Brian d’Arcy James on Acting on ‘Smash’ versus his Stage Work: “[It's] significant in terms of technique, but how one goes about achieving the goal is the same, to tell the truth”
I started watching NBC’s Smash with my fiance, and while there’s definitely a lot to like about the show we’re definitely far more interested in the backstage drama around the production of the Marilyn Monroe musical that the show is focused on rather than the soap opera drama of the characters’ personal lives. But perhaps we might get our wish, because the character played by Brian d’Arcy James, Frank, who is married to Debra Messing‘s character, Julia, one of the musical’s writers, has left her after learning that she slept one of her former flames.
James wasn’t in this Monday’s episode, and the preview for next week’s episode suggests that it will be mainly focused on the musical’s troubled production, pushing the family and relationship drama to the background. So is James’ character no longer in the series, despite Smash recently being renewed for a second season?
James tells the Huffington Post that while we’ll see Frank again this season, he doesn’t know if the character will return for season two, but confesses, “I sure hope so! I honestly don’t have any idea, but I’m lobbying hard for that to be the case. What’s a good Broadway show without a Chemistry teacher?”
Curiously James, who is a Broadway regular and accomplished singer, is one of the few characters on the show who isn’t involved in the production of the musical. Furthermore, this is his first time as a regular on a television series. James has quickly learned the difference, saying, “What I’ve learned from this experience — and I’ve never done a network television show before — is that there are a lot of people watching this show. With that comes a lot of opinions. Honestly, even if we were an unadulterated, no-holds, complete, unmitigated smash hit, people would still have problems with this or that. It’s impossible for me to tell what people are responding to, either positively or negatively”
One of the most significant differences for James is that he gets to not only watch himself, but he also sees his work months after he performed it. The experience, he explains, is “very odd,” yet he feels, “what’s interesting to me is the immediacy of how you were feeling or what was occurring in the scene. Scenes with Debra were so grueling to do, and it was very immediately palpable what I was feeling while were doing it. To see it played out was obviously different than doing it. It’s a very disconnected thing. You almost get to the point where you’re just following along like a fan and you think, ‘Oh my god, Frank! Frank! You better hit that guy!’ And then you’re like, ‘Oh, good job, Frank!’”
So ultimately how does James feel about acting for television instead of theater? He’s enjoying it immensely, and says, “I love it. I’ve been theater for the last 25 years, so just getting a chance to work on something consistently, like a series — the novelty of it is still very potent for me, to be able to learn something new about my trade. The difference of it is significant in terms of technique, but how one goes about achieving the goal is the same, to tell the truth. It’s just the mechanics that are a little bit different, and it’s great for me to hone those skills.”
Smash airs Monday nights on NBC. Like Lance, I hope they write Ellis and Leo off the show. They can take Dev along with them, too.