In the Disney entertainment universe, Susan Egan has gone from being romanced by a beast to seducing a Greek god.
"Most of the women (in Disney cartoons) are either evil or good, but Meg is somewhere in between," Egan said of her voice role in the animated feature "Hercules."Calling from Florida while on a promotional tour for Disney's 35th animated feature, Egan said the character of Meg was fashioned after Barbara Stanwyck, specifically the actress' tough-minded screwball comedy roles of the 1940s, in films like "The Lady Eve" and "Ball of Fire." "That was my inspiration, as well as the animators'."
Egan also acknowledges that Meg also has more than a little Lola in her, the seductive character controlled by the devil in "Damn Yankees."
In "Hercules," Meg (short for Megara) is working for Hades (voiced by James Woods), a grumpy god who oversees the underworld. Meg's assignment is to seduce Hercules (Donovan Tate) and find his weakness so he won't interfere with Hades' plans to overthrow Mount Olympus.
"She's one of those ladies who is beautiful and brilliant, who knows how to go after what she wants," Egan said. "And she's also interesting because she has a past and she's sort of disillusioned with people. And what it takes for her to overcome it all is to meet this young man, Hercules, who is so pure of spirit and so honest that it re-establishes her faith in goodness."
Egan said she has auditioned for every Disney animated feature since "Beauty and the Beast." Then she landed the role of Belle in the Broadway theater version of "Beauty and the Beast," and it almost disqualified her for Meg.
"I was doing Belle on Broadway, and at first they said I couldn't audition for Meg. But they couldn't find anybody else, so they let me audition.
"It's so easy to be typecast. I'm always being cast as ingenues."
Egan became involved in musical theater in Los Angeles, beginning in high school and com-munity theater. Then she auditioned and was hired for a national touring company of "Bye Bye Birdie."
She originated the role of Belle on Broadway in Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" and was nominated for a Tony. After playing the part for 2 1/2 years and more than 700 performances (on Broadway and then in Los Angeles for a year), Egan left the show three months ago.
Her advice for youngsters seeking a show business career? "It's always the same. Someone told me to follow my heart, to really listen to myself and stop listening to other people, to do what I thought I should be doing instead of what others tell me I should do.
"It's often the path you least expect, but it leads to your heart."
Voice actors usually work alone in a studio sound booth, and their dialogue is later edited together with that of the other actors for coversations. But Egan said she was able to work with some of the other actors. "I was lucky in that most of the time I got to work with Tate Donovan. That helped in the intimate scenes, and we both worked with James Woods."
Woods, of course, is best known for playing truly nasty bad guys, but Egan said his comic performance in "Hercules" came very naturally for him. "I was expecting Roy Cohn (Woods' character in the cable movie `Citizen Cohn') or the guy in `Salvador.'
"But he's more like Robin Williams, and he did a lot of improvising. He's really brilliant and he should be doing comedy."
Egan said the actors were also filmed while they recorded their voice work, so the artists could use their gestures and facial expressions as reference material.
What's next? A new play in New York in the fall, and Egan says she's still waiting for a good movie script.
And of course, she'll follow her heart.