Ask an Alum: Maegan Walsh

CU Alum Maegan Walsh on the set of “Ink Master: Angels”.

Maegan Walsh has an unconventional job — one that requires her to seek out people looking for tattoos. Walsh graduated from Castleton in 2012 as a Media and Communication major and, as she says, was “not a good student.”

But following graduation, she found her passion and began working in television.

Now, one of her main gigs is human canvas producer for “Ink Master.” Walsh has been working on the show, now in its 15th season, since season eight.

Walsh has also worked on a variety of shows including game shows, a trivia show with Jason Biggs and programs for the Food Network. She broke into the industry with a show for the Science Channel that she said was “kind of a cross between ‘Shark Tank’ and ‘How It’s Made.’”

But it doesn’t end there.

Q. What shows have you worked on beyond “Ink Master” and what was your role with those shows?

A. I don’t only do casting, I do talent management as well. And I’m also getting into the AD [Assistant Director] department … For talent management, I have worked on the show “Legendary” … It’s on HBO Max. I worked on it when Megan Thee Stallion and Jameela Jamil were on it.

Most recently, this past October, I worked on a show coming out on Hulu this summer called “Drag Me to Dinner.” … Neil Patrick Harris and his husband created this show. It’s not full public knowledge yet, but it’s out there that they’re doing a show, and it’s basically a bunch of drag queens creating dinner parties.

Q. Can you tell me a little bit about how you got into this field and what led you to where you are now?

A. My final class [at Castleton] was a screenwriting class … we basically recreated the movie “10 Things I Hate About You” and it was so much fun. I wasn’t the best student at Castleton, I partied and then I did education. But this class, I was like, wow, I like this, this is really, really cool.

So, I got home, and I was working at my family’s deli, and I just started going online and looking, and I got hired for an internship where I was working twice a week for free. And I was there for three or four months. And then, do you know the actor Nathan Lane? His fiancé was an intern with me, and it was between me and him. I was 22, so they chose him. But a year later, they called me back because they remembered me and they were like, “Hey, can you come cast this Science Channel show?” So I was doing the Science Channel show, but because I was successful with it, they had me jump between that and a Food Network show. And then this show called “Single Dads Seeking,” it was on TLC. There was one season and I had to find single women willing to move in with single fathers … I found three out of the five women on the show.

They kind of pushed me a little higher and then brought me into the field. Basically, that company took me in, and it was all young people, it was all people my age at the time and we were cranking out TV shows and it was an environment that I felt comfortable in.

Q. Is your current career path what you expected it would be?

A. Not at all. I graduated in 2012 and I didn’t get into television full-time until 2015. And it was actually kind of scary because I’m a freelancer. The way that my job works is like, I get hired by a production company. Right now, I’m contracted for 12 weeks, but on June 9, I gotta go find a new job.

So, my first run on Ink Master, I worked really hard for six months, but then I didn’t have a job for four months. I was living at my parents’ house, and I was so what we call “green” in the industry, that jobs just weren’t hiring. My parents were like “Maybe you should give up, maybe you shouldn’t pursue television.” And I was like, no, I made it, I did make it. I just have to be patient. And then from there, it’s been constant. My grandma is was one of those crazy grandmas that was like “you guys have to be famous!” I never wanted to be in front of the camera, but it’s nice to be behind the scenes and I feel like I kind of made her proud.

Q. What’s something unexpected that you could tell people about your job and what you do?

A. Put your dues in — the days are long. You’re on your feet, you’re constantly moving. People are expecting you to be a go-getter and really go and get it done. So, I think if somebody’s trying to get into this industry, I guess I would be prepared for long days. People notice the people who are like, “What can I do for you? How can I help you?”

Q. What was your time at Castleton like?

A. I went to Castleton thinking I wanted to be an education major. But I didn’t get into the education program right away. I was very young, I was like 17 when I got there. And I’m from New Jersey, so going up to Vermont, it was like a whole other world. I didn’t really start finding my way until my second semester freshman year. I think I took a class with Bob Gershon, who was the film teacher. I took a course with him at the same time I was taking education. And when I tell you I went from academic probation to dean’s list in one semester, it’s because I took classes that I was actually enjoying … After that semester, I realized education wasn’t for me and I really loved communication.

I played rugby on top of that, from freshman year until I was a senior. I was the president of the club. And I also did Student Orientation Staff for three years … It was so much fun to meet the new kids coming in and just have that connection.

Q. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you ended up marrying someone who you met at Castleton, right?

A. I’m engaged. My fiancé went to Castleton, but he’s eight years older. He played rugby at Castleton.

His name is Zach. I think he graduated in ‘07, so he graduated a year before I got there. But I went back for a rugby tournament, and I hadn’t been able to go back in years because I had always been casting or working on set or something. So finally in 2019, I was like, “I can go back!” And he was there, and we met and we’ve been together ever since. We were long distance for three years, and we bought a house in January in New Jersey. We’re all here now and it’s really exciting. He has three kids — he’s a widower. So, we have a 9-year-old, a 12-year-old and a 6-year-old.

