Not anyone can travel from one universe to the other as easily as Meg Donnelly — unless you’re a Marvel hero, that is. From her blissful beginning as a Disney Channel star with the Zombies franchise to her most recent role in The Winchesters, Supernatural’s spin-off, Donnelly has brought new life to every character she’s portrayed. If Addison, the kind cheerleader from Zombies, inspires the younger generation, then the brave huntress Mary Campbell is the epitome of great fan service for those who grew up watching the dark fantasy show.
Her performances, although representative of their respective audiences, carry universal messages of respect, altruism and unconditional kindness — and now even more as she transforms into Supergirl for the upcoming DC animated movie Legion of Super-Heroes.
Gushing over Emma Stone and her flawless cinematic resume, Meg chats with Schön! about her dream-like Disney era, bringing back to the spotlight iconic female characters, experimenting with new sounds for her upcoming music projects, and so much more.
Meg, you’ve been in the film industry since your childhood days. Has it always been your dream to become an actress? What’s a memorable moment from your professional debut?
Since I can remember, it’s always been what I’ve wanted to do. I think around five/six, I started musical theatre. I was acting, singing, and dancing, all at one time. My dream at first was to be on broadway and then, when I was nine, I signed with my first manager. I had no idea what I was doing, or what a manager was. I didn’t know what auditions were like, and neither did my parents, so we were all just figuring it out at the same time. That’s when I went into acting and I loved it too. Every time I went to this theatre school called Annie’s Playhouse, right before our show would start, we would all do this ritual and we would all stand in a circle and do warmups, hold hands and look at each other. I miss that so much.
Disney Channel, in particular, has been a launching pad for many careers — think of Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez or even most recently Olivia Rodrigo. When you officially joined the network, what was your initial reaction?
When I was younger, I — and I think everyone my age — dreamed of being on Disney Channel. I mean, it was such a huge part of my life growing up. I would go to High School Musical: On Ice and I saw the Cheetah Girls in concert, so I was obsessed with Disney. I auditioned for Disney a lot during my younger years. When Zombies came up it was everything that I wanted because it’s a musical and a movie all in one. I really didn’t have any expectations, so when it did happen, it was like my world changed forever.
Everyone knows the OGs: Camp Rock, High School Musical, and the Cheetah Girls. Which one was your favourite growing up?
It’s so hard to pick. High School Musical is just overall what inspired me. I also really like Cheetah Girls a lot. Camp Rock is so good too. Out of all the High School Musicals, what’s your favourite?
I have to say the second one. It’s just too iconic to not be the main one.
Right? It literally starts with, “What Time Is It?”. Like, that’s iconic.
Speaking of, you also appeared as Val in High School Musical: The Series. How was your experience on set and with the cast?
It was so much fun. I didn’t feel like a new kid at all. Joshua Bassett was one of the first friends that I ever made in L.A. actually, probably the first. I just finished doing Zombies 3 with Matt Cornett, so I was already really close with him too. So, going in, I had two big brothers, but the cast was so incredibly nice and really welcoming. It was like a theatre family. Jason Earls is literally the best person on the planet Earth, and it was so surreal doing scenes with him and Corbin Bleu. I was tripping out.
With Zombies, you seem to be on the same trajectory as other Disney stars. The franchise — now counting two sequels to the first — has been a success among the new generation. How do you feel knowing that so many children around the world are inspired by characters such as Addison and Zed [Milo Manheim]?
I feel like it’s indescribable. I don’t know if it ever will fully wrap around my head, but it’s really cool always meeting fans, especially during Halloween when there are Addison costumes. Hearing stories of kids who stood up to their bullies or realised that them being different is actually okay, just little things that are so important for little kids to hear. If something I was a part of can help kids go through that, that is more than I can ask for.
There are plenty of songs in each and every title of the franchise — as per the classic Disney musical formula. If you could only pick one which one would it be and why?
I definitely have one for each movie but overall, I think the theme of Zombies is ‘Someday.’ It will always just hold such a deep meaning in my heart because I remember it was the first time we were working on Zombies 1. Milo and I had just turned 16, we were little children, and hearing ‘Someday’ was when it first clicked for both of us that we were a part of this franchise. But also ‘My Year’ from the first one always makes me cry because it was the first thing we shot, the first song we recorded.
