There are more actors in Los Angeles than any census could hope to count, but the number of honest-to-goodness “working actors” is a good deal smaller.  Meeghan Holaway is a working actor, one whose impressive list of credits crosses over from stage to film to TV to musical theater to cabaret. She’s performed across the country in over sixty plays, has done guest spots on numerous TV series, and has a new movie with Tim Allen opening next year.  Currently, Meeghan is wowing Pasadena Playhouse audiences with her spot-on portrayal of housewife-turned-record mogul Florence Greenberg in the fact-based musical Baby It’s You, which has just been extended through December 20. It’s a busy time for Meeghan, but she found enough of it to sit down and answer our questions about what it means to be a working actor in L.A., and much more.

Meeghan, looking over your résumé, you seem to be the very definition of a working L.A.-based actor, dividing your time between TV, film, theater, etc. Would you say that Los Angeles suits you as an actor better than say New York or Chicago?  

Los Angeles suits me better as a person. I’m from Seattle so I’m used to being surrounded by nature, the hills, the ocean.  It’s so important to be fed by your environment. I know this idea exists that you have to struggle and suffer to be an artist. But when you’re not fighting your environment you can focus your energies on your work and your art.  Believe me, it’s a huge struggle to be a working actor. I don’t need to fight the weather, too. And Los Angeles is a great place to be an actor because you can do theater, film, TV, commercials, voice-over…It’s all here.

Okay, so those are the plusses of living in our fair city. What are some of the challenges in being a working actor here, in balancing your career between jobs that are going to pay the bills and others that may simply feed your soul as an actor?

Virtually every job has the potential to teach you something.  And those bill-paying jobs, such as TV guest shots and commercials, are also really fun. The tough part is scheduling.  If I decide to do a wonderful play at a 99-seat house, I’m always mindful that a paying job may come up that I need to take.  I never want to let people down or jeopardize a great project by having to take the money job. Likewise I don’t want to give up a job that could make me the money I need or, more importantly, lead to a step up in my career. It’s tough, but that is the balancing act you do here in LA. 

You’ve done theater across the country, including New York, as well as many plays in Los Angeles.  Why do you think L.A. theater has gotten what I feel is an unfair rap?

I agree that LA has taken an unfair hit as a town that can’t do theater. That is absolutely untrue. I have seen productions and individual performances here that have rocked my world. 

So what is it that makes LA theater special?

I think LA has a great theater scene because there are so many talented people here working in film and TV who do theater when they can, to feel the joy of that unbroken acting experience.  It’s so different than film and TV, where your performance is in tiny pieces that get put together by someone else at a later date.  It’s a thrill in its own way, but so many actors here started in theater and really appreciate the opportunity to delve into a character over weeks of rehearsal and then disappear into that character for two hours a night.  That makes for great theatrical experiences. 

In other words, not all shows are going to get a WOW! from StageSceneLA, correct?

Yes, there is a grain of truth that leads to most generally held opinions.  I think actors in LA have to be especially mindful when they choose to do theater. Since this is a town dominated by film and television, there’s the temptation to think of theater as nothing more than a showcase that might get you noticed so you can get a “real” job on TV. Naturally, we all want to succeed and make money and get ahead. But theater is a gorgeous, ancient, meaningful, satisfying art form and it’s a shame if it becomes nothing but a postcard you send to a casting director.  

Though the majority of your stage credits seem to be in straight plays, you’ve got a number of musicals to your credit, and you’ve also done cabaret as well. How do you keep from being pigeonholed as a “dramatic actress” or a “musical theater performer” or a “singer?” How important for you is it to be able to “do it all?”

I do want to be able to do it all! It’s all so much fun!  I love delving into a drama, but hearing an audience roar with laughter is so great.  Some of my favorite roles have been in big farces, like Noises Off and Lend Me A Tenor.  But getting to sing and express emotions that way hard to resist.  I just want to keep learning more about every aspect of what I do. That’s the great thing about this job.  You never get done learning.

  Meeghan (c.) in Me Too (Photo Ed Krieger)

The two plays I saw you in prior to Baby It’s You were A Magic Christmas and Me Too, both of them excellent 99-seat plan productions, and now you’re appearing in one of L.A.’s premiere larger theaters, the Pasadena Playhouse. How different are these two experiences? 

