By Alexandra Anastasio
From stage to screen, singer, dancer, and actor Carly Hughes is living out her childhood dream.
Her first taste of performing live came in fifth grade when she landed the title character in her school’s production of “Robin Hood.” Watching Golden Age musicals on VHS tapes borrowed from the library, Carly didn’t realize that the performance talent she saw before her was attainable.
“Watching movies and seeing people on TV as a kid, you thought, yeah that’s what they do, but if you don’t grow up around it, it’s not something at the forefront of your mind,” she says. Best known for her work on Broadway in shows like, “Chicago,” “Pippin,” and “Beautiful: The Carol King Musical,” the gifted actress has shifted over to TV as a regular cast member in ABC’s hit comedy, “American Housewife,” alongside Katy Mixon and Ali Wong (Friday nights on ABC).
While her talent is evident—she has starred in eight Broadway shows— Carly’s passions extend beyond performing. BELLA recently sat down with the triple talented performer to talk about her work, the transition from stage to screen, and some of her favorite pastimes.
How did your Broadway career take off?
I started working in Summer Stock and would perform at various regional theaters around the country. I was lucky enough to work in some reputable ones and I played all of the leads, so I had the experience and a nice resume when I got to New York. But I didn’t know how to do this and thought, ‘Do I get an agent?’—which I did shortly after moving. I continued with regional work for three years consistently and booked the first Broadway audition I went on [for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee].
What ran through your mind when you got that call?
I dropped to my knees, crying. I probably had $400 to my name at the time, and rent was due. I was elated. In my mind, I thought ‘I made it.’ I didn’t even know what ‘made it’ meant, but I thought, I can pay rent, I can pay bills, and I made it to Broadway! More importantly, it was just a dream I had as a kid; I didn’t know the broad spectrum of it, but I was grateful. All of the hard work had paid off.
Out of the eight shows you’ve appeared in, do you have a favorite?
They’re all special, but if I had to pick, it’s going to be two. My number one is when I took over as the leading player in “Pippin.” That will always be my top favorite because I have never worked that hard in my life and I’m not sure I will ever work that hard again, although it’s definitely something to aspire to. I remember being so fulfilled in that role, every show.
I am grateful that I was pushed to work as hard as I did and that I could sustain all of that. It was a monster beast of a role and I had to do the trapeze at the same time. There were so many bars to rise to and I did it every night. I thought, this is awesome, stretching yourself and knowing how far your talent can go.
My number two is Velma in “Chicago” just because that role is awesome and I’ve wanted to play it. And because of “Pippin,” I was able to. “Pippin” kind of brought about everything.
Right now you’re focused on your work on-screen. Do you miss Broadway, and will you one day return?
I miss it every day; there is nothing like live theatre. There are no take- backs at all. And there is an adrenal rush in and of itself before you even get the audience in there. I will definitely be back. Everyone’s dream is to win a Tony Award so I have to do something to put me in the running.
Is there a particular production you would love to be a part of ?
Ideally, I’d love to be a part of a new work because it’s always fun to originate something. And I’d love to do a play. But I would also love to play Glinda in “Wicked”—I just want to come out in a bubble with a wand!
How has the transition from Broadway to TV been?
It’s completely different. You have more chances in TV and film, whereas in the theatre, you have one shot, and if you mess up everyone is going to see it—and it’ll probably be recorded on someone’s YouTube.
You’re heading into season four of “American Housewife.” For anyone who hasn’t yet watched the show, how would you describe it?
It’s good ol’ American fun! If you want to watch something where you get some scripted but a lot of real moments, then it’s the show for you. Our particular storyline is three friends who sit around at the table and essentially gossip. A lot of people can relate to that dynamic; it’s what you do with your friends and we get to do that in the show, which I think is cool.
Your character, Angela, is a divorced mom of two. Where did you draw inspiration from when creating her?
I was in New York for 15 years so when I moved to LA, everything was different—the people, the energy; it’s more “granola” out here in LA for me than in NY. So I draw a little bit of my NY experience and my LA experience for Angela; she’s a bit of both.
Do you relate to Angela, or is she opposite of Carly?
They’re opposites but I can relate to her no-nonsense side. When Angela talks to Katie and gives her real, honest advice, those are the moments I relate to because that’s how I am with my friends.
As you head into season four, what would you like to see for Angela?
My hope is that they flesh her out more, and that you get to meet the kids she talks about. For the first three seasons, she just talks about them but you don’t actually see them. It would be fun to dive into her life.
Cooking is a big passion of yours; any chance you’ll do a cooking show one day?
Absolutely! I would love to. I am a big fan of sensible eats, eating on a budget, and figuring out recipes you can make that taste gourmet but don’t have all the gourmet flair that one may not be able to do. I think it would be fun. I always say if I couldn’t sing, or act, or dance, I would be a chef. I love doing dinner parties and cooking for my friends and loved ones. I find cooking very therapeutic.
As you continue to conquer your craft, what’s up next?
I’d like to tuck some movies under my belt and do a couple of dramas. I would love for my next TV show to be a drama if possible, just to stretch in another direction. I also want to focus on booking some feature films; it’s a whole other realm, and while it’s still filming, it’s a different beast. It’s a different viewpoint for the big screen, and I want to learn all that I can.
Photography By Jenny Anderson
Makeup By Steve Schepis