LIVING Megan West’s career, which began when she was six, has seen her tackle an astounding range of roles. The actress shares insights into her work, and what gives her balance, with Jack Yan
Photographed by Lucas Passmore
Make-up by Beth Follert
Styled by Karlee Parrish
From issue 44 of Lucire
As journalist Taylor Kelly on 9-1-1, actress Megan West has plenty of fans talking since she joined the cast in season 2, dividing opinions on Taylor’s relationship with Evan ‘Buck’ Buckley (actor Oliver Stark). The passions that fans have for the series have seen the odd comment on West’s Instagram that seem to confuse the redheaded Texan actress with her character, but she remains resolutely well mannered and tolerant—after all, better to have dedicated fans who appreciate your work than not having made an impression.
The latter would be highly unlikely for West, who has had a passion for acting since her childhood in Houston, Texas, and her down-home decency is the result of her upbringing in the us’s south. ‘The south is a special place,’ she tells Lucire, when asked about how so many southerners have done well in the acting profession. ‘It breeds many traits, but arguably the “southern charm” you’re referring to is good manners. I was raised to be kind to others. It’s part of who I am, so I look to bring that with me to every project or set, as well as my day-to-day life. I would like to believe that is the “special sauce” we all have in common.’
One association those looking from outside the south make is their fierce independence, and West is no exception. Her résumé has both stage and screen entries, and it was the former she graced first. ‘[The stage] found me,’ she explains. ‘When I was six, I lied about needing glasses, because I thought wearing glasses was very stylish, so my mother took me to see an optometrist. I purposely failed the exam and I think he could tell I was faking it—he kept asking me, “Do you dance? Do you sing?” He told my mom about a local Houston children’s theatre his daughter was attending, and that we should check it out. I started classes as soon as I could and haven’t stopped since.’
HITS Theatre, in the Houston Heights, was the start she needed, and she hasn’t looked back.
Acting wasn’t the profession her mother envisaged for her, a woman whom West describes as ‘always very practical,’ but that she did not give them much of a choice: ‘I was determined. I dragged my parents to an agent’s office when I was eight years old. My career path was going to be different, and she started to understand that when I went on tour with Barney at nine years old.’ Her parents did one thing that few would in order to encourage their daughter’s passion: ‘They took a year off to make that happen, and it changed my life. I travelled all over the US and Canada doing what I loved and am forever grateful to my parents for allowing me to follow my passion.’
She attended a performing arts’ high school, and it was her acting coach who suggested the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA), which she would not have otherwise considered. She auditioned for many other schools and had been accepted, but a visit to uncsa convinced her.
‘It turned out to be the ideal place for me to harness my skills. It has given me a big toolbox to be able to pull from. Beyond acting, I learned a great deal about being present in my body, how to channel intense emotions, and embrace the uncomfortable. All of which has helped me in and out of work projects.’ The same university can boast ballerina Gillian Murphy, and actresses Jada Pinkett Smith, Margaret Qualley, Natalia Córdova-Buckley and Mary-Louise Parker among its alumnæ.
By the time of her final year, West had guest appearances on two well known us crime dramas: Person of Interest and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and in 2014 she appeared in a very different role, as fallen angel Imogen in the supernatural drama Constantine. A recurring role in How to Get Away with Murder showed West’s acting talent in a multi-episode arc, bringing her a noticeable boost in recognition.
In 2015, it was back to the 1960s in Public Morals as Rosemary Patton, which also starred acting legend Brian Dennehy playing her screen grandfather. West’s range was even more apparent, especially with two roles as different as different as Imogen and Rosemary.
The costumes helped immerse her into the characters even more. ‘Wearing vintage clothes puts you in a different mindset. The costumers create a space for us actors to play in and for Public Morals, those clothes helped me create a backstory on who this person was, where did they come from and the importance of that period in time. You can’t help but wonder the history of who wore it before you. Make-up and hair play a huge role in creating the character as well,’ she says. ‘I wore painted contacts for Constantine, and it completely changed my look. It inspired my metamorphosis and helped me to fully transform into the dark angel I played—the CGI wings also helped!’
The real Megan West’s look is more eclectic. ‘A little bit of everything,’ she says. ‘I love to go in my closet and play dress-up. Some days I need armour and I go for something tough like leather, others, I feel soft and go for an ethereal slip dress.’
A more fun role came with the beauty pageant comedy-drama Queen America in 2018, starring Academy Award winner Catherine Zeta-Jones as a coach, and West portraying Brittany, Miss Texas, and the chief rival to Belle Shouse’s Samantha.
West says, ‘I am a proud Texan, so getting the opportunity to represent my state brought me immense joy. It was a blast and the brilliant material gave me so much to play with. We had a professional pageant coach on set with us and I learned so much from her and the other incredible women in the cast and crew. It was a dream to get to do all the things I loved in that show, act, dance and sing. I have an incredible amount of respect for pageant girls after working on Queen America.’
But it’s 9-1-1, airing around the world, that has brought West the most attention to date. ‘This season on 9-1-1 allows viewers to get to know Taylor better. People have an opinion on Taylor and I think this season will shed light on some of her deeper layers,’ she says. ‘I have become very attached to Taylor and think she is often misunderstood. It has and continues to be a surreal experience to work on 9-1-1. There is a lot of love on that set and it’s a beautiful thing to be a part of.’
The very private actress did share two difficult events on her social media, the passing of both her mother, and her bulldog, which understandably has not not been easy. ‘It’s hard to wrap your head around, as so much happened in such a short period of time. There is nothing easy about it. No trick. I was angry at the world. I embraced my feelings and I allowed myself to be overwhelmed. I don’t have all the answers, but I know it’s a process. It’s still a process. I’m a naturally optimistic person and losing my mother, and then my dog, transported me to a dark place. Learning to reach out for help has been fundamental for me during this time. I’m incredibly fortunate to have a strong support system of friends and family who have been there for me in big and small ways. I have learned to take everything one moment at a time. Allow myself the moments to be sad and happy. Most importantly, I feel them with me and that gives me peace when I take a moment to connect with them.’
Nevertheless, she continues to keep herself busy with her many projects—though she remains tight-lipped about what is upcoming (‘You’ll have to wait and see!’). She says she is ‘also learning to find time and space to rest, which can be difficult. There is no perfect solution. For me it’s about being comfortable in the ebbs and flows of my schedule.’ For West it’s through dance where she can find her balance again: ‘It is my preferred form of meditation. I lose all sense of time and space and feel inspired after.’
West’s next project, according to IMDB, is Boy Makes Girl, a crowdfunded independent science-fiction feature written and co-directed by, and starring another 9-1-1 actor, Mark Elias. It is currently in post-production and details are scarce, but the premise on Indiegogo, about ‘an introvert millennial and his humanoid creation,’ suggests another interesting role from this very versatile actress. •
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