Those small spaces are so intimate.  You really get to connect with the audience and include them in your playing.  Then again, the sheer energy of over 600 people is tremendous and lends it own ingredient to the equation.  I just feel so lucky that I get to experience both.

 Meeghan in Baby It’s You!, with Allan Louis (l.) and with Erica Ash, Berlando Drake,
 Paulette Ivory, Crystal Starr Knighton, and Louis (r.)  Photos: Michael Lamont

As I understand it, Baby It’s You! started as a small production at West Hollywood’s Coast Playhouse, and now it’s on the big stage in Pasadena.  You’ve been with the production since it started.  What has it been like for you to be part of a production “from the ground up?”

It’s been incredible to grow with the show over such a long period of time.  There’s a comfort with the materiel and the other players that you can’t get over a six-week rehearsal period.  

How much has it changed on its journey to the Playhouse? 

There have been a number of changes to the script, the music, the staging over this time and we can do that because we are so used to each other’s rhythms. We trust each other onstage. 

You play the very real Florence Greenberg, a one-time New Jersey housewife who became a quite unlikely proprietor of a major independent record label, one which made stars of The Shirelles and Dionne Warwick, to name just two Scepter Records artists. How different has it been for you to “create” Florence as opposed to an entirely fictional role?

Florence was tough to research because most of the information available about her just deals with her business.  There’s very little about her personal life.  What I know of that comes from people I meet who knew her. That’s the big difference between a real and fictional character, especially one from recent history. People come to the show who knew her.  It’s both a thrill and completely daunting, as I want to do her justice.  In the end, though, we have fictionalized her in order to tell a story.  So I have to play her the way you would any character, by finding who she is in the play.

What is it about Baby It’s You that’s made it catch on with audiences? 

The music is just fantastic. We have incredible singers doing classic rock songs. This music has lasted for a reason.  It’s joyful and soulful and infectious.   And there’s the story of this incredible woman.  

How would you describe it to someone who knows nothing about it or Florence Greenberg’s story?

In 1958, Mrs. Greenberg was a well-to-do housewife with two grown children, but she was bursting with creativity and the passion to do something extraordinary.   Instead of allowing herself to be stifled, or giving herself some traditional outlet for her quaint desire to have a job, she fought her way to the top of the brand new, very tough, male-dominated (well, everything was) young, rock-music industry.  And had an interracial affair on top of it.   She discovered and nurtured the talents of the first super-successful African-American female vocal group.  They broke down barriers and so did she.  This was a brilliant, passionate, driven, sexy woman, who paved the way for the rest of us. It’s hard not to be caught up in her struggle.

  Meeghan in The Spirit

You’ve also done films, including Frank Miller’s The Spirit, and your most recent imdb credit is for an upcoming Tim Allen-directed film called Crazy On The Outlook, with quite an impressive cast including Allen and Sigourney Weaver. Can you talk a bit about that project?

Oh, that was a lot of fun. Tim is a terrific director.  As an actor, he knows how to talk to actors and that was a luxury.  The film is funny and sweet and I’m really thrilled that I got to be a part of it.

I understand you’ve also tried your hand at screenwriting, having co-authored the script for a thriller called Blind Spot. What made you decide to undertake screenwriting? 

I was doing a television show in Toronto and one of the writers, Grace McKeaney, and I got to be friends. She lives in L.A. and contacted me after the show ended to ask if I would like to be her writing partner on a feature film script.  So we did it.  We wrote a thriller called Blind Spot, which was one of the winners of the Filmmakers International Screenwriting contest. That was nice validation.  We wrote another script, but then I got so busy with acting projects that I had to put everything else on hold for a while.  I really enjoyed writing and I’m very proud of the two scripts.  I’d love to see something happen with them. 

Actor, singer, writer … in which direction do you see your career moving, or where would you like to see it move? 

I’d really love the chance to do more movies.  Like theater, you get to create a unique character over two hours, but unlike theater, it’s preserved forever. Also, you get to bond with a group of people over a shoot, like you do during the run of a play. And it’s just a completely different acting challenge. And I love that. And naturally, I’d love to see Baby It’s You! make it to Broadway. That would be an incredible thrill and an honor. 
Thanks so much, Meeghan, for taking time to answer our questions!

Meeghan’s Imdb Page

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