Smash, the business of show.

By David Knox on May 29, 2012 / Filed Under Pay TV, Top Stories 7

It’s a bittersweet irony that the cast of a TV show tracking the highs and lows of showbiz, have to deal with the real-world truth that not all of them are getting contract renewals.

Smash regulars Raza Jaffrey (Dev), Jaime Cepero (Ellis), Brian D’Arcy James (Frank) and Will Chase (Michael) have been cut from the NBC drama’s second season, which airs in Australia on Foxtel.

But that’s the business of show business.

Megan Hilty who plays the talented, ambitious Ivy Lynn (pictured) is in no such danger, but she told TV Tonight she was disappointed with last week’s casting news.

“I saw that yesterday. I know it happens all the time so I know it’s part of the business. But I’m very sad to see that some of my friends won’t be joining us again,” she said.

“But who knows, maybe they’ll go away for a little while and then come back. Nothing’s every totally done. Even when characters die they’re not necessarily gone from the show!

“We’ll see. Maybe there’s some kind of future.”

Hilty has an extensive background in theatre, most famously as as Glinda in Wicked on Broadway and Los Angeles, and in Smash gets to show off her ‘triple threat’ skills as one of the two contenders for the plum role of Marilyn in the fictional musical, Bombshell.

Hairspray composers Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman have written all the original songs for Smash‘s show-within-show musical.

“It’s amazing, some of the stuff they write in less than 24 hours,” Hilty explains.

“It’s incredible, especially when you think about all the levels they’re writing for. Not only are the songs appropriate for the Marilyn musical but lyrically they support whatever’s going on in the character’s life for whoever is singing it.

“So they’re kind of doing double duty lyrically with all of their songs.

“It was Scott Wittman’s idea to focus on Marilyn for the musical because he saw how many plotlines could be mirrored in the character’s lives. It’s quite ingenious, actually.”

More established pop tunes are performed outside of Bombshell to stop the show from becoming too niche for a broad audience.

“It was something we talked about a lot in the beginning. Ultimately it’s not about Theatre as much as it is about the characters. I often liken the show to things like ER. I’m not a doctor but I still love watching ER. I don’t tune in to watch a surgical procedure but because the characters aree fascinating and the relationships are captivating.

“It’s about so much more. But if you do like Musicals you’re going to get a big, splashy number every night. But I don’t think you have to love Theatre to get this show.”

Writer Theresa Rebeck created Smash, and while she will no longer remain showrunner, Hilty believes she made an indelible impression.

“She’s a world renowned playwright and famous for creating such well-rounded characters who are interesting. I feel lucky enough to have gotten to work with her as much as I did.”

The character of Ivy has divided audiences as to whether she or Karen (Katharine McPhee) should ultimately land the coveted Marilyn role. Ivy’s relationship with director Derek (Jack Davenport) has been tempestuous in just 15 episodes.

“People feel strongly about Ivy, whether they love her or hate her or want to sleep with her….but it’s great. You have to have characters do these things to further the plot. But I love that she behaves badly, because it’s human,” she explains.

“Nobody is good all the time. We all make mistakes and you actually see Ivy being remorseful for some of the things she does –and not so remorseful for others. So it makes her a really interesting character to play.”

Despite the on-screen rivalry with McPhee, Hilty says they are some of her favourite scenes. But it’s hard to beat working with guest star Bernadette Peters.

“Oh my goodness, she’s been a lifelong idol of mine, so the fact that I not only got to work with her, but she played my mother was too good to be true!”

With Season One now behind her, Hilty is working on an album of songs from the movies and is excited about the prospects for Season Two -but doesn’t have any hints about where the story may go.

“I have no idea and I’m just as excited to find out what happens in Season Two as everybody else, because nothing’s for sure yet. All the writers are meeting right now and figuring out what’s going to happen. I’m assuming there will be lots of changes and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next –particularly for Ivy!

“I want to see her get it together and have something of her own that she can be totally proud of and not feel threatened by anybody or anything. Maybe even have a healthy relationship. I don’t even know if that’s possible for her. I want to see some good things happen to her.”

No doubt it will also include more guest stars, so far they have included Uma Thurman and Nick Jonas, while the regular cast includes Anjelica Huston and Debra Messing. It’s not hard to get good names when your show is produced by Steven Spielberg, who has taken a hands-on interest in the show’s success.

“He comes by the set all the time. It’s so crazy to answer my phone and have somebody say ‘I have Steven Speilberg’ on the phone! It’s something I’ve always joked about all my life. Whenever my phone rings I sigh and say ‘Oh! I have Steven Spielberg bothering me again for another movie!’ It’s something that we always joke about,” she laughs.

“The fact that he even knows I exist on the planet is unreal and he’s just the nicest, most generous man. He loves the show and is super, super supportive.”

But what about the New York set? Surely the ‘legit’ industry of Broadway is cynical about the small screen tackling a backstage musical?

“People in the industry either really like it or they have a real problem with the fact that it doesn’t really show exactly what goes on backstage. But they’re kind of missing the point. We’re making a Drama not a Reality show. So I hope the people in the industry realise that it’s making people more excited about Musical Theatre.

“I don’t think anybody really thinks that any of our shenanigans are what really happens. And even if they did, who cares?

“There’s a big ‘rumour’ that Bombshell is ‘coming to Broadway!’ But it would take years to develop any musical, especially this one because right now we only have songs and they’re tailored to our TV show.

“The fact that people are interested in seeing it is, I think, a really good sign for theatre in general.”

Smash the soundtrack is released via Sony Music.

7 Comments »

  1. breakdown84 May 30, 2012 at 10:58 pm -

    Great interview and article. Thanks David. Can’t wait for Season 2. I love the show. I wish it had the mainstream recognition that Glee receives.

  2. mer May 30, 2012 at 8:47 pm -

    Totally agree, great interview David. I love this show and didn’t want the season final to end! Looking forward to its return – can’t come soon enough.

  3. barrett May 29, 2012 at 9:21 pm -

    Great interview David.
    As a season finale it did the series justice…..what a great tease at the start.
    Would of loved all of the cast to stay,but like Megan said they make a comeback…..remember Ellis’s last words.

  4. matt_897 May 29, 2012 at 8:14 pm -

    Looks like they have listened to the fans. They got rid of the wprst characters on the show. Ellis is potentially the worst character of all time on television, how could anyone possibly like him? The guy just seemed to be a pain for the sake of it, wasn’t even for personal gain. And then what he did at the end of the season (I won’t spoil it) was downright ridiculous, what a poorly written character that just made no sense.

    Hoping the show improves, because despite all it’s flaws, I still enjoyed it simply because it was refreshing different show to have on the box.

  5. MelbourneTV May 29, 2012 at 6:58 pm -

    We loved the first season :-)
    Thanks for such a great interview and insight David.
    We cant wait for the second season to start.

  6. David Knox May 29, 2012 at 6:28 pm -

    Yes Ellis was fun. Megan was lovely to chat to. I would guess summer for S2, but not sure.

  7. warmpearl May 29, 2012 at 5:40 pm -

    Thanks for the interview David. It was great to hear a bit from behind the scenes. I’m surprised the show let Ellis go, he has such great potential for nasty deeds in the new series. I love Smash, the cast is so good. The music is wonderful. When will we see the second series, do you think?

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