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Smash creators said the series, with a new showrunner, scores of new cast members and a new night, would remain true to what it was in season one.
“Changes-wise, I think it’s Smash. I don’t think it’s changed that much. The stuff you love from last year, that is still there,” new showrunner Josh Safran told reporters Sunday at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour in Pasadena.
While the Broadway drama started strong — around 11 million viewers — it finished the season with slightly more than half that, with many tuning in for a new phenomenon to “hate-watch” the series. Safran noted the story lines that went off on tangents — including Julia’s (Debra Messing) affair and damage to her marriage — would be addressed in season two with the characters navigating those consequences.
“[We’re looking at characters who were] side-tracked emotionally and how that would impact your work — like Julia,” Safran noted, with the lyricist experiencing professional fallout with writing partner Tom (Christian Borle).
“It’s still is same Smash: it’s bigger, there’s more music, it’s maybe younger in some regards — with new cast members,” Safran said of the changes to the series.
Safran noted an increase in original music and musical performances will be one of the changes this season. “There’s more than one original song per episode: bigger [and] more is something we played with. We have more original songs and diverse musical styles,” he said, noting that the current roster of Broadway diversity — including musicals set in the 1800s, helped influenced Smash’s biggest worldview this year.
After an uneven freshman run, Smash faced a major facelift in the off-season. Series creator Theresa Rebeck stepped down as showrunner and four cast members were let go — Raza Jaffrey (Dev), Jaime Cepero (Ellis), Brian d’Arcy James (Frank) Will Chase (Michael/Joe DiMaggio).
Addressing the cast departures, executive producer Neil Meron said Cepero’s Ellis is “still alive” and out there, with the likelihood of his name coming up very likely.
Producers also told reporters that they heard the criticism leveled at season one and took it to heart, and are setting out to make adjustments accordingly — including Julia’s scarves. “There were certain story lines that were pinpointed that you’d say, ‘Yeah, they’re right it could be a little bit more impactful,” Meron said, pinpointing her fashion don’ts. “First-season shows need time to find themselves … especially a show like Smash, which has so many moving parts. To really figure out the mechanism is really difficult.”
Addressing Rebeck’s departure, Meron said it wasn’t a question of “wanting” replacing showrunners: “Theresa is really great artist … her focus was very much taken up by a lot of her other loves, which include the theater. It was a decision that just came down the pike,” he said. “It was availability and where her passions really lay.”
EP Craig Zadan, for his part, recalled a conversation with EP Steven Spielberg ahead of the series premiere about the long-term potential for Smash to feature a different musical every season — in addition to the one from the previous season, which Safran has accomplished.
Season two, in addition to Bombshell will feature new cast member Jeremy Jordan’s (Newsies) Jimmy launching an off-off Broadway drama called Hit List, with the help of love interest Karen (Katharine McPhee).
In other Smash news, NBC announced that the 22-song cast recording of the complete Bombshell musical — spanning seasons one and two — will be released Feb. 12 and available for preorder on Jan. 8.
Watch the new trailer for season two, below. Smash returns Tuesday, Feb. 5 at 9 p.m. with a two-hour premeire.
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