'Smash's' Megan Hilty: 'I'd Like to Duke It Out' With Jennifer Hudson

Smash Megan Hilty Ep102 Exclusive - P 2012
Patrick Harbron/NBC

Smash Megan Hilty Ep102 Exclusive - P 2012

To say NBC's Smash is undergoing a creative change for its second season would be an understatement.

The Broadway drama, a passion project for entertainment chief Robert Greenblatt, lost creator Theresa Rebeck from its ranks and replaced her with former Gossip Girl scribe Josh Safran. In addition to adding a plethora of new faces (Broadway stars Jeremy Jordan, Andy Mientus and Krysta Rodriguez as well as Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson) the series about the inner-workings of the Great White Way parted ways with four actors from its freshman run (farewell Ellis, Dev, Frank and Michael Swift).

The Hollywood Reporter caught up with co-star Megan Hilty as the cast prepares for its first table read of Season 2 to discuss the changes in store for the midseason series, songs she'd like to see featured on the show as well as what's next for Ivy after her on-screen alter ego pulled a Marilyn Monroe and swallowed a handful of sleeping pills in the season finale.

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The Hollywood Reporter: You're hosting a Smash Season 2 dinner party with the cast, what prompted that?
Megan Hilty:
We have a lot of new faces that we're going to be meeting [Tuesday], and it's a big day for us to kick off Season 2; I keep referring to it as the first day of school. After the table read, I wanted to celebrate meeting new people and kicking off the new season. So Nicolas Feuillatte was amazing enough to partner with me on the party -- they have my favorite Rosé champagne, so we're definitely going to be drinking a lot of that. We're just going to have a great, intimate party to kick things off with the whole cast and the producers and Jennifer Hudson, if she's not too busy.

How are you adjusting to new showrunner Josh Safran? What has he told you about his philosophy for the show?
I had lunch with him a couple weeks ago and he's got a really great energy and fantastic ideas for all the characters. He knows these characters very well. His ideas were great so I'm excited to see what actually goes through.

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How much of Ivy's arc has he shared with you?
I can't really give too much away, but I hope Ivy gets something that she can be happy about, something she can celebrate and not feel insecure about. It doesn't matter how brief it is, just if she has a moment of happiness, maybe even a new boyfriend would be fantastic. Josh is really open to all of our ideas; he really wants the show to be a big collaborative process. A lot of the songs I've pitched to him, he's gotten really excited about so hopefully some of those will be in there. One that I would really like to do is a Robyn cover, "Dancing On My Own," but with a totally different arrangement. He got really excited about that since he worked with her on Gossip Girl.

Would you consider doing a Wicked song on the show?
I feel like Wicked would be a really fun idea, especially as a little theater inside joke. Even something like a 9 to 5 cover, and have a little mini-reunion. I've been trying to get Allison Janney on the show; I think she would be fantastic. If we got her and Stephanie Block, we could all do something fun.

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There are a lot of new changes for Season 2, including a huge injection of Broadway talent -- Jeremy Jordan (Newsies), Andy Mientus (Spring Awakening) and Krysta Rodriguez. What do they add to the show?
We're going to have a whole new energy in the show. Andy is a really good friend of mine, so I'm really excited to be working with him. I don't know the other new faces and that's kind of why I wanted to host this dinner, so that we could all get together get to know each other a little bit and share a drink or five.

How will the dynamic of the show change with their addition and the loss of Raza Jaffrey (Dev), Brian d'Arcy James (Frank), Jamie Cepero (Ellis) and Will Chase (Michael Swift)?
Change is inevitable, especially in this business. While I'm sad to see my friends go, I'm also excited to make new friends. Just because they're leaving now doesn't mean that they won't necessarily be back later. I'm excited to see what happens in this next season and see what all these new, fresh faces bring to these story lines.

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Jennifer Hudson is boarding as Veronica, a Tony-winning Broadway star who impacts the lives of Karen and Ivy. Have you worked with her before? What was your first reaction to the casting? How much of that arc are you privy to?
I hope we have an angry duet, I'd like to really duke it out with her (laughs). I just got the script for the first episode and all the music they picked, there's going to be a lot more music; there's at least four songs in the first episode and they're all really great. If they keep that up, it's going to be a great season. If I know anything about Ivy, other people's success is a threat to her, especially the women in the business. So if I had to guess, I'd have to say that they probably don't get along very well (laughs).

When will Season 2 pick up? Will Ivy and Karen (Katharine McPhee) have come to an understanding in the wake of Ivy's fling with Dev?
It will pick up a couple weeks after the finale. [Ivy sleeping with Dev is] going to be a tough one for them to get over. It'll be really interesting to see how they become friends again. Through everything, they're always going to come back together again and then split apart. That's the great thing about having a rival on a show, that rollercoaster.

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How will Ivy struggle to accept Karen's role as Marilyn? Will news of her attempted suicide impact her role with Bombshell?
I don't know, but it definitely will be interesting to watch. I don't want to give too much away but you'll find out really soon about how they manage to come back together and how she's dealing with Karen's new status in the show.

How will Ivy react to some of the new potential rivals entering the picture? Could she turn her back on some of her old scheming ways that we saw in Season 1?
I feel like you can only do that [scheming thing] for so long. Ivy is going to have some changes coming her way, so hopefully she'll learn how to deal with these new faces because the way she was dealing with people before with the sleeping pills just wasn't quite working. I'll be back -- spoiler alert! (Laughs.)

Ivy's pal Sam (Leslie Odom Jr.) will be around more, can we expect to see more of their friendship blossom?
Absolutely; that's inevitable because they're best friends.

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Could there be a second musical taking shape in Smash's second season?
Absolutely. It's exciting, that's actually a great representation of what actually happens in the Broadway community and that will be a really fun thing to watch: the development of another new musical.

How's your album coming? Who have you worked with? When will it be released?
It's great, all the music is from the movies, so it's all songs that everybody knows that were made famous through films but with all new arrangements. I'm having the time of my life getting to work on that. There will be a couple duets but we haven't decided who's doing them with me yet.

Any chance you'll work with McPhee?
I don't know, because I 'd really like to do a lady duet; I don't think there are enough of those. I'd really like to have one of those on the album, something a little unexpected, too. We're hoping it comes out next spring, bit you never know.

Smash's second season premieres midseason on NBC. Hit the comments with your thoughts on what you'd like to see for Ivy next season.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@thr.com; Twitter: @Snoodit