Jonathan Soroff: Growing up, were you a Broadway baby?
Meghann Fahy: I wasn’t. I think I saw my first Broadway show when I was 16. I didn’t grow up in an environment where I was listening to Broadway cast albums, but I remember that when I was a senior in high school, my best friend took me as my graduation present to see Spring Awakening, and that was the first musical I had ever seen that totally made me obsessed. I loved the music. Up to that point, I hadn’t really experienced what they call pop-rock musicals. That was the first exposure I had to that kind of singing, and I felt like it was accessible, and obviously it spoke to my generation in such an important way. So after that, I was like, “Wow! Theater can be so many things. I had no idea.” That was kind of when I really started to fall in love with musical theater.
Which is harder: Broadway or doing a soap opera? They’re both actually really hard, but I would say that doing a musical on Broadway is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Work-wise, it’s the most challenging. It’s draining. There’s so much you can’t do, like having dairy, because it’s not great for your voice. And you can’t go out to loud bars, because you have to rest. You can’t get sick or else you’ll have to skip a show. So there’s so much care and attention that needs to be taken when you’re performing that much, and it’s so taxing, both physically and emotionally. It’s also the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had professionally.
What about doing a soap? The most challenging thing is memorizing a huge amount of dialogue. Soap operas are such machines. They move so quickly. You kinda have to jump on the train, and if you can’t, it leaves without you. The amount of dialogue you have to learn on a day-to-day basis is pretty spectacular. But there are tricks for it. Now, when I read lines with my boyfriend for something he’s doing, I memorize his lines before he does, and that’s because of my time spent on One Life to Live. It honed my memorization skills so well.
Worst audition nightmare? I have so many. I one time chipped my tooth before an audition, and I had to super glue it back into my mouth with no mirror, in the bathroom of a McDonald’s near Penn Station. I think that’s my most intense pre-audition story. I still had to show up and sing. I don’t think I ever told anybody but my mom and my best friend that story, because it was so mortifying, but looking back on it now, it’s kind of incredible.
Which of the TV shows that you’ve done was the most fun on set? Believe it or not, Law & Order: SVU. It was something I’d always wanted to do, because I love that show so much, but what I thought was so special about that set was that they’re constantly dealing with heavy, heavy subject matter, and yet they’re able to create a really warm, friendly, upbeat, happy atmosphere in spite of that. I think that’s pretty amazing.
Biggest difference between doing theater and TV or film? When you’re doing theater, the audience is always letting you know where you stand with them. They inform your performance so much, and it morphs as a result of their reaction to what’s happening on stage. That’s so exhilarating, but it’s for better or worse, because if it’s not going well, you know it. If it is, there’s a palpable energy and everybody gets fired up and it’s awesome. There’s nothing like that instant gratification and experiencing something in real time. With TV or film, you have no way to gauge how they feel about what you’re doing.
TV show you’re currently binge-watching? Well, I just finished watching Riverdale, and I just finished watching Mind Hunter, which totally blew my mind. It was kind of a slow burn for me at the beginning, but the payoff is so good.
Song you find yourself singing in the shower most often? There’s a new Paramore album called After Laughter, which came out last season while we were shooting the show, and it kind of summarized my whole experience of that. They’re one of my favorite bands anyway, so I sing a lot of Paramore in the shower.
Actor or director you’re dying to work with? So many, but I would love to work with Julianne Moore. I think she’s so incredible. And I’d really love to work with Cary Fukunaga. I met him once, and he seemed like such a lovely man who I think is so talented.
Any ways in which you’re like the characters you’ve played? I have played several really crazy bad girls. I’m not sure why, but it’s so fun and I love it. But I’m not anything like the girl I played on the soap opera. It was fun to be so insane and kidnap people’s children.
You kinda skipped the whole struggling actor phase. Why do you think it came so easily? Well, not entirely. I did get really lucky when I got Next to Normal, and that was an incredible experience, but after that, I definitely had a lot of time when I was nannying or hosting at a restaurant just to get by and pay my rent. So I do recognize that I’ve had a lot of incredible opportunities at a young age, but having a time, in between, when you’re picking up kids from school and bussing tables and stuff is incredible experience to have, because it makes every single success feel earned. There’s an appreciation that you get from those times.
Is acting a way to disappear? For me? No. Personally, I’m not the kind of actor who disappears into a character and becomes a different person. The way that I work is that I look at a scene and think, “How would I do this if I were this person in this position?” Finding that feels like telling the truth, and that’s what enables me to do it, because I hate feeling like I’m being false. So if anything, I not only don’t disappear, I examine myself more closely and ask why I am the way I am.
