Megan Cavanagh won audiences over for her portrayal of Marla Hooch in A League of Their Own. Playing the Rockford Peaches’ so-called ugly-duckling ballplayer, the actress delivered a standout performance alongside the likes of Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, and Madonna in the classic 1992 film. But she actually scored the role by complete accident. While playing opposite a friend during the baseball portion of the movie’s audition process, Cavanagh was spotted by director Penny Marshall, who felt she was the perfect person to play the infielder — despite the fact that she hadn’t necessarily planned on auditioning herself. Cavanagh even claims that it was her slugging balls during the famous try-out scene where she wows the league scout played by Jon Lovitz.
With her baseball costume from the movie on permanent display at the Baseball Hall of Fame, and A League of Their Own preserved by the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry, Cavanagh is officially a part of both baseball and film history. But whatever happened to the actress herself? Here’s what she’s been up to lately.
She’s been working steadily in showbiz
Megan Cavanagh began working as a professional actress nearly a decade before landing A League of Their Own. However, the baseball dramedy was a box office hit and critical success. With the likes of The New York Times naming the actress among the film’s "excellent supporting players," it played a major role in bringing her career to the next level.
Throughout the late ’90s and early 2000s, Cavanagh continued to work steadily in Hollywood. Her more notable gigs at the time included supporting roles in Mel Brooks’ Robin Hood: Men in Tights and Dracula: Dead and Loving It, a recurring part on Home Improvement, and guest spots on Friends and Will & Grace. She even reprised her most popular role in a short-lived TV series based on A League of Their Own in 1993. However, some of her longest-running gigs have been through voice-over acting, including voicing mom Judy Neutron in the Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius franchise.
Cavanagh has credited her Chicagoan roots for her success on-screen, telling The Chicago Tribune in 2013, "Chicago is a very well-respected theater town. Having that on my resume has given me a deeper sense of what kind of actor I am."
She broke new ground in television
Megan Cavanagh went on to appear as Chris in LOGO’s sitcom Exes & Ohs, which broke new ground in LGBTQ+ representation on television in 2007. Based on series creator and star Michelle Paradise’s 2002 short film The Ten Rules, the dramedy played with queer stereotypes while centering on the relationship woes of a group of lesbian friends as they navigated Seattle’s dating scene.
As Paradise told Time Out, even just a few years before the series premiered, "The notion that there could be a show about all lesbians was such a foreign concept." While it was often compared to the contemporary drama The L-Word, producer Gigi Boyd told Daily Xtra, "If The L-Word is Dynasty, then this is Friends to lesbians."
For Cavanagh, the best part of playing Chris on the show was her relatability. "She’s a big girl for television. … She [also] has a big heart," the actress told Time Out, adding, "It’s just a bunch of people that live near each other that are good friends and hang out and eat, cry and laugh together. I can say with confidence that lesbians are gonna like this show."
Has she been typecast?
While Megan Cavanagh has a knack for stealing scenes in supporting roles that are played to comedic effect, has she run the risk of being typecast in a post-A League of Their Own world?
"I’ve played lots of character-y roles, but I play average gals who are looking for love a lot," she told The Chicago Tribune with a laugh. While she hasn’t necessarily been playing variations of Marla Hooch her entire career, she does tend to stick with one genre. "I do get pigeonholed in comedy. I don’t do a lot of drama," the actress told Theater Life, adding, "But I’m really okay with that. It is my forte. I would love to do more dramatic work (and I did do it in my youth), but I’m okay with the way it is."
Cavanagh admittedly wouldn’t mind expanding the scope of roles she tends to play, but she’s "grateful" that audiences have continued to respond to her comedic work. As she told The Canton Repository in 2017, "I have a great career because of it."
She’s thrived on the stage
As Megan Cavanagh continued to work in film and television, she also enjoyed a booming career on the stage. "I actually started in theater," the actress told Theater Life, while explaining to the Press of Atlantic City, "It’s the immediacy of it, it’s the live audience, it’s all the things that can go wrong and knowing how to handle it. I just love all of that."
Her longest-running gig has been touring as Earth Mother in Menopause: The Musical since 2004. "It’s really a celebration of women," Cavanagh told The Canton Repository, noting that it particularly celebrates those who are not often represented in the media. "This musical, in a very fun way, really empowers women to say you’re wonderful, you’re beautiful, your wrinkles and your saggy skin is part of who you are, and just celebrate it," she said, adding, "I think that’s a really great message."
Having performed in multiple theatrical productions around the world, there’s still one city Cavanagh is hoping to take on. "I would love to do Broadway," she told Theater Life. "That’s on my bucket list!"
What might’ve been
Megan Cavanagh became interested in acting at the formative age of four years old while playing the titular role in Puff the Magic Dragon. As she recalled to The Chicago Tribune, "I had so much power in that moment I knew this was what I wanted to do the rest of my life." While it was her portrayal of Marla Hooch that really set off the trajectory of her career, the actress always had a backup plan in place just in case.
"If I hadn’t been an actor I would have been a midwife," she told Theatre Life, explaining, "I love babies and women, and I think that guiding new lives into the world is one of the greatest jobs anybody could have." She added, "I’ve always loved helping people, but acting has sort of been in front of all of that. I’ve been trying to help people through acting."
While we’re sure someone who seems as kind, nurturing, and charismatic as Cavanagh would have made a wonderful midwife, we can’t help but be glad this whole acting thing worked out so well for the multi-talent!
She got hitched
On August 16, 2008, Megan Cavanagh tied the knot with filmmaker-professor Anne Chamberlain. However, their wedding was planned at the last minute due to the looming prospect of Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage.
"We decided to get married quickly. …We wanted to make sure that we were part of the quagmire that would create a problem," the actress told No Dumb Questions the following year. Cavanagh, who shares an adult son named Brendan with her ex-husband, went on to explain that they held the intimate ceremony on their deck. "My parents were miffed because they weren’t invited," she admitted, but added, "It wasn’t that they weren’t invited, it was that we needed to do it fast."
Cavanagh continued to speak out against Prop 8 until marriage equality officially resumed in the state in 2013. However, it sounds like she couldn’t be happier with how her personal life and career have panned out. "I gotta be grateful for the things that are going right," she told Mercury News in 2010, adding, "I feel like I’ve had such a blessed life."
She loves being known as Marla Hooch
Despite her decades-long career in the entertainment industry, Megan Cavanagh has remained most closely tied to the role of Marla Hooch. While some performers might become a little jaded over being best-known for just one role, this actress has happily embraced it. "I don’t have a problem with being recognized. It’s very humbling," Cavanagh told The Buffalo News in 2017, before noting how the movie and her character in particular mean so much to audiences. "I feel so unbelievably blessed to have played this part. I feel loved by so many people I don’t even know. They want hugs. That character touched them."
Inspired by how fans have been impacted by her portrayal of Marla Hooch, Cavanagh revealed in 2013 that she’d begun working on a documentary that will deal with "beauty issues in society."
"I get a lot of, ‘That movie changed my life,’ from young women," she explained to The Chicago Tribune. "So many of us don’t feel like the pretty one or the popular one."