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Originally published Sunday, September 29, 2013 at 5:13 AM

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Megan Hilty shows comic chops on ‘Sean Saves the World’

An interview with Bellevue native Megan Hilty, who joins the cast of the NBC show “Sean Saves the World” after the network canceled “Smash.”

Special to The Seattle Times

On TV

‘Sean Saves the World’

9 p.m. Thursday on NBC.

Tonight in Prime Time

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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — NBC’s “Smash” may not have lived up to its title in the ratings — the show was canceled in May after two low-rated seasons — but co-star Megan Hilty has already landed on another series.

The Bellevue native joins the cast of NBC’s sitcom “Sean Saves the World” (9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 3) playing opposite former “Will & Grace” star Sean Hayes.

“I’m really excited to be doing a complete 180 from my last job,” Hilty said in a July news conference. “I can always go do concerts and sing other places. I don’t have to always be singing in every job that I do.”

Hilty was home in Seattle in early July to sing at the christening of the yacht Invictus. She’s also been singing with symphonies across the country and on PBS’ “A Capitol Fourth.”

Hilty got her start in musical theater, including a stint in the musical “Wicked,” and she credits the exposure from “Smash” for these other opportunities to sing, but she probably won’t be tuning up too often on “Sean Saves the World.”

“We haven’t broken a story like that where she does sing,” said “Sean Saves the World” executive producer Victor Fresco. “We have some dancing coming up, so singing might not be too far down the line.”

Hilty plays Liz, best friend to Hayes’ character, a gay single dad who’s trying to balance raising teenage daughter Ellie (Samantha Isler), his buttinski mother (Linda Lavin, “Alice”) and an odd, demanding boss (Thomas Lennon, “Reno 911!”) at work.

This week’s pilot episode doesn’t offer much background on Liz, but a future episode reveals she met Sean at his wedding to Ellie’s mom and that Liz told Sean he was gay, which apparently had little effect until years later.

Now Liz works with Sean, takes Ellie shopping for overly lacy bras and often butts heads with Sean’s mother.

“She’s kind of the go-between between his home life and work. She’s the person who connects the two,” Hilty explained. “She’s supposed to be like a really strange, motherly figure to Ellie and in competition with Linda Lavin’s character for that role in her life, but they’re both horribly inappropriate influences on her, so I don’t know who would be better to show her the ways of the world.”

Hayes guest-starred on the second season of “Smash,” and almost all of his scenes were with Hilty. She said that pairing didn’t lead directly to her new role — she auditioned with other actresses — but it didn’t hurt.

Hayes said he remembered Hilty from an audition for a 2007 pilot his company produced and although she didn’t get the part (and the show never aired), she made an impression.

“She came in and read, and I made her sing ‘Popular’ [from ‘Wicked’] in the voice of a chicken,” Hayes recalled. “I knew that she was hilarious. I don’t know that America knows that yet because ‘Smash’ was a drama. So I’m excited that America gets to see Megan be funny and hilarious and a way they’ve never seen her be before.”

Freelance writer Rob Owen: RobOwenTV@gmail.com or on Facebook and Twitter as RobOwenTV.

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