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September 25, 2012 3PM EST

Q&A with Meg Steedle

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  • Q

    Please welcome Boardwalk Empire's Meg Steedle aka "Billie Kent." Meg, do you identify with Billie Kent at all?

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    Meg Steedle says:

    Yes, I definitely identify with Billie Kent on a few levels—that’s what attracted me to the character so strongly to begin with—although I DO feel like, at times, she’s a lot “cooler” than I am! Also, she’s bold—she’s not afraid to ask for what she wants. Like Billie, I also love dressing up and putting on wigs to perform!!

  • Q

    Have you had many more followers on twitter since appearing on boardwalk empire

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    Meg Steedle says:

    Yes I have! I'm actually new to Twitter, my brother told me to get on Twitter because he's an avid Tweeter and a musician. He showed me the ropes over the summer and it's a very new thing to me, so yes, I have seen a little bit of a spike! It's also fun to connect with the fans directly!

  • Q

    Do you get to work with Richard? The man with half a face? That guy is amazing! I want to hug him!

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    A
    Meg Steedle says:

    I have gotten a chance to meet him and talk with him. He has the most beautiful accent I've ever heard. He's a great guy and is awesome. I definitely should've asked to hug him!

  • Q

    are you a cat person or a dog person?

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    Meg Steedle says:

    I grew up with cats!

  • Q

    who are your favorite actors?

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    Meg Steedle says:

    I love Deborah Messing. There's a British actress named Fiona Button, I love Julie Bowen and Edie Falco.

  • Q

    Hi Meg. Do you find the transition from theatre to television difficult? And what has been your biggest challenge in that regard?

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    A
    Meg Steedle says:

    The biggest challenge was having a camera RIGHT in your face—it’s like a third person in the scene! And it picks up everything. I was so conscious of that lens being the window to the outside world—that whatever the camera saw, the world would eventually see. That was nerve-wracking at first. But being on the show, I had the chance to watch masters who know how to use that lens and use it well—the camera is there to pick up all the nuances that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to see in a theatre space. It can pick up an expression such as ‘doubt’ with a quick flick of the eyes, whereas theatre doesn’t give you that ability. It was a big part of my learning process in the transition from stage to screen that learning how to communicate ‘with’ the camera…Steve Buscemi and Kelly McDonald do an amazing job of this… and it was incredible to watch.

  • Q

    Do yo talk anything like your role in BWE in real life? How much of that is you?

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    A
    Meg Steedle says:

    Haha I sometimes talk like Billie! I like her snide remarks or her teasing manner—I think Billie’s a lot quicker with her words though than I am. I tend to giggle too much.

  • Q

    What's your favorite part about playing Billie Kent?

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    A
    Meg Steedle says:

    I like the singing and dancing aspect. And her flirtatious nature. And wearing those clothes! I love pretending to be in a different era and doing the research to make sure I know how to fit into the world. Flappers had so much fun.

  • Q

    What was your experience like working with Steve Buscemi and the cast of Boardwalk Empire?

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    Meg Steedle says:

    Awesome! Again, working with him feels like working with a master—he’s an actor I’ve looked up to for YEARS. You can’t pay for that kind of education! It was fun, rewarding, humbling—I learned a lot from him. The rest of the cast was a blast as well. I instantly connected with many of them and it's fun to follow their New York/Hollywood careers—I’ve been to readings, plays, movies of the people I worked with and it’s awesome to feel like we’re all a part of the same family. A week before I was in the van with Michael Stuhlbarg on the way to set for my first day, I saw him in HUGO. I run into him in my neighborhood often and I ran into Bobby Cannavale in a bar in midtown just the other week! New York is great for that.

  • Q

    Is it challenging joining such a successful show as the "new girl"?

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    A
    Meg Steedle says:

    Everyone was so welcoming and made it really easy to feel comfortable fast. That said, it was intimidating!! Boardwalk Empire is such a well-oiled machine—it’s won awards (YAY for Tim Van Patten on the Emmys last Sunday night!!!) and is closer to film than most TV work I’ve seen-- I felt like I was jumping right into the deep end. It was thrilling though.

  • Q

    What or who inspired you to become an actress?

