“Smash” Star Katherine McPhee Talks Second Season, Music and Marilyn Monroe

Changes to the series' sophomore season have re-energized the singer/actress.

“Smash” returns for a second season of show-stopping musical moments, and star Katherine McPhee’s singing about the show’s new direction, new castmember Jennifer Hudson, her hopes to get back in the recording studio to make her own music, and channeling Marilyn Monroe for those elaborate production numbers.

What do you think about Karen’s personal life this season? In three episodes there comes a point where you think she and Derek are being drawn together – but then there’s a new guy in the picture.

I love all the different dynamics and all the different characters and all the different directions all of our characters are going. Just when I thought, ‘Oh, okay, we’re going to be settled in with the second season, same people.’ There were a lot of new faces: new show runner, new hair, new makeup, new wardrobe – lots of new people, and then new characters. And my character in particular had all the interaction with Jeremy [Jordan], Andy [Mientus], and Krysta [Rodriguez]. In a way, it was kind of fun because it was a completely different season for me. She was completely in a relationship, and now, she’s in a new, fresh relationship and it’s just been really fun. I’ve been having a great time.

Did you and Jennifer Hudson have a chance to compare notes on your "American Idol" experiences?

It never came up, no! We just were there for something entirely separate from where we started, and it’s not a natural thing that you’d think would just come up in conversation. I was happy to have her on the show and pretty much for the most part, we just did the work and then I let her have her space.

Has the show been a good way to get some music out there without committing the time to do a full album?

I would say this music doesn’t represent me. I was an individual artist. If anything, it’s actually been more challenging to find the time with this kind of a schedule to work on my own personal music. Hopefully, I think in 2013 I’ll actually finally get a chance to have my own personal music out. It’s been really difficult with a schedule, and I say that in a good way, because the show is obviously the first priority – just contractually and you can’t focus on other things. I thought, in the beginning, I’d be able to split my attention with, ‘Oh, on the weekends, I’ll go and record and do that kind of thing and I’ll just work Monday through Friday on the show.’ I just found it incredibly challenging. I just wasn’t good at splitting my attention between my own personal music and the show.  It’s too challenging.

You’re learning brand-new choreography every week, you have to record brand-new songs.  Is it as much work as you thought it would be?

So last season was crazy. This season, I think I’m a lot more used to it. I’m definitely balancing my life a little bit better with this year’s schedule, and I think also with the new additional characters, I’m finding it easier to have a little bit more time because as you can see, not all of the numbers are between me and Megan [Hilty]. We have several people to split the numbers up against with, so that’s been good.

You get to play your character, in character as Marilyn Monroe so often.  What’s been fun or intriguing for you about continuing to explore those glimpses of Marilyn and capturing that iconic image?

I’ve found the difference between last year and this year, I’m just trying to have more fun with Marilyn. I try not to, like, over think it. I just try to be like a little more flighty with her and just a little less thoughtful, and I think that sort of helps not me feel like I’m playing it and just sort of singing the songs and just getting the essence of her. I mean, I’ve never tried to mimic her. I’ve just tried to get the essence of her. If there was a Marilyn musical to come out, I would put my money on Megan Hilty, but that’s just me! I think I’m much better off in a more contemporary musical.


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