Worst non-acting job you’ve ever had? I think I actually really loved every job that I’ve had, even when I was working in a restaurant. I learned so much about so many other things, unrelated to acting, that previously weren’t even part of my universe. I got something out of every experience, and it serves me as an actor to have that in my toolbox. I guess I’m lucky to truly have never had a job that made me miserable.
Ever contemplated the move to L.A. and the whole Hollywood thing? I haven’t. I’ve been out to L.A. In fact, I was out there a few weeks ago. I’m not one of those people who hates it. I think there are so many beautiful things about it. But I’m an East Coaster. My family’s in Massachusetts. New York has been my home for 10 years, and it’s sort of where my heart beats. So I would be super open to exploring other places. I love Nashville, and my boyfriend’s family is in Atlanta, which is an awesome place. I’m open to other places, but I kind of don’t think I would love to relocate to Los Angeles.
Ever wanted to sing opera? I love that question. I have not, and I think I always knew I never could, even if I did want to, so it’s something I just never entertained. I don’t think I’m a good enough singer.
Favorite fashion magazine, now that you play someone who works at one? Well, I gotta say Cosmo is my favorite. The show is sort of modeled on it. I’ve read more Cosmo in the past year and a half than I have in my whole life, but I did grow up with it. My friends and I would have sleepovers and we’d buy magazines and feel like we were being so rebellious because we were too young to be reading about sex and stuff. So it’s pretty cool to now be on a show where we’re touching on all those subjects and making them more accessible to young women who previously were told that they were doing something wrong by reading about their bodies. It’s awesome what the show does for girls.
Fashion trend you’re sick of? I don’t know. I mean, I do have Uggs still. I’d never wear them out, but I wear them around the house all the time, or taking out the trash, or going to the bodega in the morning. I don’t really follow fashion trends. I’m very simple. I don’t accessorize very much.
Gossip Girl—best show ever? I loved that show, but let me tell you what happened when I worked on it. I broke the very expensive shoes they put me in. I was so nervous, I was kind of rocking back and forth on the heels, and they just snapped. I was mortified. It was my first time ever being on a TV set, so I had no idea what I was doing. I was sweating bullets. There was one scene where I was supposed to be writing on a laptop, and I was slamming on the keys because I had no idea that you’re supposed to fake everything or it poses major issues for the sound.
Your look is very versatile. You can look like an ingénue or a femme fatale, older, younger, sophisticated or girlish. Is there one look you gravitate toward? Ya’ know, my hair is sort of blond for Bold Type, and that’s sort of new for me. I’ve always thought of myself as a brunette, and my natural color is darker. But people refer to me as “the blond girl” on the show, and that was really strange. I was like, “Me?” It’s cool to be able to change up your look, and it helps me. I dyed my hair back to my natural color when I wasn’t working on The Bold Type, and when I went back to blond for season two, it really helped me get back into the whole Sutton universe.
Biggest lie on your acting resume? In terms of special skills? I don’t really have any. I will say, though, that one of my agents one time told me to always say I could do everything. I was auditioning for a film that required someone with experience in martial arts. I had never heard of this very specific form, and my agent told me to just say I knew it. I think that’s incredible, and I know so many stories of people saying things like, “I was told I had to play the guitar, and I’d never played guitar in my life, but I learned pretty quickly.” I don’t see anything wrong with that. Fake it till you make it!
Is there a role you wanted or auditioned for and didn’t get that was a huge regret? So many roles, but I don’t have regrets. Most of the roles that I got close to getting, I feel like, at the end of the day, I was able to say, “I went into the room and showed them how I would do it, honestly, and authentically, as myself, and what I would be comfortable doing with that role.” If they wanted something different, then everyone’s better off, because I’d hate to show up to a job and feel like I had tricked someone into hiring me. If they’re looking for something else, you can make peace with that. The worst is when you go in and you feel like you didn’t do what you intended. That’s when you feel regret. ◆
Meghann Fahy photographed for The Improper by Victoria Stevens; Styling: Erica Pitnick; Hair: Carly Walters / The Wall Group; Makeup: Kindra Mann / TMG-LA; Wardrobe at top: Hellessy dress, Alex Soldier earrings; Wardrobe in text: Hellessy top and pants, Stella McCartney shoes, Alex Soldier earrings