BWW Exclusive: On the Set of SMASH - Jeremy Jordan on Being the New Bad Boy, His Transition to TV & 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 Jeremy Jordan about the upcoming season. Check out what he had to say about joining the cast as the new bad boy character, balancing SMASH with NEWSIES and more, below!
Welcome to the world of Smash. What has it been like?
Welcome to you! I've been here for awhile. It's great, it couldn't be more different than theater, except for doing singing and dancing.
Do you like the world of TV?
Oh, I love it. Like I said, it's a complete departure for me. It's scenes out of order, it's waiting months and months to see the results of all your hard work, it's prerecording songs and then singing along with yourself. No, it's great, it's a totally new experience for me. I'd done a little bit when I did the film Joyful Noise, I had a little bit of experience doing a musical on film so I at least knew what to expect. It's just a lot of fun, the people are fun--it's cool to get to play a character that evolves. When you're doing a play, for instance, or even a movie, you play one character grows over 2-2 and 1/2 hours, and that's the end of that. With this, with every episode, there's something new that you learn, some new development with your character, and you get to sing new songs and you get to have different experiences that change and evolve and grow. So that's really interesting to me, I really enjoy that.
Let's talk about your character--where does his anger come from?
[laughs] I can't tell you where it comes from...he's very angry, he's a very angry young man. He's very passionate as well and he doesn't trust anybody except for maybe his best friend Kyle, played by Andy Mientus, until Karen comes in, Kat McPhee's character, and she sort of starts to open him up a little bit. But it's very very hard work on her part and he doesn't let it come easily. He's had a lot of really bad things happen to him in his life, but just recently things have been good. And that's when he started writing this musical with Kyle and so the idea of sharing this very personal thing to him, which is his music, he's never had to share with anybody except for maybe his best friend. And the only reason he does that is because his best friend is obsessed with musicals and sort of secretly in love with him. But it's very difficult for him to let go of anything or release control or trust anybody with his stuff. And so you see a lot of contention with some of the characters--he doesn't really get along with anybody, at all. He's a tough one to sort of like; hopefully you'll get to see glimpses into why he's that way and you'll see glimpses of how good he can be even though he isn't very good at--he may not get there very easily or at all.
Talk about the songs, it's all young songwriters, really fascinating. Were you a big fan for Season one, did you watch it?
Of course, I feel like everyone in the Broadway Community watched it--I mean, it's a show about us and while it is a bit dramatized and glamorized, and you may be embellished a bit here and there...if there's any target audience for Smash, it's people who live and work in our community. So of course I watched it, I laughed and cried and yelled at the screen just like everybody else. But yeah, I watched it, I was very dedicated in my watching it, and because of that and because of being in the community, joining the cast and feeling like I could lend my voice to help make the show better and to help the rest of the world and America get a better understanding and appreciation for our industry, I jumped at the chance.
You want to make it as realistic as it could possibly be, you know how it is, what it's like--how was that? What's the most realistic it gets?
Honestly, it's very realistic--the non realistic thing that I think people get hung up on is when we'll streamline something, or something will go seemingly too fast even though there are precedents for pretty much any weird storyline that we've thrown out. There is at least one precedent that we can think of, that's how we justify it. And it's sort of like--we take these interesting things that have happened to other shows, we make them happen to our show. Because it makes for good television, it makes for good drama. Because the fact is that a lot of good shows on the way to Broadway have a nice. normal, boring route and there's excitement here and there. So we have to create our own drama in certain aspects. But in terms of the logistics of how everything works out--for instance with our show we start out with just me and my friend writing this show, somebody catches wind of it and somebody big gets their hands on it and says, "That's cool, let's try to put this out somewhere." Suddenly it gets out and the New York Community embraces it immediately and suddenly it's on this fast track to the top. Which is complete plausible although it may not happen normally. You don't want to make a show about things that normally happen, you want to make a show about extraordinary circumstances and something that's exciting and new and fresh. They always say in acting--this is totally a generalization in acting school, one of the best pieces of advice I got was that the scene happens on the day everything changes. Because that's the most exciting point, you have to enter in to this world in a moment of excitement, otherwise it's not gonna be nearly as entertaining.
How 'bad boy' is your character? Because I remember that one moment when Andy Mientus is like, "What do you mean?" and your character's like, "Scotch, coke, I don't know"--what does he do? He's high the first time he kisses Kat McPhee, what kind of drugs is he doing, what can you spill?