Walsh with co-workers at the “Ink Master” live finale in Law Vegas.

Q. What’s something you’re binge-watching right now?

A. I watch a lot of true crime. I’m watching “Yellowjackets,” that’s back on. I’m not binge-watching that because it’s coming out one episode a week. I just finished “You.” I watch a lot of stuff like that. Ironically, I don’t really watch reality television. I’ll put “Real Housewives of New Jersey” on in the background because it’s Jersey and I live where they film … I’m trying to watch “Yellowstone.” Oh, here’s another fun one … This January, I got hired on a cowboy competition show. I don’t know why it took me 32 years to figure out what cowboys did, but I got there, and I go, “What the hell am I doing?” I was caravanning crews out into the desert to these crazy mile markers, that I was just following on a Google Map. I’m from New Jersey, I don’t know the desert. And I have cows literally rushing at me, and I’m running out of the way. So when I got home, I was like, I gotta watch “Yellowstone” because I just lived it. I brought white sneakers with me! I had to go to the store and buy boots. I’m a city girl.

Q. You said you’re a city girl – what brought you to Vermont originally?

A. My dad had me on skis at 3 years old. And my aunt and uncle are from New Hampshire. I actually had never been to Killington before I saw Castleton. I got into a school in New Jersey, at the beach. My parents were like, “No, you’re gonna party too much there,” so they sent me to Castleton. I’ll never forget, I went to see it, it was mud season, spring break … I signed right then and there. And I would have left my first semester. I was really depressed … I wanted to leave, and I said I’ll give it the rest of the year. And I took those communication courses, I joined rugby, and I was like, wow, okay, this is the place for me.

Q. What would you say is the most impactful thing, for you personally, that you’ve worked on?

A. I would definitely say “Ink Master: Angels” because I cried every Sunday … Every episode, we went to a different city, and we brought awareness to a different issue … We were in Oklahoma City and the Oklahoma City bombing was our theme. We got the firefighter from the front page of The Times who was holding the baby. So, he got tattooed. We got him, and we got the mother of the baby that he was holding. And I still keep in touch with that firefighter. He still reaches out to me, he still talks to me.

There was one episode, we were in Reno, Nevada, bringing awareness to suicide. And that day, somebody dropped out … And I have to have somebody here in six hours to do this consultation. I’m freaking out. So, we find somebody last minute who just happened to hear or see a Facebook post or something. She reached out to me. Her son had killed himself. And when she got to the tattoo shop to meet the artist — it was literally picking names out of a hat, nobody saw each other. She walks into the room, and the tattoo artist in that room had tattooed her son. I can’t make this shit up. It was one of those things that I still get teary eyed when I talk about … When he did the tattoo, he put the son’s handwriting in the mom’s tattoo.

Q. Do you have any specific future career goals?

A. It’s hard to say, part of me wants to join the union and go towards AD work. My friend is a successful AD in New York, and she saw me as a casting producer and talent manager and said, “You have what it takes to do AD work, so come try it with me.” And she’s given me two opportunities to work so that is a position where I could join the union, have benefits, health insurance, be covered by protections. But also, I’m getting older. I’m a freelancer, I’ve got three kids. Part of me is like, how can I take my television skills and translate them into a full-time-normal-people job? I don’t want to quit television, I love it.

But it’s hard to get in with the networks — a lot of nepotism. It’s exactly what you think it would be.

Q. What are your thoughts right now about the merger and everything that’s happening?

A. They should have left Castleton alone. What are the three biggest colleges everybody knows in Vermont? UVM, Middlebury, Castleton. I don’t want to sound like a jerk. Sorry that Lyndon and Johnson didn’t make it, but why pull Castleton into that merger? That’s really how I feel. I don’t know the ins and outs of Castleton financial situation … but it makes me really sad. I am part of all the alumni groups, I get the emails, I’ve signed the petitions. I just can’t believe that it’s not going to be Castleton anymore.

Q. Do you have any advice you would give to Castleton students still looking for future careers or figuring out what they want to study?

A. Don’t be afraid to really seek out what you want to do. Everything is possible if you just put your foot forward and make the effort to do it. Things aren’t going to be handed to you if you don’t make the effort. Use your sources. In this day and age, social media is how you’re gonna get these opportunities … Don’t be afraid to speak out, see what you’re interested in and do the research on it, because everything is possible.

Part of the reason I got puShed to be in the field for that first AP position was because I wasn’t invited into a meeting the other APs were invited into, and I walked in and I said “Why wasn’t I invited into that? I want to know what’s going on.” And they said “Oh shit, this girl wants this.” That point forward, they started giving me more.

Walsh with new “Ink Master” host Joel Madden.

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