BWW Exclusive: On the Set of SMASH- Krysta Rodriguez on Joining the Family, How She Got the Part & More; Plus New Photos!
SMASH makes its long-awaited return to the NBC lineup for a second season on Tuesday, February 5 (9-10 p.m. ET) and will continue in its regular time slot on Tuesday, February 12 (10-11 p.m. ET). Season two will feature a slew of new talent, including Jennifer Hudson, Jeremy Jordan, Andy Mientus, Krysta Rodriguez, Sean Hayes, Jesse L. Martin, Liza Minnelli, Bernadette Peters, Nikki Blonski, and more.
BroadwayWorld's own Richard Ridge was invited to the SMASH set where he got to chat with new costar and Broadway veteran Krysta Rodriguez about the upcoming season. Check out what she had to say about joining the world of television, how she earned the role, and more, below!
How exciting is to be working on television? You're a Broadway baby, tell me about the TV world?
It's awesome! I really didn't expect to love the work so much. I really enjoy it, particularly because I get to do a musical, so it's like getting to do what I know in a genre that I'm not as familiar with so it was a little easier transition. Everyone's so awesome and we get to do so many cool things on the show that I haven't gotten to do yet.
How did the old cast members welcome the new kids?
Oh, it was really easy, it was a really nice transition. I had known Kat sort of before, and I knew Jeremy and Andy, peripherally from Broadway, so we all were new kids. And there were some new people that came in at all the same time so it didn't feel like one new person in a group of people that were already established. Everyone was really game to start afresh.
What's the backstory to your character? We see her kind of appear in the first episode. What's behind her? No one knew how you guys met.
I know! Well, they did if they hadn't cut the scene. We were about six minutes over in the episode so they cut it out. I am a performer; I am a dancer-singer-actress and Kat and I knew each other from before, from our waitressing days. But I was on tour last season, which is why I wasn't around. And then when she breaks up with her boyfriend, I have a room open because my roommate goes on the Disney cruise as I mention in the episode. I was on the West Side Story tour, I was playing Rosalita. There was a whole thing where I give her shoes from the show because I stole them from wardrobe--there was all this insider stuff that got cut. The casualty of not doing a live show! Yeah, so we've been friends and then she moves in with me and we just sort of navigate theater together and I end up being in HitList which is the new show this season. So I work my way through that.
Can you tell us a little bit about HitList and who you're playing?
Well, I'm going to hold back some things but I want to tell you who I'm playing. It starts off as a show with these two young writers whom Jeremy and Andy play, called Kyle and Jimmy, and they're these people who are really talented but don't really know how to get their stuff out there. And then they meet Karen and she introduces them to this world of Broadway that she's become a part of. And it starts off as a Fringe show, gets a lot of traction, it moves off-Broadway very quickly, gets a lot of traction, and then we're hoping that it will move to Broadway and give Bombshell a run for its money in the season this year. So that's what the show is, it's a very--you know, in the genre of Rent or Spring Awakening, it's very hip, it's very young. It's being written by current pop Broadway writers right now, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, Joe Iconis, Drew Gasparini, and Andrew McMann. They're all young writers so it's got that authentic feel. It's essentially about fame and what people will do to achieve it, in this sort of era of Lady Gaga and Madonna and people who reinvent themselves to become famous so that's sort of the over-reaching theme. It's got some darker themes about love and death--all those sorts of things that those young hip musicals have!
How did this show happen for you in the first place, were you a big fan of Smash?
Yes, I was a big fan of Smash, my old co-star Wesley Taylor from The Addams Family was in it so I watched it religiously and enjoyed it immensely. And just kind of loved seeing what we do represented, now people everywhere can see what goes into putting on a show. And then it happened very quickly for me--I had one audition and then three days later they called and said you start work on Monday. Which has never happened in the history of the world! [laughs] It has never happened for me, it's usually like six auditions later and a test and a network thing but they really had to pull the trigger quickly. So it started very quickly and instantly my life changed.
What was your audition?
I did some dummy sides because they never give actual sides. They don't want to give away anything. But it was just me and Bernie Telsey and Tiffany at Telsey's office, and Josh the new showrunner. I had done an episode of Gossip Girl that he had written before he became the showrunner of Gossip Girl back in 2008. And so when I came in he said, "I wrote your episode of Gossip Girl!" and I said, "That's right, thanks for writing in that make out scene with Chace Crawford!" [laughs] And he was like, "Absolutely!" So we bonded over that a little bit. He knew me from some concerts that I'd done, he was a fan of Joe Iconis before which is why he's on the show now, he knows his music and had seen me in that. We just had a nice conversation and I did the sides and I sang a little bit and then left and then didn't hear anything for a few days and then started work the next week.
