Megan Stevenson on GET SHORTY, acting, and what comes next

Photo Credit: Ryan West

EPIX’s recently renewed GET SHORTY follows Chris O’Dowd’s Miles Daly, a bruiser for a Nevada crime ring who travels to LA to give Hollywood a shot after stealing a script from an aspiring screenwriter who owed a debt. Along the way, he meets up with Ray Romano’s Rick Moreweather, a producer he wants to help him make the movie.

Megan Stevenson plays April Quinn, Rick’s former assistant who has climbed the ranks to studio exec.  She gets involved in the story, which is based on Elmore Leonard’s novel of the same name.  I spent some time chatting with Megan about joining the show, working with the actors, and what comes next!

Talk about getting involved. Were you a fan of the novel, the movie? What was it about the show that made you think, “Hey. Maybe this is something I’ll go for?”
So, yes, I of course know the movie. But when I got the appointment I had to … It had been such a long time since I had watched the movie and in knew it was much more based on Elmore Leonard and I am a fan of his writing, but the main thing was the creator Davey Holmes. I had been a fan of his for a while. And the writing of it, I mean I read, really I just read my stuff when I first got it, the audition material. And it was so fun. It’s from a scene in episode three, which you’ll see; I was just so excited by the writing and the pace. I thought it was just a really cool, interesting tone of a show unlike anything I’ve really seen. So, it was kind of a combination of all of that. I didn’t want to get too excited about, “Ooh. Get Shorty, the movie. Now a TV series.” Because a lot of times the movies are much different, so I kind of separated it and really approached it as a combination of those things.

What should fans of the movie or fans that haven’t seen the movie, what should they expect from this show? How are you describing Get Shorty to people?
Well, it’s kind of a two-part question because people who have not seen the movie and people who are fans of Elmore Leonard writing and his books, I think will be very excited because it really does mirror the writing and it brings that tone that he has in his writing to life very accurately. It is dark and gritty, but it has this really cool undertone of comedy that comes out in subtle ways sometimes and a lot of times in ways that you least expect it to come out, but it’s throughout each episode. There’s definitely an undertone of comedy. And the main thing about this show, I think, that people are going to love is the characters. There’s very strong characters and you really are invested in each person’s story when they’re on the screen. It really is an ensemble; an amazing character drama.

Talk about character a little bit. Tell us a little about who are you in this show and what can we expect from your character as the season progresses?
So, I play April Quinn. When you first meet me I am a big-time studio executive. I used to be Ray Romano, who plays Rick Moreweather, I used to be his assistant, but I have started to move up the ladder in the world. I’m in a big studio and I’m basically one of four that will become studio head one day, but my trajectory is looking extremely good. And then I meet Miles Daly who is played by Chris O’Dowd and I don’t want to give anything away, but definitely he shakes things up in my world. My character is, she’s very type A. She’s a career woman. She’s driven. She’s not letting anything get her down along her path, really, kind of, has a lack of a personal life because there has not been time for it.

It’s a brutal business and she’s really invested everything in it. So, it’s really interesting to see what happens when this, kind of, shit happens that Miles does. It’s hard to say, but you kind of see her road that she was on has changed and she’s fighting that for a long time, but then something happens and you see her change and opening up to a different world that really is the least of what she expected to ever happen.

I was just talking with somebody last night about Ray and Chris and the work they’ve been doing lately. It’s so varied and everything’s just so great. What’s it like to be working with these people two?
Well, they really can’t help but be funny. I mean, they just can’t. I don’t think you can have a conversation with either one of them where you’re not laughing at some point. And they’re not trying to be that way, they’re just both so primed for it. I mean, Chris has this amazing accent that he can just say one word and it’s hysterical. You know? And the American accent doesn’t do justice for that word. Of course it’s amazing, especially because I come from a comedy background. It’s so fun and there’s a lot of improving going on, so there’s that sense of play when you’re working with them that is really just … It’s like being on a rollercoaster. You have to get into it and then ride it and it’s thrilling. They’re both extremely genuine, so just normal dudes and they have amazing stories to tell and they’re so complimentary. My first day on the set was with Ray and we had this scene together and I, of course, mess and I’m thinking, “Hey, he’s been doing this for years.” And he was just as nervous as I was and he was just as really clung onto me and that’s just so nice because it would’ve been a really hard situation. The camera picks up everything, so that they were both so warm and welcoming and complimentary and just as much invested in the show as small characters are. You know? Really just as excited about it. It wasn’t at all a sense of, “Oh, we’ve been doing this for years and we’re great and we know it.” It was quite the opposite.

