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Hairspray Live!’s Maddie Baillio: Five Things to Know about the NBC Musical’s Star

Mama, she’s a big girl now! College student turned star Maddie Baillio is making her onscreen debut in a major way tonight as Tracy Turnblad, the spirited high schooler with a passion for dance in NBC’s Hairspray Live! (Click here to read Us Weekly‘s live blog of the production.)

Here are five things to know about the 20-year-old newcomer.

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Maddie Baillio as Tracy Turnblad
Maddie Baillio as Tracy Turnblad Brian Bowen Smith/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

1. Hairspray Live! is her first job ever!

Texas-born Baillio was a student at Marymount Manhattan College when she saw an ad on Facebook for open-call auditions for the role of Tracy. Explains Baillio while talking to Us at a press event at the Universal Studios backlot, “This was my first professional audition. This was my first audition outside of school, and I finished my sophomore year the day before they told me that I got this part. So it’s been crazy.”

2. She almost didn’t audition at all.

Her nerves almost got the best of her. Says Baillio, “I almost didn’t audition because I was so nervous. This was my first audition, and it was at Telsey & Company in New York, which is one of the biggest casting agencies ever. There were over 1,000 girls there for the first audition. I thought I was going to be one of the first girls in line because I got there at 6:45 a.m., and the audition started at 10, but I was No. 343 in line.”

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3. Her mom didn’t let her watch the original movie!

The actress admits her first viewing of the John Waters classic was only “a couple of months ago”! Explains Baillio, “When I was, like, ten10 I was at my friend’s house, and I think I was pretty sheltered. I always called my mom and asked her if I could watch a movie if it was not [rated] G. So I called my mom and I asked her if we could watch the original Hairspray, the John Waters film. And she said no because there was ‘making out’ in it, and that was not OK for me to see! So I didn’t see that until a couple months ago.”

Garrett Clayton as Link Larkin, Derek Hough as Corny Collins and Maddie Baillio as Tracy Turnblad
Garrett Clayton as Link Larkin, Derek Hough as Corny Collins and Maddie Baillio as Tracy Turnblad (from left) Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

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4. She’s just like Us — she fangirls over Ariana Grande!

She says working with the pop star hasn’t gotten old! “There are so many amazing people in the show. Ariana Grande. Big fan. Big fangirl. I thought I’d get over that, but I’m not. She threw a get-together at her mom’s house, and I was freaking out the entire time. I wake up every morning on cloud nine. I can’t believe that this is really happening.”

5. She relates to Tracy Turnblad in a big way.

Talking about her character, Baillio gushes,”I fell in love with the spirit of Tracy. She’s like the ultimate underdog, so everyone can relate to her. And she’s the ultimate optimist, and I really relate to that. She sees a rat on the street and she thinks it’s, like, the coolest thing in the world. Wearing the wig and getting into costume, that’s when I fully become Tracy. It feels incredible. The higher the hair, the closer to heaven!”

Hairspray Live! airs on NBC Wednesday, December 7, at 8 p.m. ET.

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