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[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Monday’s “Callbacks” episode of Smash.]
Pitting the girl next door up against the Broadway veteran, NBC’s Smash crowned its Marilyn Monroe during Monday’s “Callbacks” episode, with Megan Hilty‘s Ivy getting the pivotal role in the play at the center of the musical drama.
In the hour, Ivy was presented with the same circumstances the morally upstanding Karen (Katharine McPhee) faced in the premiere when, during a coaching session, Derek (Jack Davenport) made a move on the longtime ensemble player. After struggling for more than 10 years, Ivy opted not to shun his advances and instead put her career first and slept with him.
So how close was Karen to landing the part? Very close, it turns out. In an early draft of the 70-page Smash pilot — which creator Theresa Rebeckcut 20 pages from as it evolved when the project moved from Showtime to NBC — the newcomer winds up landing the coveted role.
“On the pilot, we actually had Team Ivy and Team Karen people on the set saying, ‘I think Ivy should get it,’ and ‘I think Karen should get it,'” Rebeck tells The Hollywood Reporter. “So I went to [executive producers] Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman and I said, ‘Let’s be realistic.’ I was writing Episode 2 and asked, ‘Would you really take this seriously? For the first workshop of a brand new musical, would you give it to her?'”
Shaiman and Wittman both said the same thing: that Karen was pretty green when it came to Broadway experience. Ironically, the duo were going through the exact same thing when it came to casting the Broadway production of Catch Me If You Can lead with Aaron Tveit, who, Rebeck recalls, they said was too green at the time to star in the production.
“That’s actually — literally — what you would do with someone who has no experience but is a clear tremendous talent,” Rebeck says. “You put them in the ensemble and season them. So that’s where we’re going.”
And that’s what happened with Tveit, who ultimately landed the lead in Catch Me.
While it appears that McPhee’s Karen is ensemble-bound, that doesn’t mean that Smash’s Marilyn will remain the same during the show’s 15-episode run, considering Ivy’s early misdeeds with Derek and the high-profile role.
“I’ve done a lot of these workshops and reading and there’s no such thing as job stability,” Broadway veteran Hilty (Wicked) says. “You can be replaced in a heartbeat and it sets the stakes really high and makes people behave in ways they wouldn’t normally behave.”
While the workshop role is Ivy’s, it’s anyone’s guess whether or not it’s a part she can hold on to, especially with Karen likely landing in the ensemble. The two-way race could likely expand to include a third when Uma Thurman arrives to play a famous and difficult movie star flirting with the idea of starring inthe production.
“The casting of Marilyn [revealed in Episode 2] may not be who it is at the end of the season,” NBC Entertainment president Robert Greenblatt told reporters at January’s Television Critics Association’s winter press tour.
What do you think of Ivy as Marilyn? Who would you ultimately like to see star in Marilyn? Smash airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on NBC.
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