Hairspray Live!'s Maddie Baillio shares that her character Tracy Turnblad inspires her to not let anything stop her in spite of bullying

By Marlene Lenthang
Updated November 22, 2016 09:10 AM
Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

There’s a new girl in town, and it’s Maddie Baillio! Out of nearly 1,000 open call auditions, the 20-year-old was chosen as the star of NBC’s Hairspray Live! as the iconic Tracy Turnblad.

The college sophomore seems like the perfect match to play Tracy: both landed their dream gig of singing for the television spotlight each have a positive outlook on life.

“I think I’m like Tracy in the fact that she’s the ultimate optimist,” Baillio told reporters of the upcoming musical reprise. “Like, she sees a rat and thinks it’s the coolest thing in the world.”

The Texas native, who was bullied as a child, also says she’s learned a thing or two from how her stage character deals with teasing and taunts.

“When I was younger, I was bullied a lot and I let that stop me from doing the things that I wanted to do. And Tracy, she never lets anything stop her and she’s bullied constantly,” says Baillio. “Because she doesn’t let anything stop her, she gets the guy and she gets to be on the show and she takes the world!”

Like Tracy, Baillio didn’t let anything stop her in her last-minute audition process. When she was asked to sing the end of “Good Morning Baltimore” — a song she didn’t prepare for — she even made up some of the words!

“I was like, ‘Oh shoot! I don’t know that part.’ I made up about, like, 50 percent of the words, I think,” she shares with PEOPLE. “I guess I didn’t mess up too bad!”

The rising star also revealed that since she saw the 2007 musical film adaption of the musical comedy, she fell in love with the production. “I wanted to play Tracy one day,” she admitted.

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Not only does she get to play her dream role, but she is learning some constructive advice from her character — a message she gets to share on live television.

“I think that’s a good message for every kid out there,” Baillio says. “Don’t let anyone stop you.”

Hairspray Live! airs Dec. 7 on NBC.