TV preview: Smash

By Guy Davis

Karen (Katharine McPhee) and Ivy (Megan Hilty) vie for the star-making role of Marilyn Monroe. Photo / Supplied
Karen (Katharine McPhee) and Ivy (Megan Hilty) vie for the star-making role of Marilyn Monroe. Photo / Supplied

A good old-fashioned backstage melodrama, Smash follows the trials and tribulations that accompany the making of a Broadway musical.

And there are certainly plenty, thanks to complicated, charismatic characters such as the creative team of Julia and Tom (Debra Messing and Christian Borle), the egotistical director Derek (Jack Davenport) and the driven producer Eileen (Anjelica Huston).

But one of the series' main points of interest is the rivalry between Karen (Katharine McPhee) and Ivy (Megan Hilty), the two young actresses vying for the star-making role of Marilyn Monroe in Smash's Broadway production.

Things may get tense between their characters onscreen but American Idol runner-up McPhee and real-life Broadway performer Hilty are a lot closer away from the cameras.

A lot of Smash focuses on the competition between Karen and Ivy. Is it something you laugh about when the cameras aren't rolling?

McPhee: We do. The two of us are really goofy.

Hilty: We like to make each other and everybody else laugh. I actually taught Katharine what I call terrible singing.

McPhee: Basically we sing on the set all the time as badly as we possibly can. We have a really good banter about real life and relationships.

Tell us a bit about your backgrounds as performers. Your actual stories sort of mirror those of your characters, don't they?

Hilty: We both bring a lot of who we are to these characters.

McPhee: It really was a long journey from before American Idol to where I am now, and the struggles I have had post-Idol helped mould the character that I play now. I have not had any Broadway experience, but I did go to college for theatre. I love theatre so I am kind of getting to live my dream of being on Broadway one day.

Hilty: This role is a dream come true for me in many ways. Like my character, I eat, sleep, and breathe Broadway. I get to represent the Broadway community on television. That is such an honour. It is thrilling that both of these worlds exist in one. I love watching how our characters work together and do not work together. We both bring very different things to the table.

You're both trying to embody the iconic Marilyn Monroe in Smash's performance routines. What have you found most challenging and rewarding about that?

McPhee: In my first audition, it was my character singing the iconic Happy Birthday, Mr President song. I felt quite comfortable singing that because she had a very fast vibrato and it is very breathy. When I started in the series, I put a lot of pressure on myself to really feel like Marilyn. But it does not have to be an exact impersonation of her. Getting her essence is what I have been obsessing about. Internally, I have been nervous about it.

Hilty: I find it terrifying because there is no right way to do it. Neither of us will be a perfect Marilyn. But we both had to be okay with what we bring to the role while paying homage to who she was, her essence, as well as staying true to ourselves through the performance so that it stays grounded in reality. Otherwise, it is just somebody dancing around in a wig and a dress.

- AAP

When: Thursdays. 9.30pm.
Where: TV3.

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