About Zombies, there’s an uncanny similarity between Addison and Juliet from Lollipop Chainsaw — a popular zombie slasher game featuring a sweet cheerleader. They’re both sassy, stubborn and preppy teenage girls. Would you ever consider starring in a possible live or animated adaptation?
Yes, of course. That sounds so familiar and that’s such a cool name, Lollipop Chainsaw. That’s awesome. I would totally be Juliet, 100%. I will definitely put a word in for sure.
On another note, you also star as Mary in the prequel series to the iconic Supernatural, The Winchesters. Were you familiar with the show at the time of your audition?
I was definitely familiar with the show. I remember watching on YouTube Supernatural bloopers with Jensen [Ackles] and Jared [Padalecki] because they were everywhere. I tried watching the show but I am such a big scaredy cat. Even while we’re filming The Winchesters, I’m constantly terrified. So I never watched the show because I was too scared, but now I’ve been watching certain episodes to prepare for our show.
Mary, just like in the original series, is a complex but still very powerful character. What did it mean to you to portray her? What’s next for her?
It was really fun playing Mary. At first, it was really intimidating because I’d never done anything dark, scary or more mature. This was a huge first for me. Playing someone like her I feel is just such a great stepping stone because she’s very closed off and definitely more of a soldier hunter. She’s really badass, she speaks her mind but through the series, at certain moments she gets vulnerable with people. She allows the vulnerability to creep in. You really find out that she’s just like that because she wants to protect the people that she loves. In the upcoming series, I feel like they get into a lot of crazy situations and crazy monsters that they’re fighting and just seeing the way Mary navigates through all of it is just really fun and interesting.
You revealed in the past that you’re a huge superheroes fan, so I’m assuming it was an absolute shock for you to learn that you’d be voicing Supergirl in the upcoming DC animated movie Legion of Super-Heroes. What can we expect to see from your interpretation of Kara?
It was such an honour. Playing her was so much fun because it was like seeing her from a really young age, being more innocent. We get to see everything that happens to her and how her voice kind of matures over time because of all the things she’s going through. Doing a whole voiceover for a movie I’ve never done before was such a fun process. In the booth, you feel like you can do whatever you want which is really freeing, especially during the fights when you just have to keep going like ‘huh, huh’ in the mic. I did voices for a bunch of movies after that, so I’m excited for that series to continue. I would love to do more voiceovers, mostly for cartoons like SpongeBob or an animated Disney movie where there’s singing in it.
Speaking of voice, yours is mesmerising. As a musical artist yourself, who would you say are your biggest inspirations? Is there a genre you’d like to explore more production-wise? Any new songs you’re currently working on?
Someone I look up to in terms of what they sang and the impact they had on music is Bob Marley. His lyrics helped me through a lot of stuff mentally and everything he says is so profound. I also really like Bruno Mars. I’ve been experimenting a lot and hopefully this year I’ll have music out, which I’m really excited about. For the past couple of years, I’ve just been hunkered down trying to figure out what lane I wanna go into. I definitely wanna go more like pop/dance-pop because I really would love to perform on stage and dance. You can definitely expect something soon.
Acting-wise, do you have any dream roles or specific characters you’d like to portray?
I would love to be in a Marvel movie or Star Wars, that would be unreal. [Playing] Someone like Scarlet Witch or Black Widow would be so cool. Career-wise, I love Emma Stone so much because she has done literally everything that I aspire to do. She was in a Marvel movie, she played Gwen Stacy, which would be awesome. I would love to play Gwen Stacy. Then she was in La La Land which is a huge dream; Superbad, which is literally one of my favourite movies of all time, and Easy A. I just love comedies. I would love to be in a movie like that.
Lastly, is there anything you’re looking forward to?
There’s definitely a lot of stuff to look forward to. A lot of it’s like up in the air, but nothing’s official yet. On the music front, I’m really excited to start putting out music and hopefully start performing this year because I really miss live performing.
The Winchesters is out now.
photography + videography. Eric T. White @ See Management
art direction. Nannaphat Arunothaivitsarut
fashion. Suthee Ritthaworn
talent. Meg Donnelly
hair. Tomoaki Sato using ORIBE
make up. Ashleigh Ciucci @ See Management using Danessa Myricks Beauty + LoveSeen Lashes
nails. Jazz Style @ See Management using Nails Inc.
video editor. Emilie Gateau
post production. Weekend Post House
interview. Gennaro Costanzo
photography assistant. Aidan Tan
fashion assistant. Inthorn Aursakaree
location. Popsicle Studio