Meet the Characters of NBC's Musical Drama "Smash"

"Smash," the upcoming NBC musical drama that offers an inside look at the creation of a Broadway musical, will hit television screens Feb. 6, 2012. Before the sitcom makes a "smash" in the New Year, meet the characters of the series.

Debra Messing
Debra Messing (Photo by Will Hart/NBC)

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Name: Debra Messing.
Claim to fame: Messing is an Emmy Award-winning actress for her portrayal of Grace Adler in the NBC sitcom "Will & Grace." She also nabbed an additional four Emmy noms for her work on the series as well as six Golden Globe nominations. On stage, Messing appeared in the Manhattan Theatre Club productions of Collected Stories and Three Dogs and a Bone, and in the WPA production of The Naked Truth.
Character on "Smash": Julia Houston.
Julia Houston is…: a Tony Award-nominated lyricist/writer who lives in Brooklyn with her husband Frank (Brian d'Arcy James) and their son, Leo. When Houston and her songwriting partner Tom Levitt ( Christian Borle) decide to write a musical based on the life of legendary diva Marilyn Monroe, Houston begins to obsess over the possibilities. Her husband Frank, however, had expected that she would take a break from the world of theatre while they are in the process of adopting a child.
Later in the series…: Houston will reunite with old flame and musical theatre star Michael Swift, played by Will Chase ( Rent, Aida).

Christian Borle
photo by Will Hart/NBC

Name: Christian Borle.
Claim to fame: Although Borle made his Broadway debut back in 1999 understudying the role of Willard Hewitt in Footloose, it wasn't until 2007 when the performer received his first Tony nomination for his performance as Emmett Forrest in Legally Blonde. Borle has also been seen on Broadway in Amour, Spamalot and Mary Poppins, among others. Recently, he was seen in the NYTW production of Peter and the Starcatcher, which is scheduled to make the leap to Broadway in the spring. With his work schedule in "Smash," will he be able to make the transfer?
Character on "Smash": Tom Levitt.
Tom Levitt is…: the comedic counterpart to Julia Houston. When his new assistant Ellis, played by Jaime Cepero, unearths a book documenting the life of Monroe, a light bulb goes off in Levitt's head. The composer immediately gets to work on the piano to generate a couple of new tunes for the Marilyn musical, including a baseball number inspired from Monroe's relationship with baseball giant Joe DiMaggio.
Later in the series…: audiences will see the dynamic between Levitt and Derek Wills (Jack Davenport), who signs on to direct the Marilyn project. The duo collaborated in the past and seemed to end on a sour note.

Megan Hilty
photo by Will Hart/NBC

Name: Megan Hilty.
Claim to fame: A graduate of Carnegie Mellon's theatre program, Hilty made her Broadway debut in the hit musical Wicked as standby for Glinda. She took over the role in 2005, succeeding Jennifer Laura Thompson and was also seen in the national tour. Following Wicked, Hilty went on to play Doralee Rhodes in the musical 9 to 5, which garnered her Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award nominations.
Character on "Smash": Ivy Lynn.
Ivy Lynn is…: a Broadway veteran who is called in to work with Julia Houston and Tom Levitt on their new project, Marilyn. Even though she's worked on a few demos and seems to be a shoe-in, she is asked to audition for the title role in the Marilyn musical. Lynn must face the music—and the creative team—when a little competition comes her way from newcomer Karen Cartwright (Katharine McPhee). Although Lynn looks the part and has a long list of Broadway credits, the creative team remains undecided.
Later in the series…: Lynn will go toe-to-toe with Cartwright throughout the creative process of Marilyn. "[Ivy has] been in the ensemble for about ten years," Hilty told Playbill.com. "She just wants to make that next step to become a leading lady, and she's willing to do just about anything to get it."

Katharine McPhee
photo by Will Hart/NBC

Name: Katharine McPhee.
Claim to fame: McPhee first hit the music scene as a contestant on the fifth season of the reality series "American Idol." At 21-years-old, McPhee auditioned for Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson with "God Bless the Child." She continued through the series, singing such standards as "Someone to Watch Over Me" and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," and ended as runner-up. Since "Idol," McPhee has released a self-titled debut album and a second album entitled "Unbroken." Simultaneously, she has pursued acting in film and television with "The House Bunny" and "CSI: NY," and now takes on musical theatre in "Smash."
Character on "Smash": Karen Cartwright.
Karen Cartwright is…: a newcomer to the New York theatre scene. Cartwright, who arrived from Iowa to pursue her dreams, makes a living waiting tables and is plagued by the discouragement of her parents. Although her boyfriend Dev (Raza Jaffrey) remains supportive, Cartwright is down on her luck until she walks in for the Marilyn musical audition. Covering Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful" for her audition, the creative team immediately sees something more in the performer, and she snags a callback for the Broadway-bound project.
Later in the series…: Cartwright will continue to compete with Lynn. Expect a fierce competition complete with show-stopping musical numbers and intricate choreography. "We definitely have big numbers with full-on hair, costumes and makeup," McPhee told Playbill.com.