I think that Jimmy has had a history with drugs and it's sort of his go-to when something--when he doesn't understand or know how to deal with things. And so while I wouldn't say he's a drug addict by any means, maybe he was at one point, I don't know. I mean, there's lots of things I don't know about Jimmy that I'm still learning because I didn't write him. But he definitely has that sort of crutch. It sort of is what gets him through tough times, it's sort of his denial. Whenever he doesn't understand how to deal with something, doesn't understand a situation or doesn't want to face it, that's where he goes. It's less of a bad boy in that "oh, I'm too cool for this," it's literally like a fear-driven thing, he doesn't want to face reality so that's where he'll turn. And yeah, he can definitely be seen as a bad boy, he's kind of a womanizer, at least at the top, he doesn't give a shit about what anybody thinks about him. I think he cares about what people think about his work, but he doesn't have much to worry about, because everybody loves his work. But I think he doesn't give a shit what people think about him. But he meets Karen, he finally for the first time starts to care about what people think.
We were gonna ask you--is TV easier because Josh the choreographer was sitting here saying you guys--you record stuff, you're in the makeup chair early, you're memorizing lines, you get in front of the camera, then you gotta go and do a dance rehearsal...
It's so much easier. It's easier physically and it's easier mentally, I think. Again you go to a recording studio, you record a song--you do it once and then you sing it maybe 20 times in a day and then you don't have to do it anymore. So like, vocal stamina as opposed to a musical is nothing--you get weekends off which is fantastic, and you know every once in a while you get a tough scene where you have to memorize a bunch of lines but you do your homework, you do that every once in a while. But most of the time when you come in here, you have a few lines here and there and reactions, and the rest of the time you sit around--you do the lines so many times, even if you have trouble memorizing you'll get it after the first few takes. It's easy and it's--you don't have to carry a whole show all the way through, you're just doing little bits and pieces at a time. I mean, it's difficult to put yourself in the right kind of mind frame, for where exactly, what exact point you are in the story, especially when you're filming four episodes at a time. Like, "What happened just now?" But, I guess I'm just used to the Broadway musical theater grind, which is just--this is nothing compared to that. I was always tired, I was always dead, I had to live like a nun, I couldn't go out, I couldn't be in loud places now, I wouldn't Touch a sip of alcohol ever. And now it's just like I can live a normal person life.
Have you noticed the difference between SMASH fans and Newsies fans? Because I know they're both pretty intense...
No, they're the same...except that there's a few more non-teenagers SMASH fans. Although honestly I haven't really gotten a chance to see the full gamut of that. We just released the first hour and so I've started to get feedback--I'd say there are more boys that are SMASH fans, I suppose I've gotten more male feedback from the fans, as opposed to the Newsies fan base which is heavy on the female.
Going to Newsies for a second, you were going to do double duty when you first got cast in Smash, what was that like?
I was doing it, I did the first five episodes double duty.
What was that like?
It was a nightmare, are you kidding me? It's funny, when I first got cast, I wouldn't have told you it was easy, I would've told you it was the hardest thing in the world--because I was also doing Newsies at the same time. So on my day off I would be here or on my day off from Newsies--or from my day off here I'd be working Newsies on the weekends. There was a time where I didn't have a day off for a month and a half. So it was insane, I don't know why I thought I could do it. When I got this, it was July when we started, and we opened Newsies in like February? So it was like--I didn't feel like I was there long enough, since I was filming in New York and they decided I would be able to work around my schedule as much as they could, I'm like I'm just gonna stay and at least try to stay with the show and sort of feel like I could finish it, you know. But it got to the point at the end that--I ended up leaving right before my wedding in September, it got to the point where I was doing only half the shows a week because I was here the rest of the time. And that's not fair to me or to the company or to the audience that come expecting somebody specific. It's hard to put a company through that.
When you got cast, who was most excited, was Ashley the most excited?
I think my mom was, because my mom is obsessed with SMASH. So when I told her that I was up for it, she nearly fainted. She was actually visiting when I got it and she...just freaked out like a crazy person. And of course Ashley was ecstatic. But you know Ashley was with me the whole time so as it looked like it was becoming more and more a reality, it wasn't like a surprise, it was like--and, oh, oh, yes! My mom was like, "What, oh my God!" [laughs] So it was more of an instant reaction.
Did you all celebrate that night?
I mean--I was doing Newsies, I was too tired to celebrate that night, in proper fashion.
What's it like now, getting to enter into this world with people like Krysta and Andy and even someone like Megan?
