Emmys: 'Smash' Star Debra Messing Competes as Lead Actress, McPhee and Hilty Supporting

Debra Messing, Julia

Messing returns to the network home of Will & Grace as Julia Houston, a famed Broadway playwright who with the help of her writing partner, Tom (Christian Borle) pens the script for the Marilyn Monroe musical that's at the heart of Smash. Between the demands of staging a Broadway production, Julia is also looking to expand her family with husband Frank (Brian d'Arcy James) as the couple begins the adoption process.

American Idol alum Katharine McPhee and breakout star Megan Hilty have been vying for the lead role of a lifetime in NBC’s freshman Broadway drama Smash.

But NBC and the actress' reps are taking them out of the lead-actress spotlight for the upcoming Emmy season. A Smash rep confirms that the only castmember who will be submitted for lead drama actress consideration is Emmy winner and six-time nominee Debra Messing. The rest of the cast will compete in the supporting categories.

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The news might inspire a "huh?" from critics and Smash fans for whom McPhee and Hilty -- who not only grab the lion's share of screen time but also those heavy song-and-dance numbers -- are the stars of the series. Then again, Messing is by far the show's biggest TV "name," and her history with Emmy voters likely prompted NBC to strategize that it has a better shot getting her a lead-actress nomination.

And on the plus side, submitting McPhee, Hilty and their Oscar-winning co-star Anjelica Huston (also a six-time Emmy nominee) as supporting actress contenders means they will compete in a wide-open category. Last year’s winner, Margo Martindale of Justified, was killed off during the show's season finale, so the category is ripe for spoilers.

E-mail: Stacey.Wilson@thr.com