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Jeremy Jordan: On Smash And Team Karen Vs. Team Ivy

The Broadway vet goes from on stage to on screen and joins the NBC show

When Smash, the addictively soapy NBC series about a Broadway-bound musical, comes back for its second season Feb. 5, there will be more than just new songs to catch the audience’s attention. A slew of new characters will be popping up around the troubled, fictional production of Bombshell, which follows the life of Marilyn Monroe. And while stars like Jennifer Hudson, Jesse L. Martin and Liza Minnelli will make turns on the show, the most intriguing new face on the show might be Jeremy Jordan’s. (See for yourself with a video of him performing “A New Sound” below and the first hour of the new season at the bottom of this page.)

The 28-year-old actor, who’s got plenty of Broadway experience thanks to leading roles in Newsies and Bonnie & Clyde, plays Jimmy, a talented, troubled waiter hoping to make it big as a songwriter. Thanks to a chance encounter with Katharine McPhee’s Karen, Jimmy gets his opportunity, but it won’t come without a few bumps in the road.

We spoke to Jordan about Jimmy, whether Broadway is truly how it seems on TV and the best place for a post-show burger.

As a Broadway actor, how familiar were you with Smash before you took a role on the show?

I would say 95% of working actors, especially on Broadway, watch the show. It’s about us, it’s about our world, and there hasn’t been anything out there like that before—at least not like a mainstream television show you can follow. A lot of people really wanted to see how things would be depicted and whether we could relate to them.

How true to life do the twists and turns on the show feel?

There are many things that are accurate; for me it’s the little things, like the traditions shows have or what goes on back stage. That’s really what I connected to the most. And in terms of generally showing how a show forms, it’s pretty accurate. The problem people have had is that the show has to streamline things because it’s a long, time-consuming process to get a show to Broadway and that doesn’t really make for great television.

Is the theater world really as dramatic as it seems on TV?

More dramatic, I’d say. There’s stuff you can’t show on network television.

What’s the difference for you between working on Broadway and working on a TV show about Broadway?

Pretty much everything is different. In theater, you’re performing live and doing an entire show straight through for a live audience and everything you do is done when it’s done. Film and television you do everything out of order, your character changes and you don’t have the final word—after your last take, it’s in somebody else’s hands.

Your character on Smash, Jimmy, is reluctant to share his talent. Were you ever so shy?

I was probably one of the shyest people ever growing up; I would hide behind my mom if we were going to my grandmother’s house, where we went twice a week. I was very quiet; I would look down a lot. But I started to get into theater and performing, and that’s when I started to come out of my shell. I’m shyer as myself than I am on stage. 

He’s also a bit of a mess. What kind of advice would you give to a talented, young striver who was drinking and drugging the way he is?

For a person like Jimmy, you can’t just give him a talking to. He’d have to find out for himself. He’s gone down lots of paths in his life and when we meet him, he’s actually in a pretty decent place. You’ll find it it’s been worse in the past, and it might get worse again. This is his high point. And he’s the kind of person who’s only likely to change if something horrible happens.

Season two has an impressive roster of guest stars. Have you picked anything up from them?

Pretty much everyone they ask to be on the show says yes. People want this show to succeed, especially a show that glorifies the theater scene. It helps the world they love. The thing I’ve learned from being in the room with icons is to see their humanity and humbleness. Most of the time, people are incredibly sweet and you learn that it’s one of the reason they are who they are; nobody wants to work with someone who’s awful.

When the audience meets Jimmy, he’s working as a waiter at a theater district canteen. What’s your own favorite pre- or –post-show spot?

There’s a place called Schnipper’s on West 41st Street that was my favorite place when I was in Newsies. There’s also a great burger join on West 41st called The Counter. Actually, my favorite Italian restaurant is called Trecolori—it’s where I had my first date with my wife.

How much can you tell us about what’s in store for Jimmy this season?

Jimmy is too talented for his own good, because he squanders it and takes his talent for grated. We’ll see him battling with the idea of letting other people into his work. Until now, he’s worked alone or with Kyle, his best friend who loves everything he does, so there’s no challenge there. But now there are people who will try to make him become a better performer and I don’t think he takes kindly to that.

There’s also a strange romance that you see blossom between Jimmy and Karen at the very beginning that will go through some strange changes—mostly for the worst, but sometimes not. They have a chemistry that, for some reason, allows them to see how good the other person can be.

Are you on Team Karen or Team Ivy?

I’ve gotta be on Team Karen, because Jimmy’s all about Karen.