Well, sadly I never get to see Megan except for at the table reads, because our story lines don't collide until... actually until this episode and even then it's very... I don't even know if we'll have lines together... maybe next season! But Andy and Krysta and I have formed a sort of newbie trio and we're like tight and we kind of like clung to each other. So it's really nice to sort of feel new with other people, to kind of feel it out together. Because it can be a bit intimidating and this show--it's not as intimidating, some of the old cast members are tight but our sort of crew with HitList is pretty much the new people plus a couple of the returning characters. So we kind of feel like we're a bit separate, but I mean getting to hang out with Andy and Krysta, they've quickly become two of my great friends. And Katherine as well, she's sort of migrated to the cool young group because last year she was like the youngest person in the cast, so now she gets to share that youthful energy with us.
Can you talk about you and Katherine, spill some of that love story, what's going on?
It's very complicated-- I wouldn't say it's a love story, it's more of a chemistry story. There's that sort of unspoken connection between them, almost from the moment that they meet but not quite. Or very early on there's something that draws them together, that sort of unspeakable energy, and each one keeps getting in the other's way, or their own way. Jimmy'll say something stupid that'll piss her off or she'll says something that pisses him off it's like-- it's like this constant tug and pull and just when you think something might happen to them, something gets in the way. Life and circumstance and themselves are not making it very easy for them to be romantic with each other in a consistent manner. And she starts to learn things about him, he starts to learn things about her--and it just feels like all the odds are against them, it's not meant to be but there's that something that holds them together even though everything is saying that this shouldn't work. So I think that's a really interesting feel to their relationship.
The tagline for Season two is "Follow your dreams, watch your back"--who's coming at Jimmy's back?
Well, mainly elements of his past begging to creep in, and affect him in a very negative manner. Derek is sort of on Jimmy's back. Jimmy is probably his own worst enemy-- I'd say those three things more than anything. And Jimmy would probably tell you Karen because she does things that Jimmy doesn't exactly like, even though she may be doing them for the right reasons, but he might see it differently.
From what we saw, from the episodes that I saw, I thought that you're like a younger version of Derek because you stand up to him the way he stands up to everyone else and maybe that's what Derek hates.
Jimmy is definitely a bit of a younger version of Derek in that he is known to objectify women, is incredibly stubborn, and doesn't want go give in to anyone, he gets in his own way, he is incredibly talented at what he does, but is very single-minded about it. So yeah, they're very similar and I think you'll start to notice that they're very similar...and you'll see one start to change and one getting worse.
I love that you and Andy's character bring the new sound to the season, and I love that you're using Joe and Drew's music and Benj and Justin's--did you know that from the beginning coming on, that it would be this surge of new music?
Originally I think the idea was to have one person, but because we wanted to use young new people-- the only way that Marc and Scott could do what they did last season was because they're so talented and so seasoned and they're so on top of everything, and they've been here, they have the experience, and they're also executive producers. So they have that amount of control and even then it was very difficult for them to do that. Once that was sort of presented for the one other composer, for the amount of material they wanted for each new episode, it began to be too much and so they started spreading it out. Which makes Jimmy look like he's some sort of musical genius who can change styles. And while all the music is much more pop, rock, contemporary, it does sort of shift a bit from Broadway-pop to true-blue-pop music like you would hear on the radio today, to like a more tradition musical theater too. So it definitely gives him a nice range.
So have we lost you to TV now?
[laughs] I sure hope not! I miss the theater. I do, you miss the camaraderie with your castmates that you see every day--I don't see these people every day and when I do we're all working or we're off in our trailers. You miss getting to tell the whole story all the way through, you miss having the final word. That's the biggest thing, it's very humbling having to learn to let go-- once you film the scene and it's out of your control completely, it's humbling but it's difficult. And on stage you're the final product, you are Out There controlling 100% what the audience sees. And it's very gratifying as an actor to have that power and you also get this instant feedback from the audience, you get that live connection, you can sort of feed of it. And also if you screw up you can try again and nobody's videotaping it for all to see forever and ever. And it's in the moment and it's fleeting and disposable almost, in a good way.
So obviously there are a lot of good veterans coming on this season--who do you work with and who would you like to work with?
Well, I haven't gotten to work with many of them sadly, because most of them are in the other storyline. The one that I do work with the most is Jesse Martin, who's really great, so that's been really fun. We've gotten to work with Carolee Carmello the other day, and I know Carolee so that was wonderful. I mean, the more the merrier--it's fantastic, and these people I know would come at the drop of a hat because they know what this show supports and helps get people interested in the theater. And who better to usher that interest in than people who are legends? There's so many different people that I hope have a chance to have a few moments in our show. That's very exciting because you don't see that many shows bringing in this many guest stars every week, there's always somebody every episode. Big or small, there's somebody who's coming in, shaking it up.
Photo Credit: Will Hart/NBC