I love too that Epix is, kind of, quietly cultivating this really, really strong portfolio of shows. What’s it like to be a part of this network? Have you seen the other shows on the network?
So, I have DirecTV. [laughs] I do not get Epix. I have had multiple conversations with DirecTV about this. Somehow I’m thinking I’m going to get a deal made just by talking to a representative of DirecTV, but clearly that’s not going to happen. So, no I didn’t watch GRAVES or BERLIN STATION. I’ve heard great things about them and I knew some of the people in them and of course, they were nominated and really though, this is my first experience with Epix, working with them and the thing I enjoy most and I think that’s why you’re seeing such cool content that they’re doing is they give a lot of freedom, even originally in the casting process I think for the creators and the casting directors. They really allow the group to have their say and trust them and, kind of, give over this creative freedom. And that is really the only thing you can ask for as an actor, a director, and anyone involved in a show.

And like you said, though, the camera picks up on when things don’t go right. The camera also picks up on where there’s a freedom and creativity. There’s almost a freshness about it to things that we haven’t seen before because the writers and the actors and everybody’s been able to do what they really want to do.
Oh yeah. It was every single scene that I did, definitely with Adam Arkin when he was directing because he was the producing director on the show and also with Allen Coulter who did the first episode. Some of the other directors were like this, too, but there was always a peak where they just said, “Now this is just for you. Do whatever you want.” Yeah and that’s so rare. It’s so rare and so … And a lot of times that’s … There’s scenes from those that are used and you would, to have that freedom and to know that as an actor and that’s where you get some really good stuff coming out.

You get that buy in. You get to feel like you’ve also helped create something that people are enjoying.
Yeah. You’re getting direction. You’re doing the things that are needed and asked of you, but then you also get a chance to just do something just for you and that’s just really a great thing to have. And we definitely have that on this show. 

Get Shorty Season 1 Episode 101

You said that you’re, kind of, based or started in comedy. Was there a moment where you thought, “Hey. I want to be an actor” or were you just, kind of, a naturally funny kid? How did acting become and how did comedy become what you wanted to do?
It’s weird. I grew up dancing. I was a ballerina and I was on the stage all the time. And I remember the head of our company would always talk about how she would go to the back of this theater when I was on stage just because I was able to project with my facial expressions [laughs]. So, I definitely knew I was very much into telling a story and the story of the ballet with my body, but also with my face. And I grew up watching I LOVE LUCY and MARY TYLER MOORE with my mom and she just watched those shows on repeat, so I had these strong comedic women influences. And I just remember knowing that what they did looked so fun and I would love to do it. But I never really knew if I could. But then as soon as college came around I moved to New York so that I could start studying acting at night.

It’s got to be scary too, to make that leap because like you said, you never know. I’m talking to so many people and it’s like you really have to have a thick skin. You really have to be willing to hear, “no” a lot. So, what’s that like, making that switch to embrace this life, this acting life? Not really knowing what comes next?
I know. Well, luckily I was completely naive and green to it, so I had no one in my family from this business. I know no one in this business, which I think is a really good thing because I didn’t know any of these horrors. Really what happens and how brutal this business can be. I knew nothing, so, but one of my very first jobs I was cast on and ABC Family sitcom and I was recast and I was the only person from the cast that was recast. And that, so really, it all happened to me in my first experience in the industry. I was cast as a series regular, was really having nothing on my resume and then recast. So, I had the high and the low all within two months. And I think had it not happened that way, I don’t think I would’ve been as strong and had the longevity that was needed because I really, that was to me, their test. You’re like, “All right. You have what it takes, but do you have what it takes on this side of the world?” Getting through that. So, which has really carried me, to know that you can go … It’s like a really bad break up. Once you come through it, you come out on either side and the next one isn’t so bad because you’ve experienced that pain, so you know you can get through it.

What else besides GET SHORTY do you have going on or have you shot the weekend before too?
I did a little bit part in Martin Starr in Silicon Valley because he’s doing this Indie movie, I had a bit part of it. And I did that over, I think May I did that? So, that will be coming out next year and then who knows? We’re hoping for a second season of Get Shorty and then get out there on other stuff.

Does season one feel like, with the set up, that we’ll be dying for season two as it … Or does it wrap up a full story and it’s a good start to finish, sort of, picture?
So, I actually don’t … Only really, for the cast members, not a lot of us know what happens in episode ten. How it’s ended at certain storylines. With the personal life storylines because the scripts that we got, they were completely changed. They were so many drafts of episode ten. I mean, Davey kept writing the night before and they would get new scenes the next day and a lot was being changed on that, so I am actually very interested to watch episode ten. You have no idea [laughs], but it doesn’t wrap it up. It might wrap up certain worlds … But, it doesn’t wrap it up. It definitely is like, I think, it’ll get you excited to see what comes next and what else can possibly go wrong.