Smash's Jack Davenport on Derek's New Vulnerability and Dysfunctional Relationship with Ivy
Jack Davenport, Debra Messing
Things have taken quite a turn for esteemed Broadway director Derek Wills (Jack Davenport) on NBC's Smash (Tuesdays at 10/9c). Last season, he was behind one of the most of the buzzed-about upcoming musicals on Broadway while also romantically involved with his leading lady, Ivy (Megan Hilty). Unfortunately for poor Ivy, he even enjoyed a brief affair with Hollywood royalty, and Marilyn replacement, Rebecca Duvall (Uma Thurman).
Cut to one season later and Derek has already lost one job, a remake of The Wiz with Tony winner Ronnie Moore (Jennifer Hudson), his other gig, Bombshell, has been stalled for weeks, and he's been accused of sexual harassment by several stage actresses. Oh, and did we mention that he and Ivy are dunzo? "They almost do a role reversal at one point where she's completely in control and he's almost a little puppy dog for her," Hilty told TVGuide.com last month. "It's a really, really interesting relationship." TVGuide.com spoke with Davenport about Derek's surprising new vulnerability, his dysfunctional relationship with Ivy and why Smash 2.0 really is bigger and better:
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TVGuide.com: Ronnie's TV concert was such a big moment for what will we see that lead to for Derek career-wise?
Jack Davenport: I think it's a situation that looks like its slightly falling apart in terms of creating a show that would be interesting or memorable for Jennifer's character as a performer and indeed for the audience in terms of seeing something they haven't seen from her before. In Smash, you might not like how Derek achieves his effect, but you can't deny that his methods are effective. I don't think his career has entirely slipped through his fingers at this point, but it could have used a fairly handy at bat at that point and I think that's what that represents for Derek.
Will we see any legal action taken in regard to the accusations made against Derek or do the accusations just affect his reputation?
Davenport: I think what is interesting about that plot point from the get-go is that the job of the director in general, and certainly in the world of musical theater, is that are 50 people in a room constantly looking to you to take the lead. Part of that job is to at least appear invulnerable regardless of how you're actually feeling. I think what this plot point does is it allows Derek to be vulnerable. He might not like it. [Laughs] But that's what it does. And I think that's an interesting road to take that character down to be honest. Many aspects of that will be explored as the season develops.
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After Derek chose to have Ronnie sing one of Jimmy's songs, how will Derek be involved with Hit List?
Davenport: The thing about living in a world that is essentially entirely freelance is that people have to keep as many options open as they can for as long as they can. All of the characters on Smash are drawn to characters with talent, and we've established fairly early on that Jimmy can write a d--- good tune. His interest is obviously piqued in the season premiere, but this is further evidence of his abilities. I would say that certainly he keeps a closer eye on Jimmy than he would have initially.
In the last episode, Eileen made a big move to push Bombshell forward. What will happen now that her role has changed, but the show is going forward?
Davenport: Eileen is very much failing on her sword, but I think one of the most interesting things about Eileen's character and her relationship to Bombshell is that it represents more than just a project. It represents her breaking free of her old life, of her ex-husband and now-ex-producing partner. She wants to prove herself as a solo producer in her own right, so it's very emotionally loaded up for her. In some ways, the selflessness of what she does in Episode 4 is a testament to that fact. Whether or not she disappears off and starts to produce something else entirely — be that Hit List or something else — if I start talking about I think NBC story ninjas will come and kill me.
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I also have to ask about Derek and Ivy's relationship. Although they're not together anymore, they have shared a few nice moments this season so what is ahead for them?
Davenport: One of the most fascinating things about Derek and Ivy is that for all of the wild dysfunction of their relationship — and it's pretty dysfunctional — they're very similar. Even borderline narcissistic personality disorder people need someone to cuddle occasionally. I think one of the things that's interesting in Season 2 is if you consider the wreckage of what they're trying to climb out of in terms of having any sort of relationship at all. It's an interesting starting point to explore how a relationship works between two people in which there is so much, in some ways, crushing of hopes and betrayal of other kinds. And Derek didn't give Ivy the job in the first place because she slept with him. He gave her the job because he thought she was terrific and that still holds.
I think what Derek finds very divine about Ivy is that she knows that she doesn't consider anything he does as unfair. It was just a judgment call and I think he respects that enormously. I think that they're both pretty complicated, very forward characters who have a lot of similarities, and that's quite an interesting dynamic to explore. Our writers have a found a lot of subtle and quite interesting ways to keep them at least in the same room with each other at times, and what happens, happens.
For you as an actor, how has it been working with the new cast members, as well as new showrunner Josh Safran?
Davenport: Regime change is regime change and there's an initial moment where you're, metaphorically, sniffing each other's bottoms and then you kind of get on with it. I think in terms of Jeremy [Jordan] and Andy [Mientus] and Krysta Rodriguez, they've been a great breath of fresh air for the show. They're young, they're extremely talented and they all represent characters who can help sort of progress essentially what Josh Safran's plan is. ... There are lots of cop shows and lawyer shows, but there's really one show on television that is about Broadway. The people that love the show — that's why they come. So we have literally doubled down because there are now two musicals. Also, by having characters that are already songwriters or performers, [that] allows you to also do the other thing that Josh has been very clear about this year, which is that the drama of the show has been contained more closely in the workplace. In some ways, that is very much as it is in reality because this world does become like your family. God knows, you do a TV show like this and you barely see your real family anyway. I think by keeping [it] less in people's living rooms and more in rehearsal spaces, you're just giving the audience more of what they most enjoy.
Smash airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on NBC.
(Additional reporting by Sadie Gennis)