SMASH, NBC musical series, is as unpredictable as an opening night on Broadway

Katharine McPhee & Megan Hilty in Smash, photo Mark Seliger/NBC

The musical series Smash starts its second season February 5 on NBC, with exciting new twists and unpredictable drama.

The cast and producers gathered at the recent TV critics press tour to talk about some tweaks to the show and everyone was excited. It is a passion project for all of them, most of which can boast of impressive theatrical credits. Megan Hilty, who lit up the musical stage in Wicked and 9 to 5: the Musical, reports she has to remind her Broadway friends “we’re not doing a reality show. We’re doing a fantastic drama.”

Season one ended with Bombshell, musical about Marilyn Monroe, having successful out-of-town previews. Newcomer Karen (Katharine McPhee) won the coveted title role over veteran chorus girl Ivy (Hilty). But producer Eileen Rand (Anjelica Huston) and director Derek Wills (Jack Davenport) are destine to pay for their past sins as they start to mount their production on Broadway.

Although their rivalry seems to have softened, the Hilty and McPhee characters are still competitors. Hilty explains, “Our relationship is on a constant rollercoaster ride. You never know if they’re going to actually be friends. We have these really beautiful moments, and then someone goes and ruins it, by sleeping with her fiancé or something like that. It will always be that way, and you’ll never know what will happen.”

Anjelica Huston in SMASH, photo: Mark Seliger/NBC

One of the most fascinating characters is played by Angelica Huston, because her producer role is the force that sets all the dramatic wheels in motion. Huston says, “I’m having a great time with an opportunity to play a strong woman who has, if you’ll forgive the word, balls. She’s a go-getter in a male oriented society.”

A dramatic twist will have her forced to deal with her nasty ex-husband to help get Bombshell to Broadway this season. “For me it’s a lot of fun because I’m playing Eileen Rand on a few levels. Her personal life is in shambles since she fell in love with the nefarious bartender. The beauty of series television is that you find out different things every week. It’s like life and gives you the opportunity to explore a character in a way that you don’t on film,” explains the Academy Award winning actress.

Is her strong character anything like Huston herself? “Well, bits and pieces,” she admits. “I think she’s probably braver than I am, and she certainly puts her money where her mouth is, when she’s got money. I think maybe she’s a bit more honest than I am but, yes, quite a lot like me. There’s a certain amount of poetic license that I draw on, and I use certain templates combinations of Sue Mengers, Sherry Lansing, Paula Weinstein, and all of the great female producers that I’ve know from film.”

Huston herself has directed and produced, and she reveals that just playing the role of a producer is more fun “and easier than actually being in charge, as I’m sure the gentlemen behind me will testify,” she said referring tothe  Oscar-winning producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (Chicago), along with writer-exec-producer Joshua Safran (Gossip Girl), who are at the guardians of Smash, airing Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on NBC.

Margie Barron has written for a wide variety of outlets including Gannett newspapers, Nickelodeon, Tiger Beat and 16 Magazine, Fresh!, Senior Life, Production Update, airline magazines, etc. Margie is also proud to have been half of the husband & wife writing team Frank & Margie Barron, who had written together for various entertainment and travel publications for more than 38 years. Frank Barron was the editor of The Hollywood Reporter, having served twice in that capacity. In between, he was West Coast news director for Billboard Publications, supervising their five magazines. Barron also created the western TV series “The Man From Blackhawk” for the ABC network. For more than three decades he and writer-wife Margie Barron covered Hollywood for Production Update magazine, and they contributed to numerous publications.