Pictured: (l-r) Brian d’Arcy James as Frank Houston, Jaime Cepero as Ellis, Anjelica Huston as Eileen Rand, Jack Davenport as Derek Wills, Katharine McPhee as Karen Cartwright, Megan Hilty as Ivy Lynn, Debra Messing as Julia Houston, Christian Borle as Tom Levitt, and Raza Jaffrey as Dev Sundaram (Photo by: Mark Seliger/NBC)
Played by Debra Messing (Will & Grace)
THE PROFESSIONAL Julia, a writer who works with composer Tom Levitt, is poised to take a break when Tom’s assistant plants in their head the idea of staging a musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe. When it comes to casting Marilyn — veteran chorus girl Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty) or ingenue Karen (Katharine McPhee)? — Julia leans toward Team Karen. THE PERSONAL Julia has a husband (played by Brian D’Arcy James) and a teen son, and part of the reason she was planning a break was to pursue an adoption. Her immediate passion for Marilyn: The Musical would seem to threaten that. THE SCOOPY NOTE A man from Julia’s past will reenter her life, complicating things further.
Played by Christian Borle (Legally Blonde: The Musical)
THE PROFESSIONAL Tom falls as fast and hard for Marilyn as his partner, Julia. In fact, his enthusiasm is only tempered by the news that Derek Wills, an egotistical director and longtime foil, is being eyed for the project. When it comes to casting Marilyn, he’s totally Team Ivy. THE PERSONAL Tom starts off seemingly unlucky in love, but by the end of Episode 4 he will have at least two would-be suitors. THE SCOOPY NOTE One piece of the puzzle that is Tom’s feud with Derek will come to light in Episode 4.
Played by Anjelica Huston (Prizzi’s Honor)
THE PROFESSIONAL A veteran Broadway producer heading into a nasty divorce, Eileen sees Marilyn as her ticket to standing on her own — if she can round up some Benjamins. When it comes to casting Marilyn, she’s Switzerland. THE PERSONAL Eileen’s ex-to-be, Jerry (Rubicon‘s Michael Cristofer), refuses to exit the picture quietly. THE SCOOPY NOTE Eileen will make a great sacrifice in the name of getting Marilyn made.
Played by Jack Davenport (FlashForward)
THE PROFESSIONAL A cocksure, in-demand and yet between-gigs director, Jack bristles at Julia and Tom’s first request when he considers helming their new project. And when it comes to casting Marilyn, he’s Team Whomever (Ahem) ‘Plays’ Nicest. THE PERSONAL When it comes to the starlets under his wing… let’s just say he’s open to “private” rehearsal time. THE SCOOPY NOTE When Karen’s boyfriend grows wary of the womanizing director and gets in his face, the two U.K.-bred gents engage in a bit of a duel.
Played by Katharine McPhee (American Idol)
THE PROFESSIONAL Relatively fresh off the bus from Iowa and regularly beat down by the auditioning process, Karen wows the Marilyn team right out of the gate. But will her “green”-ness work for her or against her? THE PERSONAL Karen’s live-in beau, Dev, provides the support her folks fall short on. THE SCOOPY NOTE Karen and her rival for the Marilyn lead, Ivy Lynn, play nice enough at first, but things reach a bit of a boil in Episode 4.
Played by Megan Hilty (9 to 5: The Musical)
THE PROFESSIONAL Ivy has languished in the anonymity of Broadway choruses (er, ensembles) longer than she would like, and sees Marilyn as her overdue ticket to spotlight-grabbing stardom. THE PERSONAL When it comes to getting intel on her rival, Karen, Ivy has helpful minions in the form of backup dancers. She also has Tom on her side. THE SCOOPY NOTE A secret of Ivy’s starts to trickle out in Episode 3; will anyone exploit it?
Played by Jaime Cepero
THE PROFESSIONAL Tom’s ideal assistant, it is Ellis who plants the seed for a Marilyn Monroe musical — a fact that he doesn’t seem likely to let the songwriting duo forget. Also, it’s important to note that he answers to Tom and Tom alone, a fact which comes into play the more and more he agitates Julia. THE PERSONAL Ellis has a girlfriend who’s more than happy to stoke his otherwise well-modulated sense of entitlement. THE SCOOPY NOTE A lackey who’s not above keeping his ear pressed against doors, Ellis is at the wrong place at the wrong time — or the right place at the right time, as he may see it — when one key player in the Marilyn production drops a bombshell on another.
Played by Raza Jaffrey (Mistresses)
THE PROFESSIONAL Dev has a plum gig with the NYC mayor’s office, but also assigns appropriate priority to girlfriend Karen’s Broadway dreams. THE PERSONAL When it comes to helping Karen channel Marilyn Monroe, he’s more than game to act out the icon’s steamy movie scenes. What a guy. THE SCOOPY NOTE As supportive as he is of Karen’s aspirations, an Episode 2 miscommunication threatens to create a rift ‘tween the lovebirds.
Played by Brian D’Arcy James (Shrek the Musical)
THE PROFESSIONAL/PERSONAL Frank has set aside his own career as wife Julia’s has taken off. THE SCOOPY NOTE That Julia is so quick to scrap her planned break and dive into a new project — just as the lengthy and complicated adoption process is starting — takes Frank aback more than some.