Any Smash fan who spent two seasons following the progress of a fictional musical about Marilyn Monroe has to wonder: What the hell happened to Debra Messing’s scarves? Famously reviled by TV fans, the show cut down on the cozy accessory in season two, but sadly never made it to a third. In hopes of cracking a Hollywood mystery for the ages, VH1 spoke to Will Chase, who played Michael Swift, the on-screen fling to Messing’s Julia Houston.
As an actor who came from Broadway himself, the current Nashville star discussed his musical theater legacy, and what he thinks of the recent trend of televised musicals (like NBC’s The Sound Of Music Live and the upcoming Peter Pan). Most importantly though, we talked about Smash, if there’s any hope of bringing Bombshell to Broadway, and where in the world Debra Messing’s scarves might be today. People need to know.
Coming from musical theater, it seems like you are really lucky to have been in a lot of musical TV shows.
Will Chase: Yeah, but the difference with Smash was there really wasn’t ever an opportunity to do a live show. And the fact that our characters on Nashville sing live, that’s what they do. I think we blew a lot of people’s minds, the fact that we actually came out and sang. And I think even people didn’t realize until [the Nashville cast] actually went on a tour and sang, that we actually sing. The group of people they’ve assembled blows my mind, and I come from performing live. On Smash, it was like all of a sudden we’d be in a scene and we’d be singing like in musical theater. Our singing is practical on Nashville. So they do a great job of finding writers who write songs for a moment at a concert but they’re also specific lyrics to that character, and that’s hard to do. I think they do it really well on our show.
Because of the success of The Sound Of Music Live and now Peter Pan, it seems like there’s a lot of TV and theater being paired up. Would you ever have aspirations to do something like that?
Oh, absolutely. The thrill of that is everybody’s waiting for something to go wrong when you’re watching.
But no, I mean it’s thrilling. My friend Christian Borle did The Sound Of Music Live, and we come from doing stage, and he said he hasn’t been that nervous in a long time — this is in front of 18 million people, this isn’t 2,000 people in the theater. I would absolutely love [to do it] if anyone’s listening!
What would be your dream role to perform?
I would love to do Billy Bigelow in Carousel. That’d be great. I’d love to do that onstage eight times a week. You know, just a good meaty, big vocal. Something like that. Eventually Sweeney Todd at some point, but by that point everybody will have done it. But I would love to do a classic like Carousel.
It seems so hard to do something so old-fashioned like Carousel for a modern audience.
It’s hard to do. Movie musicals in that genre are hard to do. There’s something about live, when you don’t have a live audience, that, for me, defeats the purpose of live. So watching Sound of Music was thrilling because my friends are on it and I’m watching it. But there are those jokes that are set up, that writing, that there’s no reaction to [the material]. And that can only come from live theater and live performance.
I wish somebody would do — I don’t know how you do it, I don’t know where you do it — a true live television tele-play and still use different sets, but have some audience in this portion and some audience in this portion to really make it live. That would be incredible to have the thrill of audience reaction and actually shoot audience reaction. I know it gets into a different thing then, but for me, that was the only thing that I was missing ’cause I love live theater. There’s a line or there’s a moment and when you’re on stage, you feel the audience feel that connection or you hear their reactions. That’s palpable and I feel like that’s missing so I think it would be great to somehow to get the audience in it.
Do you have plans to come back to Broadway in the off-season?
That’s hard to do. I mean it would have to be a play because you know, when you’re starting a new musical or something like that, you’re signing like a year of your life away. So you can’t really commit to something. I would love to.
Getting back to your work on Smash, if they ever brought a Bombshell musical to Broadway, would you want to participate?
God, no! I’m kidding. No, that’s great musical material. It’s funny, people would always tell me, “Oh, this song would never be in a Broadway show.” Well, they’re not writing for a Broadway show, they’re writing for a television show about a Broadway show. If you’re writing a straight-ahead Broadway song, it’s going to tell story and plot and things like that and take our character on a journey. We don’t have that time in our minute and a half. We have to have Joe [DiMaggio] singing to Marilyn [Monroe]. Do you know what I mean? So it’s a different thing. I mean, I think that’s great material. A Bombshell musical, I don’t know. Maybe if Marc Shaiman calls me, we’ll do it. Sign me up!
I think one of the lasting legacies of Smash is Debra Messing’s scarves. Did you save any of those?
They’re probably in a warehouse somewhere along with Megan Hilty’s wigs.
[Photo Credit: Getty Images]