Is "Smash" "smashing" body stereotypes for top female television actresses?
Michelle Williams may have packed on the padding to play Marilyn Monroe in "My Week With Marilyn," a role that earned her a 2012 Oscar nomination, but Megan Hilty, whose character aims to portray the part of the Hollywood sex icon in the new NBC series "Smash," is embracing her natural curves.
On the show, which premiered on February 6, Hilty, 30, plays Broadway actress Ivy Lynn, who is tired of being a background performer and auditions to play Monroe in a new musical. Her biggest competition? Karen Cartwright, an amateur singer played by "American Idol" alum Katharine McPhee. Cartwright appears timid at first, while Hilty's character is hungry, fearless and ... voluptuous.
"There is no padding," Hilty told the television show "Access Hollywood" in a recent interview. "That's what you get for casting someone with a real body on TV."
"It's not something that's ever been said to my face but I'm just not normally what you see on television, which is something that I really appreciate about what NBC has done in casting me," she added. "I'm very, very thankful that they're casting people with normal figures. It's just, you know, you look on TV and I'm just not the typical TV figure."
Hilty has appeared on television before but is more known as a Broadway actress. She played the good witch Glinda in the "Wizard of Oz"-themed musical "Wicked" for years and also portrayed Doralee Rhodes in the show "9 To 5" in 2009.
"Glee has really opened up the doors to making it acceptable and kind of cool to be singing on TV again," Hilty told OnTheRedCarpet.com at San Diego Comic-Con in July 2011, referring to FOX's hit musical sitcom.
Her co-star, McPhee, has no prior Broadway experience. The 27-year-old, who lives in Los Angeles with her husband Nick Cokas, came in second place on FOX's singing contest "American Idol" during season 5 in 2006, losing to Taylor Hicks. She later nabbed small roles in films such as "The House Bunny" and "Shark Night 3D," before she was cast in "Smash."
McPhee has struggled with body image issues since she was in junior high school. She battled bulimia for at least seven years and has undergone treatment for the eating disorder. She talked about it in an interview with Shape magazine that was published in its February 2010 issue, which also featured her on the cover in a bikini.
The more I focused on my weight, the worse my bulimia got," she said. "Now I'm more easygoing. I stopped fighting myself and became more forgiving of my body. Ironically, the weight came off naturally through exercise but no dieting."
McPhe has in recent years appeared visibly slimmer than she did in her first on-screen audition for "American Idol." She says she is grateful for the experience on the FOX singing contest for more than just the fame.
"'American Idol' saved my life, because if I hadn't auditioned I don't think I would have gotten a handle on food," she told People magazine in July 2006. "I entered the program because I wanted to give myself the best shot I possibly could on the show, and when I did it was like God put hands on me and said, 'I want you to be healed.'"
McPhee recently showcased her slim figure in photos published in the March 2012 issue of SELF magazine. She wears a tight, strapless dress on its cover, as seen on the Just Jared blog and a beach outfit that consists of a white bikini top and shorts and a pink cardigan in another picture, as seen on the website of People magazine.
"Even when I was heavier I always had a flat stomach," McPhee told SELF. "It's just part of my genes. I get it from my mom. It's always the rest of my body I have to be cautious of. As my dad used to jokingly say, 'Once on the lips, twice on the hips!' That is so true for me."
(Pictured above: Left: Megan Hilty and Katharine McPhee appear in scenes from "Smash." / Right: Katharine McPhee appears in her first on-screen "American Idol" audition in 2006. Credit: NBC / FOX)