Katharine McPhee Makes a ‘Smash’ Encore
(l-r) Jennifer Hudson as Veronica Moore, Katharine McPhee as Karen Cartwright in "SMASH." ©Eric Liebowitz/NBC Universal.

(l-r) Jennifer Hudson as Veronica Moore, Katharine McPhee as Karen Cartwright in “SMASH.” ©Eric Liebowitz/NBC Universal.


Front Row Features

HOLLYWOOD—The second season of the hit musical drama series “Smash,” returns Tuesday, February 5, picking up where the debut series left off with a two-hour premiere. The second season kicks off with Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson playing a Tony winning Broadway star, who discovers there is a price to pay for her success.

The addition of Hudson, who starred in the hit movie musical “Dreamgirls,” was a delightful surprise to the “Smash” cast, including star Katharine McPhee.

The onetime “American Idol” contestant turned actress-singer spoke about returning to the NBC series, welcoming Hudson and what viewers can expect.

Q: The rivalry between your character and Megan Hilty’s character has always been very civil. Can the audience ever expect to see you two get into it knockdown drag out fight, with perhaps Derek (Jack Davenport) serving as the referee?

McPhee: (She laughs.) We wish. That would be fun.

Q: What can we expect for the second season?

McPhee: It’s a good thing with what happens at the end of the first season. It kind of made sense for (my character) Karen and Ivy (Hilty) to have very little interaction. For a while, we sort of live in our own worlds, and then you’ll see us come back together, and it will be interesting.

Q: With all the hubbub about lip-synching in the news, will any of the numbers be performed live on the show?

McPhee: This season, we’ve done a little bit more of the live lip‑synching thing. It’s a wonderful idea and a wonderful thing to try and strive for, but we are shooting about six to eight months out of the year. (Live singing) is wonderful to do for a movie that maybe you’re shooting for three or four months, and that’s all you’re focusing on. But it would be physically taxing and impossible to try and do on every number. For the quicker stuff this year, I’ve done a lot more live singing, which I like. It’s something I definitely, as a singer, love to do. It’s just more challenging with the kind of schedule we have.

Q: How was it working onstage with Jennifer Hudson?

McPhee:  (Deadpan) We always say on a scale from 1 to 10 as a singer, we range her around a 5.  She’s OK.  (Pause) She’s amazing.

Q: “American Idol” is still an indelible part of the popular culture. Is your experience on that show still sort of fresh in your memory or does it seem more like an out‑of‑body experience that happened to somebody else?

McPhee: I think that’s a really good way to explain it as sort of an out‑of‑body experience. It really does feel like I was a different person. It was several years ago now. It’s bee over seven years now since I was on the show. But I’m always aware of what’s going on with who the next judge is and grateful that it’s done what it was supposed to do, which was get you that platform and get you to that next thing. I’m very grateful for it, but it’s not something I feel like I have a life identity where I wake up every morning and (I say) “I was on ‘American Idol.’” It was an amazing experience, and it did exactly what it was supposed to do, and I’m very grateful for that.

Q: Do you have any advice young performers just starting out, like, “don’t take it too seriously?”

McPhee: No. I would never say that. It’s a very serious thing. It’s something that could really change your life but for me, it’s such a different show now than when I was on the show. They get so many more things than we ever did; just in terms of earpieces and things like that. The rehearsal time that they get, we didn’t have when we on the show. It’s just a very different show now. I really did not know myself when I was on that show, and I mean in terms of as a musician. It’s one thing if you can sing, that’s great. Good for you. But you really should know who you are as a musician, because what was sort of a big challenge for me coming off of the show was that I just kind of wanted to be an actress. I thought I’m going to go on “American Idol” and see if I can get some good exposure.  I had no idea I would do as well as I did. But with that came huge record contracts and all that stuff. I didn’t realize that I was going to suddenly have to have an identity as a musician, and I wasn’t ready for that. So if you’re not ready for that, you really should probably try and figure out who you are as a musician first.