Katharine McPhee on ‘Smash’

The star of NBC's new musical series tells us about her role on the show.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

Katharine McPhee is probably the most recognizable star on the TV show "Smash" these days. Among the likes of Anjelica Huston, Debra Messing and Megan Hilty, McPhee was probably in front of more people on a single night of "American Idol."

Now McPhee plays struggling aspiring actress, Karen Cartwright, who is vying for a role in a broadway production of "Marliyn." At the Television Critics Association presentation for "Smash," I asked McPhee several questions about the show.


Crave Online: We already see in the trailers both you and Megan Hilty in Marilyn-esque numbers, so what is Karen’s role in the show?

Katharine McPhee: She is getting her first shot at her first Broadway experience so she gets to be in the ensemble of a musical, well her first professional musical and that comes with many challenges. Being pushed out of the back of numbers, me and Megan Hilty’s characters and the rivalry. She’s sort of uncomfortable with my character being there in the background so that creates for amazing drama I think.

Crave Online: Is it an odd fun thing to be the star of a show playing a background actor?

Katharine McPhee: It’s fantastic. I will say it makes the day that much longer. It’s fun because I’ve been in the ensemble before and it’s fun to do that, but we have these mirrors so you have to shoot in a way that you’re literally in every shot. So it’s relentless. You’re just constantly shooting and doing this in the background. It’s pretty relentless but I will say it’s very rewarding.

Crave Online: As a current artist, what do you get out of performing songs in the show?

Katharine McPhee: It's something I really enjoy. I thought since I've spent a lot of time in the recording studios in the last five years that the recording part process of the show would be my least favorite. I'm not picking favorites of what I do, but I would say that the recording process for me is actually really rewarding, because it's such a different pace from the set, and we're really on the set a lot every day, so I enjoy it a lot more than I thought I actually would. 

Crave Online: How do you feel about cover songs versus the original songs in the show?

Katharine McPhee: It's definitely different because I'm usually singing songs that I'm hearing for the first time, and it's such a fast pace that we're on, you don't get a whole lot of time to sit with the songs and perfect them, as much as I would love to perfect your masterpieces. 

It is different because, for me, I think of myself as more of a pop artist, and Megan here has got, like, the big Broadway voice, so I'm always trying to balance the two so that they kind of are cohesive together, that it makes sense in terms of the show.