On the NBC musical drama series Smash, Karen (Katharine McPhee) and Ivy (Megan Hilty) have aligned as frenemies, but their newly formed friendship will soon be put to the test when the Marilyn Monroe musical moves to Boston for its first out-of-town performance in front of a real audience. While the big lingering question is, “Will Bombshell be a smash?,” Karen and Ivy will be experiencing as much drama off stage as on.
During this recent interview to promote the show, co-stars Katharine McPhee and Megan Hilty talked about what they like and don’t like about their characters, whether or not they think Karen and Ivy can maintain their newfound friendship, how long movie star Uma Thurman will be sticking around, how fans respond to the show and their characters, the reaction from the Broadway community, that this season will end on multiple cliffhangers, and how they expect to resume shooting for Season 2 in mid-July. Check out what they had to say after the jump:
Question: What is it that you like and don’t like about the characters that you play?
MEGAN HILTY: Well, as an actor, at least from my standpoint, I can’t not like who I’m playing. I have to love her, and that’s very easy for me because I think she’s fantastic. She’s deeply flawed, just like any other human being, and she makes mistakes, just like any other human being. She may behave badly, at some points, but she also has a very good heart, she’s very ambitious, she knows what she wants, and she knows what she’s willing to sacrifice to get it, so I admire her.
KATHARINE McPHEE: I definitely think that Karen needs to grow some balls, at some point, and just like really take the reigns and stop letting people walk all over her.
HILTY: She needs to get her power back.
Do you think Ivy and Karen can maintain their new friendship?
HILTY: Would it be a good show if it maintained the same? I think part of the beauty of the show is that they are constantly going back and forth, and it’s not just one note, all the time.
McPHEE: Yeah, I think they are going to have some serious challenges in Season 2.
In your acting careers, have you ever met anyone that’s a bit of a scumbag, like Derek (Jack Davenport)?
HILTY: I can’t say that I have. I’ve been very lucky to work with a lot of amazingly supportive directors.
McPHEE: I haven’t worked with that many theater directors, but one theater director, for a show in L.A., did in fact yell at me in front of the entire cast. It was incredibly humiliating, but it was unwarranted. Everyone was a little taken aback by his outrage towards me. So, I definitely know that it can happen.
How many more episodes will Uma Thurman be on?
HILTY: She’s on through the end.
McPHEE: She’s in five total.
Have either of you been in the situation that your characters are in with Uma Thurman’s character, where somebody big comes in and takes over a role?
McPHEE: No, I haven’t. I have not ever experienced anything quite like what Karen is going through.
HILTY: And I haven’t experienced anything like that, in such close proximity. I have done many readings and workshops, like the ones represented in Smash, where you give your heart and soul in the creating process, and then the producers come up and say, “We love you! You’re perfect! Nobody could do this better than you! But, we just need a star.” It’s a reality. Something that I love about our show is that it really deals with things that we deal with, all the time, in the Broadway community. It’s heartbreaking, but it’s also a reality.
Megan, having been in that position yourself, if you were approached to replace someone, would you not take the role, based on the fact that you knwo that person has worked really hard?
HILTY: I don’t know how to answer that.
McPHEE: I’m going to answer that for her. She would take the role and seize the opportunity.
Megan, what has the show done for you, beyond the posters and billboards?
HILTY: I keep saying that it’s 15 dreams coming true, at the same time. It’s everything I ever wanted, in one job. I essentially get to represent my community on television. I get to sing, I get to dance, I get to play this amazing character, and there are posters in Times Square. It’s crazy, but it’s been the most wonderful and rewarding job I’ve ever had.
Have you felt a difference with national awareness, as opposed to when you were recognized in New York for doing Broadway?
HILTY: Yeah. I actually went home to Seattle and people recognized me. There were people that I didn’t know, like in Starbucks. It’s great.
Have you guys paid attention to how people have been responding to Karen and Ivy? Have you been surprised by some of the passionate responses to them?
McPHEE: Yeah, the little bit that I actually have access to reading. I’m not one to go on blogs and things like that, but we do have our own personal Twitter profiles, so we get a lot of tweets, and they are pretty passionate. It’s fun. I like it.
HILTY: I love it when people stop us on the street, and they feel very comfortable with coming right up to us and saying exactly what they feel about the show and our characters. It’s so great because, to me, that means that they are invested in the stories and our characters, and I love hearing that. I love hearing their opinions.
What has been the reaction from the Broadway community? Is there a divide between Broadway and people doing TV?
HILTY: Oh, no. I think the theater community has fully embraced this show because not only is it really celebrating the community, but it’s employing everybody in the community as well, so everybody is really excited about it. They all have their Smash parties on Monday night, which is great because that’s the dark night on Broadway. There are no shows, so everybody is free to watch it and compare their notes on what they think our shenanigans have been. They love it! At least that’s what they are saying to my face.
Katharine, what can you say about the relationship between Karen and Dev (Raza Jaffrey)?
McPHEE: Well, we really don’t know. Oh, gosh. That’s a hard one. I don’t know if I can really answer that without giving anything away. The person who you think is going to cause problems in the relationship is not necessarily the person who causes problems. It could be lots of different people.
Have you ever asked to sing specific songs on the show?
McPHEE: No, we haven’t because so much of the songs that are put in the show are really what’s written from the writers. At one point, I said, “Can I do this song versus this song?,” but no, there’s never been an instance of, “Can I have a new song put in this specific place,” because that really affects the way the whole writing thing is. The show tries to make sure the songs don’t just come out of nowhere.
HILTY: It’s a well-written musical. The music numbers further the plot, so it’s up to our wonderful writing staff to figure out where those songs go.
Will Season 1 end on a cliffhanger?
HILTY: It doesn’t end on a cliffhanger. It ends on many cliffhangers. Every single character has a thrilling moment, in the finale. I can’t wait to find out what happens to all of the characters.
Have you seen any scripts or have you been told anything about where Season 2 might begin?
McPHEE: We wrapped two-and-a-half weeks ago and, since we have been out of production, we have not seen anything. All we have heard is really wonderful things from our executives, about how it’s all coming together.
HILTY: It’s really exciting.
When will you go back to work on the second season?
McPHEE: We’ve been told we’ll resume shooting in mid-July.
What are your plans before then?
McPHEE: I am living back in L.A., for the next few months, working on music.
HILTY: I’m going to do a stage production of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes because I can’t stay away from things that have been touched by Marilyn. That’s in New York through Encores!, in City Center in May. And then, I have my first record deal, so I’ll be working on music, too.
Katharine, have you had a chance to watch American Idol since you were on the show, and how do you think competition shows have changed?
McPHEE: I left for Africa, immediately after wrapping on the show, and then went to a wedding in Cabo. Now, I’m back working on my record, so I really haven’t been able to catch up with much television at all. It doesn’t mean I don’t like any of those programs, especially Idol. I very much like the show.
Smash airs on Monday nights on NBC.