Katharine McPhee and Jeremy Jordan
A Broadway actor with leading man charisma, great pipes, impressive dance moves and a Tony nomination under his belt? Jeremy Jordan sounds like the perfect fit for NBC's musical, Smash. However, he admits he had his doubts about joining the drama.
"At first I thought the fact that I can sing in it might be hindering to me and I might get put in this box," he tells TVGuide.com. "But at the same time, if it's something that you're good at, why not add that element to what people know to be your abilities?"
Months later, Jordan is turning heads and pricking up ears as one of the newest additions to Smash (Tuesdays at 10/9c on NBC), playing bartender-by-day, rock musical composer-by-night Jimmy Collins. Jordan joins the series after his star-making turn in the Broadway adaptation of Newsies, playing the role originated by Christian Bale in the 1992 cult classic film. A month into Newsies, for which Jordan earned a 2012 Tony nod, his agent told him to take a look at Smash. "I was like, 'I don't know if I'm ready to leave much less do a musical television show," he says. "I had a meeting with [showrunner] Josh Safran and he really excited me about it. I thought about it and I was like, 'Why not just ride this rollercoaster up? Why not just ride the wave?'"
Smash and more TV musicals: The highs and lows
After getting his start on Broadway productions like Rock of Ages and West Side Story, and starring in the 2012 Dolly Parton-Queen Latifah film Joyful Noise, Jordan says television was the "natural" next step. "When I moved to television, , I didn't want to do anything that was going to have a teenybopper audience like a kids show, or a CW Gossip Girl-type of show, or even a Glee, because I had just experienced all that with Newsies," he says. "[Jimmy's] grittiness, his edginess, is what led to me to be OK with taking a musical television show even though it wasn't really my intention."
The cynical and defensive Jimmy is indeed a far cry from Newsies' daydreaming, do-gooder paper boy Jack Kelly. He's first introduced as just another pushy New York bartender before Karen (Katharine McPhee) accidentally overhears snippets of his modern, Rent-like rock musical after hours. Despite his difficult demeanor, Karen quickly becomes determined to help get Hit List off the ground. "He sees right through her and he sees who she's trying to be and he doesn't like it. He thinks that he can fix her. He falls in love with the idea of her," Jordan says. "Even though she has trouble meeting his expectations, that's what he loves about her. Even though she's this quiet, calm, shy, maybe a bit antagonistic, there's that energy — that initial love at first sight sort of feeling."
After Karen convinced Derek (Jack Davenport) to give Hit List a listen at the end of last week's episode, the Bombshell director will invite Jimmy and Kyle to contribute a song to Ronnie Moore's (Jennifer Hudson) big TV concert on Tuesday's episode. "Jimmy's not really fond of letting other people take control of the show. He knows it has to happen, but he's not fond of having a director. He's not fond of having a producer, and not fond of other people's opinions," Jordan says. "He has some trouble with authority."
Smash 2.0's 10 big changes: Upgrade or downgrade?
The challenge, and the pressure, posed by the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity will reveal a whole different side of Jimmy. "He disappears and finds solace in a pill and that's just a one-night thing. He's relatively unscathed from it because it's an upper," Jordan says of Jimmy dabbling in drugs. "That's nothing. ... You'll see the darker Jimmy as he becomes a bit more jaded."
As Jimmy's demons begin to come out and play, his growing relationship with Karen will also take a surprising turn. "It's certainly not easy, but there's something about their connection that has kept them together," Jordan says. "There's that sort of unknowable, un-nameable thing that is drawing them to each other even in the face of all this strife."
Photos: Stars who don't age
Jimmy's dark past, which viewers first got a taste of last week, has been one of the challenges in Jordan's transition from the stage to the small screen. "You're just constantly trying to learn new things about your character, which is exciting from a viewer's standpoint, but I think as an actor it's tough, especially when you don't know things and they're revealing it to you as it's going on," he says. "You're like, 'Oh, I didn't know this about my past. That would have been helpful three episodes ago!'"
Much like Jimmy, Jordan is now learning how to let go of some of the control he became accustomed to in his former gig. "You miss having control because when you're an actor on stage, you are the final product. You are delivering what they see right then and there. You can change anything at any second, even though you're not supposed to," he says. "In film and TV, you shoot it and six months later after millions of people have looked at it and picked at it and edited it, that's the final product and you're just praying that somebody made you look good.
"I have a lot of learning to do in terms of letting things go and not letting good or bad things affect my work, so it's going to be a journey."
Smash airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on NBC.