On the first episode we see you take that guy home, so you like to have a good time. Does that ever--because you know, loose Girls around Karen kind of tend to become a problem, does that ever cause trouble on the show?
I get in a little bit of trouble. You'll see me take home a couple--I have a thing for musicians and you'll see that kind of happen. Yeah, there's a little twist that kind of causes a little bit of problems, but--yeah, that's all I can say.
You're a Broadway veteran--when you come on the show you know how it represents theater. Season one we all saw the good--what's the most realistic part of it, what's the most silly ridiculous...because I'm sure it goes both ways.
Yes, it does go both ways. But I always say that the most ridiculous stuff is the most realistic stuff [laughs]. Because putting on a Broadway show is crazy, and weird things happen, and reasons why shows go or last or don't last. One thing that I love about this season--first of all I love the new writers, I love that that's real, it keeps a very current, very exciting vibe to the show. But also, we do a gypsy robe ceremony which I think is really great, it's very authentic, we have the head of Equity going there and doing a gypsy robe ceremony. I am a gypsy robe recipient so that was very special to me, I got very emotional when she did that.
Who receives it?
I can't tell you [laughs]. I don't mean within the show... I received it for Spring Awakening. There are many shows opening in SMASH this season, we have several musicals so...
Are we going to see the season start to heat up the awards shows?...
You'll see the race to the Tonys. I can't say necessarily if we are going to the Tonys, who's going to the Tonys--we don't know. They keep all that under wraps but there is definitely Tony conversation. There are Tony war rooms where the producers of the different shows are deciding how do we get there, who's going to be nominated, so yeah, you'll see that.
So the title at the end of the season was "Chase Your Dreams, Watch Your Back." So who are you watching, who's coming at your back?
Who's coming at my back? A lot of things are coming at my back but not necessarily in a malicious way. My character you'll see has to fight a lot for what she wants.Things are not really handed to her. She knows what she wants and she's aggressive about it, but she gets setbacks. Directors not believing in her, not being a star, wanting to show people what she can do. There also becomes a little bit of tension between her and Karen because they're friends and they're both performers. I love that it shows a realistic view of not being rivals, but being friends and also competing against each other and how you kind of maneuver this delicate relationship that way. So no one really comes after me they just get in my way, I have to knock them out!
Can you talk a little bit about the new writing on the show? I love Joe and Drew and all of them--how fluid are they in this process or are they just writing songs that they already--what's going on with that, how are you...?
We have a little mix of both--Joe's stuff is stuff that he has written before. In fact the opening scene, "Broadway Here I Come," his song for the first episode, was written about three years ago for me to sing at one of his concerts. Josh saw it on YouTube, loved it and wanted to put it on the show. So there are certain ones that are already trunk songs--I've sung the goodbye song we're doing today probably 57 times. He sings it at the end of every one of his concerts. Justin and Benj wrote some original songs for the show so some of them are based on the story we need to tell and some of them have been pulled and adjusted to the story that we're telling. Joe was at a recording yesterday when we recorded the song; Benj and Justin have come to see it. They don't come to direct the pieces or anything, but they get to see when it mixes with Josh Bergasse's amazing choreography, you get to see the most amazing Broadway shows instantly. It's like one day you hand it and we got it and we're shooting it and it's done! It doesn't take development.
You were talking about the songs--talk about how you--you went to a recoding studio yesterday for the song today, tell us about that.
So we'll get a song with a demo singer on it, probably a few days before we record it, and then we'll learn it and then we go and record it. We have an amazing engineer that does beautiful work and then it's ready to go and they play it back. Sometimes we have to have it in our ears, some of the things we'll sing live and so we'll have it in our ears and we'll cue it up or sometimes it's pre-recorded. And we have rehearsal for the dance numbers--the dancers are rehearsing all the time--and then they put us in it and then poof, we have an instant number in about a week.
What's it like--obviously you and Wesley are best friends, you and Jeremy--what's it like for all of you to just be in this world together and run around...
I know. It's really crazy. We'll get our call sheet and all the guest stars, it's like a Broadway call sheet. It's like Carolee Carmello's coming on the show, we have Manny Herrera who's done a million Broadway shows, Montego Glover, all of these people that you'll see, you're like--this is just like I'm going to a rehearsal of that I've been to a million times. So it's really fun, it's fun to get to share new experiences with these people. And yeah, we have a real set, we have a real theater, we have a real backstage, we even have the shoe racks where you put water bottles in and everyone's got their names on it. It's like that's what really happens, someone really knows what's going on, they've dressed the set perfectly. And when we tech numbers we're teching numbers on the show, we're actually etching things, we're sitting around, everything feels very much like the same thing, we all know what we're doing.
