On the set of NBC's new musical drama "Smash," "We're doing a lot" to be green. "All the paper products are biodegradable. NBC is very concerned about that," says writer/executive producer Theresa Rebeck. "We always recycle on the set," adds Anjelica Huston. Debra Messing reads her scripts and rewrites electronically, using an app called Rehearsal 2. "It's saving so much paper," she notes. Megan Hilty does the same, and also drives a Ford Escape hybrid, and lives in an eco-friendly building in New York, where the show originates. "It has solar panels on the roof, and they recycle all the energy in the building. It lowered my energy bills," she says.
Debuting Feb. 6, the buzzy (with good reason) backstage drama about the making of a Broadway musical about Marilyn Monroe has a riveting who'll-get-the-part? plot, great musical numbers, and lots of name talent on camera and behind the scenes. The show is the brainchild of Steven Spielberg, who assembled a team including musical theater vets Neil Meron and Craig Zadan and composer-lyricists Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman. Besides Huston, Messing, and Hilty, the cast includes Brian D'Arcy James, Jack Davenport and "American Idol" alumna Katharine McPhee as Hilty's rival for the musical's lead role.
"When I got the script I couldn't put it down. I knew immediately that it was a once in a lifetime thing. I had to play this character," says Messing, whose vow never to do an hour-long drama, not to mention one that meant relocating to New York, went out the window. She was drawn to both the career and home life aspects of songwriter Julia Houston, "who is very passionate about her creative life and also a proud mother and wants that balance. I love that nothing is simple."
Hilty was similarly enthralled with the role of Ivy Lynn, and the idea of playing the iconic Monroe. "Her story is one of tragedy, heartbreak, glamour, love, and all things that make for great drama, all things that people want to watch and are intrigued by, which is why we're still talking about her today," she says, opining that "Smash" "sets the stage for high drama, because the adrenaline's going and the stakes are so high. This show definitely taps into all of those things."
Huston wasn't looking to do a series when the offer came her way, but she couldn't turn down the role of producer Eileen Rand. "She's real woman working in a man's world. It's not just a black and white character. There's a lot of grey area with her. Is she a b*tch? Yeah, she's a b*tch," laughs the Oscar winner, who was eager to work "with the best of the best. I'd be a fool not to participate."
Huston, a dedicated PETA supporter, has spoken out against the commercial use of great apes in the entertainment industry. "They really don't like acting," she says, and made a video for PETA explaining that. "Chimpanzees and orangutans belong in rain forests, where they can build nests, forage for natural foods, make and use tools, groom each other, and raise families," she says in the PSA. "Using great apes in TV, movies, and advertising ... causes a lifetime of suffering."
Photos: Virgina Sherwood/NBC (McPhee & Hilty), Mark Seliger/NBC (Huston)