One of the best parts of the ABC comedy American Housewife occurs when the titular character Katie (Katy Mixon) meets her two best friends Angela (Carly Hughes) and Doris (Ali Wong) for second breakfast at their favorite restaurant. The duo are the delightful and always hilarious Greek chorus of the show, as Katie laments her problems of the day and take-no-prisoners Angela doles out her version of sage wisdom. Paste recently had the chance to talk with Hughes about starring in the series, now in its fourth season, the challenges of having most of your scenes involve food, and her roots in musical theater.
Paste: You spend a lot of time sitting down on the series. Almost all of your scenes are in the restaurant.
Carly Hughes: Any time we do get to stand up everyone jokes, “Oh she has legs!”
Paste: Is it harder having the majority of your scenes in the same setting?
Hughes: I feel like for me it’s harder because of the monotony of the scene, of the choreography—particularly sitting at a table. You have to find a new way to re-energize the scene and make everything seem different. You have to make the smallest changes to not make it seem like we are watching the same thing again.
Paste: And you have to eat in nearly every scene! How hard is that?
Hughes: You learn to eat very daintily. Luckily I’ve been okay with making sure I stay dainty. You have to eat small chunks especially when you know you might have to reshoot the scene five different angles, 10 different times. You get specific with I’ll have a strawberry today and turkey bacon tomorrow and not like shove a pancake in your mouth because then you are stuck.
Paste:And is it always real food?
Hughes: Yes! You’d be able to tell. We’d be like mimes doing our worst mime imitation over a plastic apple
Paste: How did you make the jump from Broadway to TV?
Hughes: I had been auditioning for a while for TV and film. It’s a numbers game waiting for something to happen. The stars aligned. I auditioned on opening night of my last Broadway show (Cabin in the Sky) in New York. When you’re doing Broadway in New York it’s a little harder to get in just based on the schedule eight shows a week and it’s a little harder for people to take you seriously.
Paste: Were you someone who did theater growing up?
Hughes: I did it in middle school and by high school I was like, “Wait I can do this for a living?” I grew up watching golden age of musicals. I thought, “Wow they are so lucky to do that.” But we didn’t have the means to go see a Broadway show so I didn’t know what Broadway was until high school. I was like, “Wait a minute? This still happens? I thought this was only in schools shows and in MGM studios on my VHS tape.” And so I did every show in high school, sang for all the ensemble groups and did all that. When I realized I could do this for a living I was like, “Peace out I’m going to go do this.”
Paste:What was your first stage role?
Hughes: I was in fifth grade and just got to Clemens Crossing Elementary School and they had a drama program. They were doing the kids version of Robin Hood. We all auditioned and it came time and we are sitting in the circle and she announces all the female parts and I was like, “Oh I didn’t get anything.” And then she said, “And Carly is going to play Robin Hood.” And I was like, “WHAT.”
Paste: That must have been exciting.
Hughes: I was thinking “Oh Robin Hood that’s a guy.” And it changed to “Oh Robin Hood. That’s me!” It gave me the opportunity and the go ahead to be “that’s my part” and it doesn’t matter what the part it is, we cast you. Which ironically and sadly doesn’t happen in this business most of the time. The best person doesn’t always get cast for the part, so it’s nice to get started young and have that actually be the case of “we cast the best person for the part.” At least you have that mentality going forward.
Paste: How important is theater when you are young?
Hughes:You do it young and you grow up with a different sense of confidence whether you continue to do it for a living or not. You are automatically bestowed with a certain amount of confidence that comes with learning lines and learning songs and learning a new part. People are meaner in high school; start young, get your own confidence that way.
Paste: What was your first professional show?
Hughes: I had my first professional show when I was 18. Little Shop of Horrors at Pennsylvania Center Stage. It was delightful because I grew up watching that movie.
Paste: Did you ever think about doing anything else?
Hughes:No. Ever since fifth grade I was bitten by the bug and I said, “Yes I’m just going to do this for life thank you.” It never crossed my mind let me think of something else to do.
Paste: How did you make the leap from regional theater to Broadway.
Hughes: It was May 2007. I had returned from doing a regional show in December and decided and I had to stay in new York because I had done a million regional shows. I thought, “I’m going to have to turn some work down” because I had made a name for myself regionally. In May I auditioned for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, I found out the next day that I booked it. I was at home getting ready to audition for Mamma Mia! and I got the call from my agent saying you booked Putnam County Spelling Bee and I was like, “Are you kidding me? But I used the f word.”
Paste: What are your hopes for Angela?
Hughes:I would love for Angela to branch out in every way. I would love for everyone to meet her kids I would love for her to have a relationship that actually throws her for once, just the different layers of Angela would be nice.
American Housewife airs Fridays at 8 p.m. on ABC.
Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal®, is a Boston-based freelance writer, a member of the Television Critics Association and the Assistant TV Editor for Paste. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter (@AmyTVGal).