Daytime newcomer Thia Megia is happy to be making music in Salem
Acing her DAYS screen test — her very first ever, by the way — may have all come down to one thing for Thia Megia: A staredown with Casey Moss (JJ). Her acting coach, Steven Anderson, suggested the unusual move.
“He told me, ‘If you really want to be at ease and feel connected to [your scene partner], and he’s willing to do it, ask him if he would be fine with making eye contact with you for a minute straight,’ ” explains Megia. “I was so embarrassed. I said, ‘Do I really have to do that?’ He said, ‘You don’t, but it would help if you try.’ ”
So Megia bit the bullet and followed his advice the minute she spied Moss walk on set. “I went up to him and said, ‘I know this is really awkward and very strange and such a crazy request, but would you mind looking me in the eye for a minute?’ ” recounts Megia. “Not even 30 seconds in, I lost it and we both started laughing. It broke the ice and there was that connection. In a scene, chemistry is everything and you definitely want to see that, especially when you’re testing actors together for the first time.”
The powers-that-be obviously agreed and hired Megia to portray Haley, a nurse and undocumented immigrant who crosses paths with JJ after a suicide attempt. While the material has been mighty heavy, fortunately it’s been balanced by Megia’s lighthearted relationship with Moss. “I don’t think I could ask for a better scene partner,” she raves. “It’s always a good time working with Casey. He’s absolutely hilarious. It’s really easy to feel at ease when you’re on set with him. It’s also, honestly, like having your own personal rock concert because he’s always singing. So we have that in common.”
Megia, who’s been belting out tunes since she was 4 and started vocal training when she was 6, comes to daytime following successful stints on two reality competition shows. She made it to the quarterfinals on AMERICA’S GOT TALENT and followed that up with a run on AMERICAN IDOL, where she was the youngest finalist to compete on the show after the age limit was lowered.
“At 15 years old I definitely felt the pressure of being in this industry,” reflects Megia. “Looking back at my experience on AMERICAN IDOL, I think of all of the amazing memories that I made with the family that I found there. We traveled the world together. We shared this huge mansion on Mulholland Drive, which had killer views and a couple of ghosts. I’m pretty sure it was haunted. We got to sing for Muhammad Ali. We got to work with Jimmy Iovine and J-Lo. We sang Steven Tyler ‘Happy Birthday’ with Stevie Wonder. We performed onstage for Beyoncé and TLC. The list goes on and on, and I am forever grateful.”
Making positive strides in the music world, however, couldn’t quell Megia’s other love — acting. “That has been in me for as long as I’ve been singing,” she shares. “When I’m truly in the performance, I go wherever the music takes me. I surrender to it, the same way I surrender to my scene and the life of my character. There’s something about losing control and being with just your body and your emotions that is so liberating. I live for that feeling, and I find that both within my music and within my acting. They’re different forms of art, but they’re a way of storytelling and expression, which is why I love them both equally.”
And Megia has since as far back as she can remember. She eagerly recounts stories about climbing onto a coffee table and singing “Oops!… I Did It Again” during her fifth birthday party and taping herself “fake crying and looking miserable” so her parents wouldn’t leave on a trip. “They eventually figured me out,” chuckles Megia. “Then they put me into acting class, so I got what I wanted. I think, ultimately, my subconscious goal was to fake it ’till I made it, since I’m now crying for a living.”
Megia readily admits that she’s accomplished that goal, landing a contract soap role with minimal training. “Overall, I’d only been in a couple of classes up until this experience with DAYS, which is absolutely crazy,” she says. “But with the schedule that we have here you learn so much so quickly. It’s an actor’s boot camp.”
Getting help from Moss and the rest of the cast has made things easier. “I couldn’t have imagined a more loving group of people,” professes Megia. “They’ve all been supportive since day one. I feel like the luckiest girl to be part of such an incredible cast.”
However, Megia confesses that “being a newbie” among the soap’s more accomplished stars “was intimidating, at first.” Particularly since she’d spent weeks before landing the job studying online footage of actresses like Kristian Alfonso (Hope), Marci Miller (ex-Abigail), Deidre Hall (Marlena) and Suzanne Rogers (Maggie) “to get a feel for the acting style on the show,” she points out.
“So I was completely starstruck when I first walked on set. I wasn’t expecting to see everybody in the makeup room, and I was completely speechless. It was surreal knowing that I was working with these legacy characters and people who have been on the show for decades. I remember sitting next to Kristian Alfonso and telling my makeup artist how nervous I was. Kristian took my hand and said, ‘You know what, I’ve been on here for as long as I can remember and I still get nervous to this day.’ That was really sweet of her, and it helped knowing that the great Kristian Alfonso still gets nervous, too.”
Now, a few months into the gig, Megia’s more at ease and acclimated to the daily daytime drill. “I didn’t know what the work schedule would be like when I started,” she notes. “I didn’t know how many pages we would shoot a day, with little to pretty much no rehearsal. But we all work closely together as a team and, despite our super-hectic schedule, we always have fun and goof around in between takes. I feel so grateful for all of this, and I love coming in to work.”
Part of the reason is the close friendships Megia has forged with co-stars Victoria Konefal (Ciara) and Olivia Rose Keegan (Claire), who she affectionately calls “my girls. I love them so much. They are the life of the studio, They crack me up every single day.”
The trio has bonded beyond the confines of the soap’s studio walls. “We love going out for girls’ night; going all out on sushi, which is what we did a few nights ago,” says Megia. “We love talking about James Franco, everything and nothing, and we love singing with our Uber drivers. [Victoria and Olivia] are pretty much like human jukeboxes. They know every single song, which is crazy. They know every lyric to a song, and I’ll just mumble along. It’s always a good time with them.”
JUST THE FACTS
Birthday: January 30
California Girl: “I was born and raised in Hayward, CA. We moved to Tracy, CA, when I was in high school.”
Sibling Revelry: Megia has a brother, Ian, and a sister, Lia.
Comic Relief: “I enjoy going to comic book stores and picking up something new, which is something a lot of people don’t know about me. I’m really into East of West, Transmetropolitan and Paper Girls, which is an all-female STRANGER THINGS and pretty awesome.”
Disney Darling: Megia has a featured song, “We’ll Be There”, on Disney Fairies: Faith, Trust And Pixie Dust. Also performing solos on the album are Zendaya, Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez.
Spare Change: “I used to collect coins with my grandpa. It’s not the most exciting collection, but that’s the one thing that he and I enjoyed doing together. So that collection is very special to me.”
Getting into character as Haley Chen, RN, is super-easy for Megia. “Nursing was always the career to pursue in my family,” says the actress. “My mom’s a nurse. Most of my cousins are nurses. My sister went to school for nursing. I grew up in a family of nurses.” All of that medical expertise comes in handy. “It definitely helps a lot,” she adds. “When I’m unsure how to do a certain thing, I always just text or call one of them. It’s funny because my mom actually was hoping that I would follow in her footsteps one day, and now I am. Her dream somewhat came true.” Megia loves the turn, too. “It almost feels like bringing home to work,” she notes. “I grew up in a family whose worth ethic is insane and they are extremely caring and attentive to anyone who needs it. Haley is just like that. That also helps a lot with getting into character.”