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    Meg Steedle says:

    When I was in third grade, I moved from one town in NC to another…fitting into a new environment is never easy and at my new school, there were two high school girls who inspired me, just by watching their stage work, to pursue acting. On stage I saw them exude such confidence. One, Kate, I’m still friends with today and is a successful director/actress in New York and the other—well her name was “Meg”—as soon as I saw them both in the high school musical “Gypsy”, I knew I wanted to at least try this acting thing--I changed my name from Megan to a hipper Meg! Later, when I was in high school I saw Bernadette Peters in “Annie Get Your Gun” on Broadway. It was the first time I had ever seen anything like that—she gave her all to that performance and connected with the audience in such a truthful and wonderful way—I wanted to do THAT!

  • Q

    You look like you are physically fit. What do you do for workout and diet?

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    Meg Steedle says:

    Thanks! I try to eat healthy and I go biking a lot. I go biking and like to dance so there's my two exercise regimens!

  • Q

    I love the fashions of 1923.....Meg's wardrobe down to her undies is so lacey and feminine.....oh! and the beading is stunning. Meg's dress when she performed for Nucky was beautiful! I like the men's fashions too. They dress so masculine and sharp. If at the ring of the New Year's bells.......If you could, would you prefer to live in 1923 or 2012 and WHY?

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    A
    Meg Steedle says:

    I would want to live in 1923 for the night!! And be at Nucky’s house! What a party…. and he gave out diamonds….

  • Q

    What are some of your favorite TV shows?

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    Meg Steedle says:

    Currently, I love Modern Family, Downton Abbey, Sherlock, Lip Service, and Girls and… throwback? Arrested Development, The Sopranos, The Tudors, Ugly Betty, The Forsyte Saga, I Love Lucy, and Will & Grace!

  • Q

    Do you feel any pressure following in Lucy's footsteps?

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    Meg Steedle says:

    I loved Paz de La Huerta’s work on the show. I was a little intimidated that she was so comfortable being naked on screen and I knew for me that wasn’t the same. I come from a theatre background where everyone is changing backstage and there’s not much privacy-- BUT to be comfortable on television is a different thing! Past that though, our characters are SO different. That takes any pressure off “following in footsteps.”

  • Q

    Do you find any similarities between yourself and Billie Kent or her career?

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    Meg Steedle says:

    Well, Billie Kent and I are both earning a living in stage and screen!! It’s a fun life but also one with many ups and downs. One thing that definitely makes us alike is how Billie makes up “little ditties”--little tunes in her everyday life. The scene in which Billie sings about a Hummingbird (in Episode 2) was part of my audition and I was so excited to see that the writers had written her as someone who just makes up a song on the spot. I find myself singing about the silliest things throughout the day—even if it’s putting a melody to “I need to get some lunch right now”

  • Q

    Hi Meg, do you know what's in store for your character? And what do you think Nucky sees in Billie?

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    Meg Steedle says:

    I DO know what’s in store for the season for Billie but I watch each episode on the edge of my seat because I only ever had MY lines given to me! The writers are very good about keeping the rest of the storyline secret…so every week I’m watching like everyone else to find out what happens to the other characters!

  • Q

    Were you a fan of Boardwalk Empire before you became Billie?

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    Meg Steedle says:

    YES. I had my eye on this show because it takes place in Atlantic City (and in the 1920s….so fun)! I grew up spending my summers on the south Jersey shore (even though I’m from North Carolina) so the Atlantic City area and the idea of the “boardwalk” was very familiar to me. I spent a lot of time as a teenager on a boardwalk not far from Atlantic City in Wildwood—and was shocked at how similar it felt when I walked onto the Boardwalk set in Brooklyn. I remember the thrill of the rides, the candy stores, taffy…. The sketchy characters that hang around the perimeters….it’s a unique atmosphere and I’m lucky to have had a very authentic experience in that regard. So, yes, my eye was on Boardwalk Empire, especially since it was created by Terry Winter who created my favorite series in college—The Sopranos.

  • Q

    what's your dream role?

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    Meg Steedle says:

    My dream role…hmm…I would love to play a role in which I get to play some piano! I grew up singing in the church choir as my first introduction to performance-- Music is such a part of my background that usually my favorite roles include some musical aspect.