Jack Davenport
photo by Virginia Sherwood/NBC

Name: Jack Davenport.
Claim to fame: Davenport is best known for his role as James Norrington in the popular "Pirates of the Caribbean" series. The English actor has also been seen in the Academy Award-nominated film "The Talented Mr. Ripley" and appeared in the British television drama "This Life" and the BBC series "Coupling."
Character on "Smash": Derek Wills.
Derek Wills is…: a Tony Award-nominated director who signs on for the upcoming Marilyn musical. Although he is a bit reluctant to reunite with former collaborator Tom Levitt, he thinks that the piece is worth taking on. "He is a somewhat Machiavellian figure," said Davenport at the recent "Smash" industry screening. "His working methods are a little questionable, perhaps—verging on the sociopathic."
Later in the series…: Wills will hit on Marilyn prospect Karen Cartwright (sooner rather than later). When Cartwright is called to his house before callbacks, she realizes that he wants a bit more than her talent.

Anjelica Huston
photo by Will Hart/NBC

Name: Anjelica Huston.
Claim to fame: Huston won an Oscar in 1986 for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in "Prizzi's Honor" and is an Academy Award nominee for "Enemies: A Love Story" and "The Grifters." She also received Golden Globe nominations for her portrayal of Morticia Addams in " The Addams Family" and "Addams Family Values." On Broadway, she has appeared in Hamlet.
Character on "Smash": Eileen Rand.
Eileen Rand is…: a Tony Award-winning producer who is eager to work on Marilyn—what she thinks will be a surefire hit. Rand meets with Houston and Levitt right away to secure her spot on the production end of the Marilyn musical. However, the creators are a bit hesitant since Rand's personal drama with ex-husband Jerry (Michael Christofer) is currently in the spotlight.


Jaime Cepero
photo by Virginia Sherwood/NBC

Name: Jaime Cepero.
Claim to fame: Cepero has been a part of the New York theatre scene in workshop productions of The Voice Within, Harlem Stages and The Concubine. He also appeared on stage in the 75th anniversary national tour of Porgy & Bess.
Character on "Smash": Ellis.
Ellis is…: assistant to composer Tom Levitt. While at Levitt's apartment on the Upper East Side, he takes out a Marilyn Monroe biography for some light reading and eventually pitches the idea of a Marilyn musical to the Levitt-Houston songwriting duo. Since they feel his idea can be a "smash," he is invited to continue in the collaborative process.
Later in the series…: Ellis will be behind the table with Levitt and Houston throughout the creative process of Marilyn the musical. Levitt, who has a soft spot for Ellis, allows his input while Houston is a bit apprehensive about the idea.

Raza Jaffrey
photo by Virginia Sherwood/NBC

Name: Raza Jaffrey.
Claim to fame: Jaffrey is known for his West End credits, including his stint in 2001 as Sky in Mamma Mia! at the Prince Edward Theatre. Following Mamma Mia!, Jaffrey starred as the leading man in Bombay Dreams at the Apollo Theatre and took on multiple film and television roles including Guarav in "Sex and the City 2."
Character on "Smash": Dev Sundaram.
Dev Sundaram is…: Karen Cartwright's supportive boyfriend. He works as a press secretary in the mayor's office in New York, and simultaneously encourages Cartwright to pursue her dreams. Although Cartwright's parents don't have high hopes that her Broadway aspirations will come to fruition, Dev gives her the extra push and even becomes her scene partner when preparing for auditions and callbacks.


Brian d'Arcy James

Name: Brian d'Arcy James.
Claim to fame: James has a long list of Broadway credits including Sweet Smell of Success and Shrek, which both earned him Tony nominations, Blood Brothers, Carousel, Titanic, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Apple Tree, Next to Normal and Time Stands Still, among others. He also received Drama Desk nominations for his Off-Broadway performances in The Good Thief and The Wild Party.
Character on "Smash": Frank.
Frank is…: Julia's husband. Although d'Arcy James is an accomplished stage veteran, his character on "Smash" is not part of the musical theatre scene—he is busy maintaining a family that is currently in the process of an adoption. He tries to support his wife, but doesn't want the new Marilyn musical project to take too much time away from everyday family life. *

For more of the inside scoop on "Smash," check out Playbill Video's interviews with the cast and creative team: