Mark Hildreth On ‘The Nellie Bly Story’, Dreams Of Playing David Bowie And Being A Musical Prodigy

Actor Mark Hildreth, one of the stars of Lifetime’s film Escaping The Madhouse: The Nellie Bly Story, joins us for a chat on Close-up Culture.

Q: ‘Escaping The Madhouse: The Nellie Bly Story’ premiered 19 January on Lifetime. Can you tell us about the story and what interested you to get involved with the project?

A: Escaping The Madhouse: The Nellie Bly Story is based on the true story of one of America’s first female undercover news reporters and her journey to expose the abuses at a so-called women’s “insane asylum” in New York near the turn of the 20th century. It tells the harrowing tale of how she infiltrated and ultimately exposed injustices committed at the facility and changed journalism in America as a result.

I was interested in helping to tell this story mainly because it has a great female protagonist played by Christina Ricci, as well as a fantastic female antagonist played exquisitely by the wonderful actor Judith Light. It’s a story with a lot heart and an important subject.

Q: Do you feel the story is given greater purpose at a time when journalists are largely under fire?

A: I think this story highlights the difficult and often controversial job that journalism in it’s most noble form is tasked with: to tell the truth. Unfortunately, many journalists are being criticized unfairly these days, and at the same time many journalists are unfairly criticizing others. I hope that what Nellie Bly will show is that unflagging determination to discover and tell the truth about a given situation, no matter how unpopular that truth may be, is of the highest importance.

Q: Can you tell us about Bartheloemew Driscoll and your experience playing him?

A: Bartholemew Driscoll is Nellie Bly’s fiancé. He loves Nellie deeply and ultimately decides to intervene when it appears that Nellie is in trouble. Creating this character was really interesting because we had to ask: what type of man would a strong, independent, self-reliant woman choose as her partner?

As forward-thinking as the character of Nellie was for her time, her partner would have to be equally forward thinking. I found it immensely interesting to bring to life a man who could not only keep up with Nellie’s incredible ambition and humanity, but also have his own strength and be a believable partner and support to such a dynamic woman.

Q: The role allowed you to work with many people’s favourite actor, Christina Ricci. What was it like working with her?

A: Christina, who also produced Nellie Bly, is a consummate professional with a huge body of work. I felt honored to work with her on this important film.

Q: If you could play any historical figure, who would it be and why?

A: David Bowie. I grew up listening to his music and he influenced my life profoundly.

The dynamic of playing a character in your career (Ziggy Stardust, The Thin White Duke, etc) while at the same time maintaining your own persona and dignity while navigating the world of fame and fortune would be a story that would be very interesting to explore. Plus I think I can do a pretty darn good impression of his singing!

Q: You have an incredible background in voice acting work, including ‘Dragon Ball Z’ and ‘Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.’ What do you enjoy most about voice over acting?

A: You get to go to work in your pyjamas! I’ve been lucky to get to do VO work since I was very little and I really enjoy it. Bringing a character to life using only your voice is a special skill and a lot of fun. It’s a world full of wonderful people and is the best “day job” I’ve ever had!

Q: As well as acting, you’ve had a very fruitful musical career. Can you tell us about growing up as a music prodigy?

A: I’ve been a musician ever since I taught myself to play Beethoven on the family piano when I was about 10 years old. I’ve released two original albums that are available on iTunes and at www.markhildreth.com and I’ve got another album in the works. There are few things I love more than being in front of people sharing stories through music. Music is the universal language!

Q: You’ve had a wonderfully diverse career. Are there any new challenges or ambitions you have for the coming years?

A: 1) Produce and direct a feature film I wrote
2) Create a new sketch comedy series I’ve been developing over the last year
3) Play Hamlet
4) Release a new original album
5) Spend more time with family
6) Write more ambitious to-do lists

Q: Do you have any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

A: I just finished recording an incredible new song for the second season of The Hollow, a series I’ve been doing for Netflix. The Hollow combines original animation with live-action, and now music! It was a hit for Netflix last year! Season 2 is being created as we speak!

Title photo by Jenna Berman

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