  • Q

    Do you like to sing and dance like Billie?

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    A
    Meg Steedle says:

    I LOVE to sing and dance! Who doesn’t?

  • Q

    What was the audition process like? Were you reading for other parts or this one in particular?

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    A
    Meg Steedle says:

    The audition process spanned over 2 months. I was in LA visiting grad schools (oddly enough) when my manager called to say that I had an audition in New York for the show. I agreed to fly back for it—I went in the first time and the character was called “Ivy Wells”—she was a little tougher and a little more jaded than Billie ended up. I was pleased with the audition but was told it “wasn’t going any further.” About two months later I got a call that they wanted to see me again, that the character had changed slightly and was now called “Billie Kent” and was written as a more bubbly persona… I went back in, then didn’t hear anything for a week…at every point I had decided “Oh, that’s fine, they didn’t choose me.” BUT THEN I got a call that they wanted to see me sing and dance. I think the first word out of my mouth was “YES!” The next week I met with Pat Birch, the choreographer for the show (she choreographed all the Grease films…and is awesome!) and together we came up with a routine to an Irving Berlin song. The next day, I went to the studios in Brooklyn and sang and danced for the writers and producers! AGAIN, no word for 2 weeks and then the phone call came—I couldn’t believe that after all that waiting, finally I was cast! I was added to the cast so last-minute that I had to learn the King Tut dance and lyrics the night before filming the scene! Stephen DeRosa (Eddie Cantor) was the first person I met from the cast and I instantly felt at home.

  • Q

    What kind of music do you like?

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    A
    Meg Steedle says:

    I love all kinds of music, honestly….BUT my favorite artists are Ben Folds, Natasha Bedingfield, Charlotte Martin, Sara Bareilles….ok and a little bit of Chris Brown with a dash of old school Britney. And then of course old showtunes. My grandmother made sure of that.

  • Q

    What's it like working with Stephen DeRosa...is he like Eddie Cantor in real life?

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    Meg Steedle says:

    Stephen is an incredible person and performer. He is a true Broadway veteran—he also is the cast clown!! Whenever he’s around he’s spitting one-liners right and left and making everyone laugh. We have a lot of friends in common so when we first met each other he already felt like an old friend. He’s a joy to work with and we had a lot of fun. So happy that I get to see him on and OFF the set!

  • Q

    are there pranksters on the set?

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    A
    Meg Steedle says:

    I wouldn't say pranksters as much as flirts! Anthony Laciura, the guy who plays Eddie Kessler, is one of my favorite flirts I've ever met.

  • Q

    Talk about growing up in North Carolina and how your experiences here prompted you to pursue an acting career.

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    Meg Steedle says:

    Wow, let me think. Growing up in North Carolina, I attended a school that had a wonderful 600-seat full proscenium theater-- I had a chance to work in an incredible venue and get a taste of what performing on a professional stage might feel like. I went to a school that really valued the arts--It was a blessing having that growing up. There was a lot of support as well! Theatre was “cool”! It's sometime hard to find that kind of support and opportunity at such a young age. I had a wonderful theater I could play in and great mentors to encourage me.

  • Q

    Hi Meg- what is your favorite part about playing a role set in the 20's?

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    A
    Meg Steedle says:

    The costumes! I love any kind of period drama and the research that goes along with that. Placing yourself in a different time period is like playing house to me. What gets me really excited about being in the 1920s is getting into the mindset of what a woman in her early 20s during that time period would be feeling, thinking and be interested in—the music, the culture, the trends. In addition, I got to literally dress up in actual clothes from the 1920s which was fun and made my job even easier.

  • Q

    have you been in many musicals? what were some of the roles you might have played?

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    A
    Meg Steedle says:

    One of my most fun experiences was in college when I got to be in a show that Andrew Lippa, the composer for Addams Family, came to Northwestern to workshop. The show was called Asphalt Beach and I got to play this hick girl who wore cowboy boots and was obsessed with Princess Diana and trying to be cool. But in addition to musicals, I've also been in some wonderful plays! I worked with Ken Ludwig (who wrote Lend Me A Tenor on Broadway) on a new show of his and then a few months later was lucky enough to work with David Ives (who wrote Venus and Fur on Broadway) on his own new show—I love working with wonderful writers—be it writers of plays, good TV (Terrence Winter and team!) or great composers-- on new material. It’s thrilling to me to portray and bring life to a character for the first time.

