(This article was published in the Life section of The Oklahoman, April 23, 2012.)
Musical numbers are an expected element of the NBC hit series “Smash,” which centers on the making of a Broadway musical about Marilyn Monroe.
What’s not so expected is that in Monday’s episode, “Publicity,” there’s a Bollywood number, “A Thousand and One Nights,” and it features a character who’s not in the musical-to-be.
Dev (Raza Jaffrey), who works for the New York City mayor, sings a duet with his girlfriend, actress/singer Karen (Katharine McPhee), in a dream sequence.
A British actor with a musical theater background, Jaffrey, 36, called from London recently where he was promoting the series with other cast members for its launch there.
He discussed what’s ahead for “Smash” — which also stars Debra Messing, Megan Hilty, Angelica Huston and Jack Davenport and airs at 9 p.m. Mondays on NBC — as well as the setup for his character’s first musical number on the show.
“It came about in a slightly odd way, really. I hadn’t expected to be singing in the show, and the fantastic (songwriters) Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman had seen me do work in ‘Bombay Dreams’ years ago in London, and actually ‘Mamma Mia!’ as well, so they knew I could sing.
“When they first said we’ve got to get you singing in the show, I wondered how the heck they were going to get it in, really. I thought, ‘What’s going to happen? Am I going to be sitting at home with the guitar, singing slightly out of tune, trying to tell Karen that this is how she should be doing the numbers?’ ”
It turned out to be the biggest production number to date, involving the whole cast, Jaffrey said.
“Everyone joins in right at the very end of it, so it was kind of a celebratory day actually. It was great to have us all together all doing that. We had a lot of laughs that day.”
As for what’s coming up for the show’s plot, there’s a surprise in store.
“I have to say that, without giving too much away, … there was a moment when I read the script in an episode that’s coming … that my jaw hit the floor when I read what (series creator) Theresa’s (Rebeck) come up with.
“It involves Dev and Karen, and it’s certainly not something you’d have expected. And they’ve done a good job at sending surprises our way, which is always great as an actor because when you get to play something kind of juicy like that, it’s a treat. … But I think people will get a bit of a shock. You’ll never have seen that coming for Karen and Dev.”
Despite their on-screen rivalry for the role of Marilyn Monroe, stars Hilty and McPhee get along pretty well when the camera’s not rolling, Jaffrey said.
“Quite often we have little screening nights, you know, where we watch the episodes together, and the girls are a riot when they’re together. They’re like sisters, the two of them actually. It’s wonderful to see.”
Follow me on Twitter: @MelissaHayer