Taylor Otto is looking to go to Hollywood and see her musical dreams realized on American Idol during the March 19 episode of American Housewife. Needless to say, her parents, Katie (Katy Mixon) and Greg (Diedrich Bader), are not so thrilled when Taylor tells them she plans to use her college fund to pay for the trip to Los Angeles.
The "American Idol" episode is part of the musical theme for the ABC comedy this season, which continues with the season finale episode, "A Mom’s Parade," on May 21. That half-hour will feature four original songs by renowned composer Justin Paul (The Greatest Showman, Dear Evan Hansen) and Glenn Slater (Tangled, School of Rock-The Musical), with choreography by Ashley Wallen (La La Land, The Greatest Showman).
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For Meg Donnelly, the actress who plays Taylor, it was a surreal experience to face actual judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie, along with host Ryan Seacrest, in the "American Idol" episode. The teen recently reflected with us on her experience working on American Housewife's special musical episodes, as well as growing on the show and preparing to film the sequel to the popular Disney Channel original movie, Zombies.
How much of a fan were you of American Idol?
Meg Donnelly: I remember when I was 6, I would watch the earlier seasons with Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, Fantasia. It was so incredible to watch. David Archuleta, I was obsessed with him. I have been watching American Idol for just about my entire life. Then, to perform on American Idol in a sense was so crazy. Being in that room and feeling that energy, it was incredible.
What was it like facing the judges on your show as your character similar to any contestant on Idol during those auditions? Was it intimidating for you?
It’s really cool, because I went in as my character. I did the whole, “My name is Taylor Otto, and I’m 16.” Until I got there, I didn’t know I was going to be in front of the actual judges Luke Bryan, Lionel Richie and Katy Perry. So, when I found that out, I started freaking out. I was so nervous because these people are so incredible.
I can’t imagine being an actual contestant on the show, because you only have one shot, and if you mess up or something happens, that’s your audition. Since I was filming technically for a TV show, if I messed up, I had that in my head that it wasn’t as high a pressure as these amazing contestants that go on. It was so crazy to be in the place of a contestant, because it was so much to handle.
Given your musical background, did any of the judges give you any advice that you can take with you in your own career?
The plot in the show is my parents Katie and Greg are not behind me going for my music career instead of college. That’s the setup, and what I said in my audition. They saw my parents were not on board with my singing career, so Katy Perry went through this whole thing that when she was in high school, she dropped out, followed her music career and look what it got her. If you have the passion, you have to go for it. If you’re really in love with it, and that’s what you want to do, you have to follow through. You don’t want to have the what if. She had that amazing advice that even though it wasn’t personally me, it was something that anyone can take from.
You have another musical episode in May. What were challenges like in putting that on?
I have been doing musical theater my whole life. It was definitely my first love. I got to do Zombies, so the whole putting a musical on camera wasn’t new to me. But just doing it with the cast of American Housewife, who I haven’t done it with before, was so much fun. Seeing them going through the same process I did. It was a new experience, and it was long days, but we had so much fun. We are such a tight family and so supportive of each other. Katy, the TV mom, has this amazing song. Her voice is so incredible. We were blown away by her. It was really cool.
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Do you see future musical collaborations in regard to the show?
My TV dad Diedrich and I have been pitching to producers that we do more and more musical ideas because it was so much fun that we definitely want to do it again.
You brought up Zombies. We now know there will be a sequel with you and Milo Manheim back. You got such a big response to the first movie on social media. What can fans expect with you reuniting for this next installment? Do you see this parlaying into maybe a series or more movies?
I would love to do anything to do with Zombies, whether it’s a TV show or another sequel. Even if there is a cartoon, anything that can get me to work with the incredible cast. We hang out all the time as friends here in L.A. We hang out way too much, but it’s like I have this other family. Just to be back in Toronto this summer filming with all of them, I’m just so excited to relive the best summer of my life over again. Also, the fan support has been crazy and unreal. I’m really excited to work on the second one and show the fans how much we have.
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Over the course of three seasons on American Housewife, you’ve grown up in your teenage years onscreen. What have you learned about yourself from when you started to right now?
I think that I haven’t changed at all, but then I look back. I started when I was 16 on the show, and now I’m 18. It was such huge growth from 16 to 18. I learned so much about myself. Katy and Diedrich have definitely been parental figures in my life, which has been really cool. Daniel [DiMaggio] and Julia [Butters] have been the siblings I’ve never had. They are truly my siblings.
Also, what’s crazy is Julia was 7 to 9, and Daniel was 13 to 15 [over the first three seasons], and both of those time frames are crazy changes, too. It’s seeing them grow up and realizing how old they’ve gotten. It’s another real family. I’ve never had that because I am an only child. Just having my own family and seeing how much we’ve grown is really emotional.
Speaking of family, I saw you posted a photo from the set of Celebrity Family Feud for an episode that will air later this year. How did you all prepare for that? Were there cram training sessions?
It was so much fun. We were all so nervous. We would practice in the greenroom waiting because they were filming another game before us. We were watching them and trying to get answers, trying to see if we can do it right. We were practicing all week on set, too. The producers were giving us questions as we tried to answer. It was so much fun. It was TV dad, TV mom, TV brother and Peyton Meyer, who plays Trip. So, the five of us were preparing backstage, then dancing on stage and with the audience members. We had so much fun. There was so much energy. It was great.
American Housewife, Tuesdays, 8/7c, ABC
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As part of the 7th Annual Magic of Storytelling campaign, running now through March 31, Disney and ABC are donating up one million books to First Book, a nonprofit that gets new free books to educators and kids in need. One way to unlock book donations is to enter First Book’s VIP Ticket to Hollywood Sweepstakes. You can have a chance to win a VIP Hollywood experience for you and a friend to attend the season finale of American Idol and get a backstage tour of the show. For more information and to enter, visit this link.