3:33PM: The SMASH panel kicks off with a video greeting from executive producer Steven Spielberg who NBC Entertainment President Bob Greenblatt promises has been incredibly involved and passionate about the show. To the point that he has personally edited musical sequences. Not-so-fun-fact: Spielberg did not send a similar video prior to Fox’s TERRA NOVA panel last fall. Read into that what you will.
3:38PM: Just to give you an indication as to how good SMASH actually is. A roomful of tired, hungry and soulless television critics actually “Aaaawwwwwed” when there was a momentary technical difficulty with the video sizzle reel for the show.
3:44PM: Greenblatt teases that Marilyn’s road to Broadway will be a rocky one, with the first season culminating in the show’s out-of-town try out, and the second one — should the show be lucky enough to see a second season — revolve around how the show fares in the Big Apple.
3:46PM: Contrary to reports in a recent New York Magazine article, creator/executive producer Theresa Rebeck swears that the entirety of the team’s focus is to first and foremost make a great television show. Whatever happens in the future — referring to the rumors that Marilyn is already headed to Broadway — who knows! “This show is enough of a challenge for all of us right now.”
3:47PM: When asked by an intrepid reporter how the show’s cutthroat behind-the-scenes drama compares to her real life experience on the boards, star Megan Hilty jokes, “Give me a call later, we’ll talk!” Being sure to add on a more serious note, “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been backstage and thought, ‘Where’s the camera!?’ The drama that happens behind the curtain is way more interesting than anything that happens on stage!”
3:48PM: When asked a similar question to executive producers/co-lyricists Scott Wittman and Marc Shaimain the latter proclaims, “I can’t even believe you’re asking us questions… [Pointing to the row of beautiful actors and actresses in front of him]” Look, it’s Anjelica Huston!”
3:50PM: Is the cast and creative team worried as to just how much NBC seems to have riding on their show? Not according to star Christian Borle (“Whatever the fates bring, we’re so proud and it feels so great that we’ve been able to do so much.”) or creator Theresa Rebeck (“NBC wants great storytelling, they’ve been very clear, make great television. The rest of the story is up to other forces.”)
3:51PM: Good News: NBC will release contemporary tracks from the episodes for purchase day and date with show. Bad News: The availability of original songs from the Marilyn musical set within the show are still being determined.
3:52PM: “It’s beautifully written, complete with a fantastic cast of actors and a phenomenal team of people behind the scenes. I’d be a fool not to participate,” said Anjelica Huston when asked what attracted her to the project.
3:53PM: Producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan credits the success of feature film musicals such as Hairspray with setting the stage for SMASH to occur.
3:56PM: Incredibly high praise for creator/executive producer Theresa Rebeck’s storytelling skills come from Craig Zadan who equates her writing to that of Aaron Sorkin on THE WEST WING. Said Zadan, “You feel like you’re eavesdropping in this authentic world of theater, yet get caught up in their personal lives as well.” Adds star Debra Messing, “That was one of the things that was most exciting to me about it when I read the pilot. What I related to was this woman who is very passionate about her creative life but also really is a proud mother and wants that home life balance. I love that nothing is simple. The way Theresa writes, there is such richness. My character, all of the characters go through difficulties and challenges. We’re often surprised at the table reads as we have no idea what’s happening next. It’s interesting and it all feels authentic.”
3:59PM: The amount of fun I’m having on this show is so ridiculously off the charts. Of course you can’t compare them, they’re apples and oranges,” admits Messing about the comparisons between SMASH and her former hit NBC comedy WILL & GRACE. “This cast is so accomplished and so committed, everyone is so passionate about this project. We’re working really hard but we’re laughing a lot and we’re really proud about what we’re doing. I wouldn’t even compare my experiences, I would just say I’m grateful that NBC has created a new home for me again.”
4:00PM: It took 30 minutes, but the inevitable finally happened: The obligatory comparison to GLEE question. “Just as Gypsy with Bette Midler on television sort of opened the door for TV musicals for a period of time, what Ryan Murphy did with GLEE broke a barrier,” said Neil Meron. “He allowed the Networks to really believe there was room for drama, comedy and singing in one show week after week. I don’t feel that anyone of us feel the show is like GLEE but we feel grateful to it for opening that door.”
4:06PM: Much to our chagrin, Rebeck wasn’t spilling as to which of her beautiful two leading ladies — Katharine McPhee (Karen) or Megan Hilty (Ivy) —would end up as Marilyn, except to say that they’re both amazing actresses and it was a very organic process. What’s more, as shooting continued, people on the set began forming ‘Team Ivy’ and ‘Team Karen’ camps.
4:08PM: Knowing full well that he is in a roomful of journalists with their fingers on the [Twitter] button, actor Jack Davenport was quick to sidestep the question as to just what real-life director he based his egomaniacal character on. Said Davenport, “Obviously it’s an amalgam of many directors, I couldn’t possibly have based it on one person or I’d be in court!”
4:11PM: Fun Fact: Other ideas tossed around aside from a Marilyn musical were period pieces with sword fighting and feathers as a result of creator Theresa Rebeck’s PhD in Victorian literature.
4:12PM: NBC Entertainment President Bob Greenblatt teases that the plan for season 2 — should the show be lucky enough to see one — have not been set in stone although discussions have revolved around introducing a second musical, as well as sticking with the original show should the character’s lives prove interesting enough.
4:13PM: Spoiler Alert: The actress playing Marilyn at the end of the season may not be the same actress cast in the role by the end of SMASH’s second episode.