But being a Broadway baby, you're so comfortable on television--do you like the process?
I love it! Yeah, I really do. There's waiting, there's a lot of that, and the hours are crazy and you don't really know what you're doing on any given day but I kind of love that, I love seeing where a character goes and not knowing and you know--when you do a show you go through the same arc every night. And sometimes you'd be like--I wonder what would happen if this character made a different decision one day. And now we kind of get to play that out. So that's the part I really like.
What do you feel are the biggest changes from seasons one to two?
Well, we have more shows, there's more things for people to follow. So if there are certain things more your Style or you just love everything, and I think that's a better representation of Broadway. Because there are the young things, there are the crowd pleasers, there're the big Blockbusters, the gritty show. And there are the flops and the hits. So we have all of that being represented, so I think that's a big difference. I think the heart of the show is very much still the same, they're showing how to do it. They've tried to focus it more on the shows rather than outside relationships, and if there are relationships they'll be within the show...because that's also very realistic. [laughs] So I think that in its essence it's still the same show, but they're trying to expand it, to grab a broader audience, to bring people in.
Are we seeing any showmances for you?
Not yet, not yet. I go outside.
All one night stands!
Did you get to work with these big Broadway vetrans like Liza?
I didn't get to work with Liza..the thing is, because we're the young hip show, we don't get all the really famous guest stars. They're there for the established Broadway show, but we've gotten Jesse L. Martin who's just the joy of all joys, and Daphne Rubin Vega's also on the show as another character. At table reads they sit next to each other, and we're like having a Rent moment! So yeah, those things are very exciting. I really haven't gotten to hobnob with the big wigs but they're great on the show and from what I've seen Jennifer is amazing.
When Bombshell was put together, everyone was saying could it happen on Broadway--could you see HitList being a Broadway show?
I totally could, I totally could. I think there are some things we take liberties as far as the possibility of doing them in a theater eight times a week because we don't really have to honor that in the television version of this show! I do a number in episode 9 that I would love to see on Broadway but it would require some major safety! It's high up in the air. I guess you know for things like Spiderman they can do anything. I think the show could definitely happen but it would require some major stamina.
High in the air as in you're being rigged up?
As in, it's an aerial silk number. There is no rig and there is no net. I'm here today and I lived to tell the tale. I did have a stunt double, but I did it all. I didn't want to but I did.
What about yourself, what would it take to get you back on Broadway?
Oh...nothing! Tomorrow! I will admit I'm a little soft on the eight shows a week. I worry sometimes because I ultimately would love to go back there. Oh man, I don't know, I'd definitely have to go back to the gym. But I'd love to do a play. I've not had that opportunity yet. I would love to do something different like that, just the right show and the right role. I just love it so much and it's what I've always wanted to do. I put off even wanting to do television for so long because my dream as a child was to be on Broadway so I really did it until I thought it was time to try something new. I'm very interested in trying as much as I can and not getting stuck on one thing.
How much singing are you doing on Smash, are we going to get crazy belting?
We're gonna get some crazy belting. We're not quite like Idina, but a little more in the pink realm, a little more rock. I do some numbers. It starts slow, and it takes me about eight episodes to finally bust through and show everybody that I'm who they're looking for and then you can't shut me up for awhile. Then we'll see what happens after that. We're on 13 now so we have four more, we'll see where we go.
What have you seen already?
I've seen the first episode that you've all seen, and that's it. They showed us a number when we did a press event in LA and that was the first time we had seen it. They showed it to 250 reporters and we were watching it for the first time. We were like "Oh my God, look, he's on the screen!" [laughs] That's Jeremy's number, we were so excited.That's all I've seen and I'm dying. Everyone's like "You haven't seen it? Oh my God, your number it's so great." My mom is dying too.
'Cause we've seen one, two and four.
I actually haven't seen four yet.
Big black hole with three...No one knows...
I'm not in it so I don't know either. [laughs] So don't watch it.
But I love that you were saying that you shoot stuff and it gets cut out. So you have no idea.
Yes, the TV show is made three times: when they write it, when you shoot it and when they edit it. So you're like ooh I got a great scene and then they'll change it . Then you're like 'Okay, okay,' and you'll shoot it and you're like--"Oh, the camera's on my back--okay, all right." Then they'll edit it and you're like "What, I'm not even in it, what happened!" So you never know what's gonna happen. That's definitely a different part of it; the control aspect. You know, you have a little more control over your performances in theater.
There's always deleted scenes on DVD.
Yeah, that first scene, we'll get it on deleted scenes."Who's Ana?!"
Photo Credit: Will Hart/NBC