STAGE TO SCREENS: Joshua Safran, the New Storyteller of "Smash," Talks About Season Two

By Kenneth Jones
21 Jan 2013

Debra Messing and Christian Borle in "Smash."
Photo by Will Hart/NBC

You're broadening the community of show people. Creating contrast to and competition for Bombshell.
JS: Yes, absolutely. Being a major theatregoer myself, what I love so much is the variety that is on and Off-Broadway at all times. So the idea was to basically say, "Obviously the 'Broadway' of 'Smash' is not the actual Broadway, although we'll occasionally reference a show that exists, but why not this season take the chance to actually make more of that 'Broadway'?" Meaning, you'll hear about several shows playing at several theatres that we've invented — some of which, actually, I would really love to see. There was one in particular that I was like, "Oh, that would be such a good musical!"

Is that something you brought to the table, or was it a conversation between you and the other producers? What does Josh Safran bring, specifically, to this season?
JS: It's hard to say. As a showrunner, I have writers and I think the stories all sort of generate from there, but, of course, on this show, we have producers with such incredible theatre experience — like Marc and Scott, and Craig [Zadan] and Neil [Meron]. One of the things that will happen is, I will sit with them, and I'll ask for stories, and we'll talk about things. I've talked very extensively with Marc and Scott about the process of Hairspray and the process of Catch Me If You Can, and what was different about the two of them and what they felt like they learned from both of them, and what they felt they would do differently or not differently, and how the perfect alchemy for an incredible show that wins Best Musical comes together.

All of that is kind of amazing to have that at my disposal — that I can pick up the phone, if we come up with a plot and we're not sure it's possible, [and we can ask], "Is this something that actually happened?" Or, "Is there precedence for this?" I can call and get the answer. They know, which is incredible. So they're a very valuable resource.

Like I said, I'm a huge theatre fan. I went to [NYU] Tisch for playwriting. My professors were John Guare. I took classes — lectures — from anyone from Wendy Wasserstein to Jon Robin Baitz, who actually appears in one of the episodes this year. So like I have a little bit of a background in that [world].