“The world is filled with people that are gonna try to tell you who you are, but that's for you to decide, you hear me?” –Aunt Lucy, Dumplin’
These words ring true throughout local comedian Hilliary Begley’s debut film, Dumplin’, a must-see Netflix original boasting themes of body positivity and self-discovery. Hilliary landed the much-deserved role with a few breakthroughs that happened simultaneously. She graced the stage as comedian Jon Reep’s opener at The Orange Peel, and around this time, a tape of her performing stand-up made its way to one of Jennifer Aniston’s casting agents, Meagan Lewis. Both Meagan and Jennifer found Hilliary’s humor undeniably honest and humorous. Megan reached out through social media, and within just a few days, Hilliary found herself in Atlanta auditioning for the role of Aunt Lucy. Despite only having a few scenes, Aunt Lucy dominates the film as an ever-present influence to her niece (Danielle Macdonald), a teenager struggling with her body image and a pageant-obsessed mother (Jennifer Aniston). Despite almost missing the audition, Hilliary was deemed perfect for the role, and she began work on Dumplin’, her first film, in August 2017.
Hilliary says she doesn’t listen to a lot of stand-up in order to keep her act fresh and authentically her brand. However, Richard Pryor was an early influence for her.
“When I saw him, he was so real with what he said that I not only laughed but I cried. It was like I could feel him. There were parts that weren’t even funny; it was just him being raw and honest. That’s when I fell in love with it [comedy] completely. I thought, if I ever do this, this is what I would want it to be.”
And so it has been. Hilliary recalled the first time she did stand-up in Asheville at The Bar of Soap (now Del Vecchios).
“I was such a chicken about doing comedy, and I almost backed out, but my friend said I had to come, so I asked for the address and it was 333 Merrimon Ave. This is going to sound weird, but 333 follows me around, and so when she told me the address, I was like, 'I’ll be damned. I have to go now.'”
Since that fateful night, she’s been regularly contributing to Asheville’s stand-up scene with her raw, personal and never-political humor.
When she was given the script for Aunt Lucy’s part in Dumplin’, she realized just how much it mirrored her own life experiences.
“I have a strange relationship with my mother, but I’ve been surrounded by women my whole life. My aunts and my grandmother have been the ones to build me up as a woman, ya know?”
In fact, Hilliary says the most life-changing decision she ever made was to move out of her mom’s house in South Carolina and in with her grandparents in North Carolina.
“If I hadn’t done that then I’d probably be barefoot in a backyard with a baby on my hip, not pursuing my career in comedy and acting," she says. "That was a decision I shouldn’t have been given to make at the age of 13, but I did, and I blossomed.”
Upon transferring to a new school in Asheville, Hilliary discovered theater.
“I tried to take a strings class, but I couldn’t even scratch out ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb,’ and I had a friend who told me I shouldn’t be in strings," she says. "At the end of the day, he took me to the theater classroom and introduced me to the teacher. I read an excerpt from Taming of the Shrew, and the teacher loved me, so the next week I got switched over to theater from strings, and we were already halfway through the semester.
“I was in eighth grade, and I learned I could make decisions about how I feel and who I am. I was just able to be me. If I hadn’t moved, I don’t know who I would be.”
Fresh out of her job as a server at Fairview Tavern in Asheville, she’s recently wrapped up acting for another film, When We Last Spoke, coming out later this year, and she is actively auditioning for some exciting roles.
“Cross your fingers and your toes; I just did an audition with NatGeo, and if I get that, I’ll be filming in Quebec for six months,” she says.
In addition to her upcoming films, Hilliary is still an active stand-up comedian in the Asheville area. For more information about her upcoming shows, visit Facebook.com/highlarrious.