THE LEADING MEN: Brian d'Arcy James Takes a Giant Step Into a New American Musical

By Mervyn Rothstein
15 Nov 2012

Brian d'Arcy James, with Debra Messing, on "Smash."
Photo by Eric Liebowitz/NBC

I'm going to change the subject from theatre to TV — I'd like to ask about "Smash" and what last season's experience was like.
BDJ: As an actor, it was a thrill. Because I've been working quite a long time in this business, and I've had opportunities to work in TV and film, but I'd never had a network television series before. Just in the sense of getting that job, and the fact that it was shot in New York City, and the potential consistency of that work.

And then the fact that it was this world that I knew so well. It was a representation of the way I've spent my life in New York City, and before that, as an actor. It gave me a special pride. And working with all of the actors, all these people that came from so many different angles of the business — it made for a really eclectic and exciting group of people.

Chances are it won't happen again for me, unless I get lucky and get another television show that has to do with the making of a Broadway musical. Which isn't in the offing very soon.

You didn't get a chance to sing very much, though.
BDJ: That's true, but my character was a teacher, and there was a decision made very early on that not everybody should be from that [Broadway] world, just for the sake of not overwhelming the audience, or even stretching the boundaries of believability. At one point Frank was possibly somehow going to be tangentially involved in the theatre, and then they decided, I think wisely, to create a character that was independent of that world.

How did you find out you would no longer be a regular character in Season 2?
BDJ: I found out the typical way, through my agent. They just decided, I believe, that they needed to take different avenues and try new things to see if they could tell their story in a just as interesting if not more interesting way.

You never want to lose a job, especially a job like this, but ultimately it's not a big surprise because actors are always at the mercy of a show closing or any number of other reasons why a job ends. Actors have a particular resiliency in these kinds of situations because our jobs don't last forever anyway and we're always looking for the next thing. So on we go.

I understand you're on this season's opener [NBC, Feb. 5] . Can you tell me anything about that?
BDJ: I don't want to spoil anything but I guess what I will say is that Frank is given a chance to, in a way, have a response, reach a particular point in his road where he makes a decision about how he feels things are going. I think it's probably obvious what I'm alluding to based on what happened between Frank and his wife. But how that happens I'll leave as a surprise.