*The Marilyn Monroe musical “Bombshell” isn’t the only game in town this year on “Smash.”
Season 2 begins tonight with new addition Jennifer Hudson as Veronica Moore, a two-time Tony Award-winning powerhouse slaying Broadway audiences as the star of a successful black musical. Her level of fame is what “Bombshell” rivals Karen (Katharine McPhee) and Ivy (Megyn Hilty) hope to achieve someday.
“She’s in three out of the first four episodes,” executive producer Josh Safran says of Hudson. “She came to the show because of [NBC chairman] Bob [Greenblatt], which was awesome. He had this idea, and he reached out, and he made it happen, and we were very, very grateful to have her.
“She sings a lot. She acts a lot. She dances a lot, and everyone got to work with her, and she’s just an amazing talent.”
J-Hud isn’t the only thing different about “Smash” this season. Safran, formerly a producer on “Gossip Girl,” takes over for the show’s creator and primary writer Theresa Rebeck, who left after the first season over creative differences with the network.
Also new this year is Broadway leading man Jeremy Jordan (“Newsies,” “Bonnie & Clyde”), who starred as Keke Palmer’s love interest in the Queen Latifah/Dolly Parton film “Joyful Noise.” Jordan shakes things up in the season premiere as an up-and-coming songwriter who catches the attention of Karen.
Another newcomer this year is Sheryl Lee Ralph as J-Hud’s overbearing mama Cynthia. Yes, the woman who starred as Deena Jones in the original Broadway run of Dreamgirls now shares TV space alongside the woman who won an Academy Award as Effie in the 2006 film version.
“It was actually a coincidence,” says co-executive producer Neil Meron. “I don’t think any of us realized it until she was cast: ‘Oh, my God. We have this real connection to Dreamgirls.’ So it was one of those great, great moments of realization, look what’s happened naturally.”
Their mother-daughter relationship will hit a few bumps during the first several episodes, as Veronica is looking to break free from her mother’s firm grip.
Below, returning cast member Leslie Odom, Jr., who plays Sam Strickland, says the show’s new look will address some of the hate expressed by viewers during season one.
“Smash” season 2 premieres tonight (Feb. 5) at 9 p.m. Watch a promo below.