Megan Hilty Teases Smash's Mother of a Twist, More Ivy/Karen Drama and Marilyn's First Ouster

This Monday on Smash (NBC, 10/9c), it’s time for Marilyn: The Musical to stage its workshop presentation for potential backers, and it’s literally a hot ticket. Not to mention, Tony winner Bernadette Peters is on hand as Ivy’s mighty talented momma, Leigh Conroy, adding to the ingenue’s existing anxiety. TVLine invited Megan Hilty to preview Marilyn‘s first bow, the Ivy/Karen drama to come and a twist that threatens to cut the show’s cast by one.

TVLINE | When I spoke to you in January, we discussed how that phone call home in the pilot gave the sense that Ivy’s mother is not her biggest cheerleader. But if Leigh is a performer herself, why is she dismissive of her daughter’s talent?
There could be a lot of reasons – competition, mainly. I’ve never experienced it myself, but it’s a very interesting relationship. I’m sure it’s very difficult when a mother and daughter are in the same field, especially one that requires a lot of attention. [Laughs] I think that’s what puts a lot of strain on them.

TVLINE | And as we see, Mom isn’t shy about letting loose with a tune or making a grand entrance.
Yeah. [Laughs] I mean, it’s kind of hard when you’ve got your big chance [to headline a musical], and then your mother comes in and steals the spotlight from you. That explains a lot about their dynamic.

TVLINE | Was it a bit bittersweet for you, as an actress/singer, having to spend the episode mostly glaring at Bernadette Peters, when internally you probably adore her?
I am such a huge fan of hers! It was the greatest performance of my life because I had to pretend I wasn’t thoroughly enjoying myself.

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TVLINE | What sort of curves will be thrown as the workshop arrives this week?
There are a lot of elements in play. One in particular is the [studio’s malfunctioning] heat – which actually happens a lot, surprisingly. It seems like a random thing, but that happened to a friend of mine who was doing a workshop last week, and the heat was blasting. Everybody was miserable and nobody could enjoy the show. So they have that working against them, Eileen can’t seem to get anybody interested in showing up….

TVLINE | Do Ivy and Derek at least make nice? She gave him quite an earful last week.
They come back together certainly, but he is a majorly distracting factor for her, and she’s already got a lot on her plate. She’s got the person who is, like, going after her part constantly in her face, she’s dating the director who isn’t always so nice to her, and her mother’s there trying to steal the spotlight…. And it’s hot.

TVLINE | That said, Derek does seem to have his genuine-ish moments with Ivy. Do you think there are real, deep feelings on his part?
Oh, absolutely. What they have is very real. It’s a very unconventional relationship, because they’re very strong personalities, but they both seem to get something out of this – and it’s not necessarily work-related. At first I thought maybe they were using each other, but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. It’s turned into something much bigger than that.

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TVLINE | Turning to Ivy and Karen – are things between them going to get worse before they get better? You’ve been playing relatively nice so far….
They’re going to get really bad, and then they’re going to get really nice… and then they’re going to get really bad again. [Laughs] The only thing you can count on is that it’s going to go up and down. But they do have some really nice moments together; it’s just a very complicated relationship.

TVLINE | Without naming names, it would seem that Marilyn: The Musical, following the workshop, is down a cast member by the end of the episode. Will that stick?
Wellll… [Laughs] I can tell you, firsthand from doing these workshops in real life, that people come and go all the time. And just because you have a part today doesn’t mean that you’ll have it tomorrow. And people do get rehired if they can’t find the right person to replace them.

TVLINE | Do you have a favorite Smash performance number to date?
I love doing all the music numbers, because they represent everything I love to do in one job, so it’s hard to pick one. But it has to be “Lets Be Bad,” which was so much fun to shoot.

TVLINE | Obviously Smash, with so many Broadway vets on its creative team, gets a lot of things right. But is there anything, in your qualified opinion, that’s ever just a bit off?
Like you said, there are so many people involved with the show that are from this world, you can’t help but keep it very authentic. That being said, we are not doing a reality show. Much like ER probably didn’t show exactly what goes on surgical procedures, we do take dramatic liberties with things – and some things are based off of wild stereotypes. But that’s what makes for good drama!