Meg Donnelly Is Not Your Average Teen
Young and unabashedly fascinating, Meg Donnelly comes across as someone who knows exactly where she's going despite her youthful age of seventeen. Having just graduated from school – studying via the internet whilst spending much of her childhood working on various television film sets – she's finally free and ready to take on the world. You'd be forgiven for thinking she hasn't already done just that, but she assures me there's so much more to come.
Her passion for the performing arts is something that's been with her since she was born. “When I was younger I could never see myself doing anything other than acting and performing.” Beginning voice and acting training at age six, she got her first big break on “Team Toon” playing Ash, a pint sized kid-creator.
Juggling school, friendships, family and filming is something that would have even the most seasoned actor struggling to fit everything in, but somehow Meg has managed to make it look easy. That's not to say she isn't relieved that she's completed her studies for now. “I'm so glad that I've finished. It's hard because you know you have to stay on track.” With every commitment came equally fun distractions. “When you're acting and want to hang out with friends and do other things like music, it's really hard to stay focused. Especially when you're doing school online, everything is driven by you. It's very self motivated.” During the process, Donnelly found what worked for her. “What I did is I thought about the end [outcome] and having a lot of free time.” Her forward thinking kept her going throughout the school and filming years, her mindset being “once I get all this done then I'll have time to breathe.”
Her star is rising fast, but Donnelly hardly seems aware of the impact she's having on Hollywood. She's humble and driven, two traits that make her a force to be reckoned with in the industry. Donnelly's recent film, Disney's Zombies, was released to record breaking viewership on the Disney Channel. It's a film that incorporates a message of embracing differences through singing and dancing with her character Addison. “I started off in theatre, but singing, dancing and acting all at the same time is always something I've been passionate about. That's where my roots are. So doing Zombies was not out of my element at all, because I am obsessed with theatre and I love being on stage and performing. It was really cool to do it in a different atmosphere with the camera.”
Filming in Toronto, Canada, Meg and her cast mates including Trevor Tordjman from The Next Step, quickly became friends for life. “Everyone on the cast and the crew were just the nicest people ever and they definitely held true to the Canadian stereotype of everyone being so nice. We got to go around Toronto, and have adventures and dance parties. We hung out all the time and we're like a huge family. It was really cool because we didn't even have to really act, we just had an amazing time.”
From Disney musicals to ABC's sitcom American Housewife, Meg gained instant siblings. “I'm an only child, and so are two of the other actors who play siblings on the show.”
Despite growing up as an only child, she's effortless in portraying the eldest of three children and has a special bond with the show's lead, Katie Mixon. “Katie is the nicest human ever. She's so hardworking and professional, but also she treats me like we're sisters. She's kinda like my older sister.” Donnelly is learning from the best, Mixon's strong work ethic has not gone unnoticed. “Her hours are crazy and she's pregnant on top of it. I just don't know how she juggles it all and still is so humble and grounded, it's really amazing to watch and learn from.”
For this teen, living away from home has become normality. Her family relocated to LA from New Jersey when she booked the role on American Housewife. “I do miss home a lot. I definitely get homesick.”
Meg appreciates both sides of the continent. “The vibe on each coast is so different. The East Coast is fast-paced and the West Coast is very chillaxed. It's very interesting, but they both have their amazing qualities and they're both equally as cool.”
With a trip planned to return home soon, I asked her if there are any other travel plans slated for the next year. “I'm actually going to Japan for the first time and it's all I can think about.” It may be completely unexpected that this ‘All-American girl’ with an Irish background can speak Japanese fluently. Meg learned while attending school in New York City, but not in the traditional way you would expect. “There was a Japanese boy band of ten members who were all incredible dancers that went to my school on an exchange program. They were filming a reality TV show.” The producers of the show placed the Japanese students into home-stays with American families that only spoke English. “I became really good friends with all of them, and they didn't know any English at all. They were in New York with host families and they were always wondering what was going on. So I helped them learn English, and they helped me learn Japanese.”
This aptitude for memorization has also come in handy with learning scripts. “I like studying the lines and going over the story. It's a lot of fun to read a script and then become a different person to portray.”
Donnelly is always seeking adventures, taking time off from filming to experience the world – and not all of it occurs on dry land. On a family trip to Hawaii she took the plunge and learned to scuba dive. “I fell in love with it, so now I've been scuba diving ever since and surfing too when I can. There’s a whole different world in the ocean that no one knows about.”
Like any teen girl her age, Donnelly loves fashion and experimenting with trends. Her instagram is evident of that, with four hundred thousand followers and counting, her social media is blowing up. “I connect to people on the internet that I don't get to see. I think that is something really special. Meeting new people and being like, hey you seem cool, let's get coffee sometime. It's amazing how you do that, and there's often mutual friends.”
With so much on the horizon for this blossoming starlet, her future looks bright. She's currently recording new music, something she has wanted to do from the very beginning. “I've always loved theatre. I've kinda wanted to do music more than acting, but then I got an acting role... and I've really been passionate about acting because it was so much fun. Music is definitely what I really want to accomplish next.”
There are no signs of Meg leaving this fast-paced lifestyle anytime soon. “I would like to do more work. I love working, whether it's modeling or music.” Having portrayed so many different characters on screen, her ideal role goes back to her Disney roots. “I would definitely be Rey in Star Wars.”
Already a part of the Disney family, I'd say her dreams aren't that far off. Could we possibly be looking at the future ‘young Rey’?