Asheville-based stand up comic Hilliary S. Begley had never acted professionally before landing a role in the hit Netflix movie “Dumplin.’” The film stars Jennifer Aniston, and is hailed as a feel-good, must-see movie of the season. It tells the story of a self-conscious teenage girl named Willowdean (Will), played by Danielle MacDonald, and her beauty-obsessed mother, played by Aniston, who is more concerned with running her beauty pageant than building a relationship with her daughter.
The solace for Will, called Dumplin’ by her mother, is the music of Dolly Parton and the wisdom of her Aunt Lucy. Before landing the role of Aunt Lucy, Begley was known around Asheville as the stand-up comedian who started her own comedy night at the Fairview Tavern.
Begley joins host Frank Stasio to talk about how she landed this role and what life has been like since the movie became a hit. She will take us back to her childhood, her struggle to make it in Hollywood, and how seeing a Richard Pryor stand-up routine changed her life.
“Dumplin’” is streaming on Netflix. Tonight, she's performing at Noble Kava in Asheville. Every Sunday night, Begley hosts Hallelujah Hilliary’s Comedy Revival at Fairview Tavern in Asheville. You will also find Begley on Valentine's Day performing with the Watermark Theatre Group at the Social in Asheville.
Hilliary on the depth of the role:
I had no idea how much my character was going to be referenced throughout it until I saw at the premiere. And it blew my mind.
On her relating to the characters’ struggles:
It's so much like my own self, like I walk every day with this air of confidence. I do believe in myself, but like anybody else, I am constantly in a state of self doubt and question[ing], and I worry about being big. Even though I know that I'm beautiful. The movie spoke to me on several different levels on the character of Aunt Lucy, but then also of Willowdean herself.
On getting discovered on Facebook and cast in Dumplin’:
A casting director saw my picture ... And went through my whole Facebook and saw that I did stand-up and called my friend was like: Hey, who is this girl can have her phone number? I need to talk to her. And they called me and asked me for my stand-up tape. They sent that to Jennifer Aniston. She thought I was hilarious.
On her night on the red carpet at the premiere in Hollywood:
I was standing right next to Dolly Parton and Jennifer Aniston and Danielle McDonald and the woman who wrote the book, Julie Murphy … The paparazzi people were screaming and yelling. I was like: Woo lord this is intense ain’t it … Is it always like this? And Dolly Parton squeezed my hand and said: Just keep smiling.
On her journey with size:
I've been big since the fourth grade, so I don't really look at myself like that anymore. There was a long time where I did, but I think moving back to North Carolina changed my life in the sense where I started looking at myself on the inside versus what I am on the outside because it doesn't matter.