  • Q

    How did you college career help your current work on Boardwalk Empire?

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    A
    Meg Steedle says:

    Well I got a degree in communications from Northwestern University and studied Theatre Arts there. In addition, there was an optional audition-based program for musical theater training. In that program I got to sing and dance so that helped! I also played Sally Bowles in Cabaret in college. When I had a meeting with the Boardwalk writers after being cast, we discussed the idea that Billie Kent is some mix of Sally Bowles and Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany's. When I was in college at Northwestern, I took the train into Chicago for on-camera classes at Act One Studios.

  • Q

    How was your first scene shooting with a legend like Steve Buscemi? Nerve-racking, intimidating?......Fun?

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    A
    Meg Steedle says:

    All of the above. Intimidating, Thrilling, Terrifying... I've looked up to him and The Sopranos was my favorite show in college. The first scene I shot for Boardwalk, I had to put on this air of confidence, throw back a couple of drinks-- my most embarrassing moment? When I actually choked on my drink so badly that we had to stop shooting so I could regain my breath. Yup, that was my first day on set. Throughout filming Steve has been incredible to play opposite—I’ve learned so much having him as my scene partner.

  • Q

    I love you in Boardwalk Empire. You have a beautiful voice. How do you like working with the whole cast?

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    A
    Meg Steedle says:

    I love working with the whole cast. I had so much fun filming the first episode-- I was such a last minute addition to the cast, that they had already had a read through without me! The first episode, at Nucky's party, I got a chance to meet most of the gangsters (as well as Kelly MacDonald)—I knew I would be working with Steve Buscemi, but wasn’t sure when I’d have another opportunity to hang on set with the other cast members. It was an incredible meet and greet-- all those characters in one scene! I met Stephen DeRosa first (in rehearsal) and we found out that we have a lot of friends in common—made me feel like we were longtime friends already!

  • Q

    Are Billie's voice and mannerisms your own or 'created' by you for the character?

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    A
    Meg Steedle says:

    I think it's definitely specific to Billie. Any character you play is going to have aspects of you, but I think she's a lot wittier than I am most of the time!

  • Q

    I heard that you're pretty familiar with the Atlantic City area - how does the BE set compare to the real boardwalk?

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    A
    Meg Steedle says:

    Oh! So I was shocked by how much being on the Boardwalk felt like not Atlantic City nowadays but rather felt more like a smaller boardwalk in south Jersey called Wildwood. It's closer to the Cape May area and I used to frequent that area every summer with my family. Wildwood was about 20 minutes away from where I spent my summers-- The Wildwood boardwalk is still very simple: It has candy stores, a ferris wheel, fun houses—similar to what the Atlantic City boardwalk might have been back in 1923—whereas the actual AC Boardwalk now has casinos and a mall and is very big. When I got onto the Boardwalk Empire set, I felt like a teenager again in Wildwood!

  • Q

    How much personal input do you get in terms of how you play your character?

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    Meg Steedle says:

    The writers are really perceptive-- they really tend to observe the person who is playing their pre-written character and seem to almost seamlessly incorporate the actor’s natural tendencies and acting choices into the storyline. When I first met with Terry Winter, Howard Korder and David Stenn (some of the wonderful writers on the show) it was exciting because we talked about Billie's relationship with Nucky and what an intimate relationship of that nature would be like. They were interested in my own opinions—about what a relationship like that might involve and the kind of dynamic between two people in their situations. They definitely have their own ideas about where they want to take the story, but that writing team is very good about noticing where the actual actor is taking the character and elaborating on that.

  • Q

    Thanks to Boardwalk Empire's Meg Steedle for participating today. Anything else you'd like to say to your fans, Meg?

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    Meg Steedle says:

    Thanks for the fun questions, everyone! I'm so grateful for all of your support for this show and I'm glad for the chance to connect! I hope you keep watching and enjoying Billie’s storyline!

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