Katharine McPhee Discusses Her Community Guest-Starring Role
"Community has been a key addition to NBC's Thursday night comedy block with its breakout first season, with episodes airing on Thursday nights at 8 PM ET on NBC. Next week's new episode, Basic Genealogy, will air on Thursday, March 11 and will feature a guest-starring spot from former American Idol sensation Katharine McPhee, who will play the stepdaughter to Chevy Chase's character on the show. The singer/actress recently held a conference call to discuss her upcoming role on the show, and here's what she had to say.
So obviously we know that you're trained in music. What led you to acting and to this role in particular?
Katharine McPhee: Well the acting thing really - like the passion for acting started a long time ago actually. A lot of people don't know I was pursuing acting long before I went on Idol. I was, you know, born and raised here in LA and I was going out for pilot season and films and then just sort of fell into doing the Idol Show, and obviously music was always something that I wanted to pursue. But as soon as the show was over I got to like take time to go back and really focus on trying to pursue the acting a little bit more. And then, you know, I did House Bunny and stuff. And I've just been always looking for a perfect opportunity to, you know, kind of just wet my feet a little bit and get in there as far as getting film time. And NBC's Community came up and I was doing my promo week for my record back in early January. And I'd actually almost - it's kind of a long story but how I got on the show was I - back when there was that show Trauma on NBC, I was about - I was going to test for it and it didn't work out. And that's how I sort of wanted to get in with NBC. I said, "Listen, this one didn't work out but hopefully in the future we can work on something." And then they called and Community came up and I was just - I love the show and I was really excited to be a part of it. And it's such a great cast so it was a fun one.
So what was your first gig? It was an acting gig?
Katharine McPhee: Well it's funny, when I left school and I came back to LA, my very gig was I booked an MTV pilot. And it wasn't aired - it wasn't like shot live -- I'm sorry -- it wasn't shot on tape, it was - the pilot was presented as like a live show and the executives were there. And it didn't get picked up but it was my first time doing a pilot. And then I went on to do a bunch of theatre things, like local things in LA. And then of course I auditioned for Idol so the rest is history. But yeah, I mean I was just really looking for anything. It's funny because I was in the original production -- a lot of people don't know this -- of Rock of Ages which they're now turning into a musical -- I mean I'm sorry -- they're turning into a movie.
What did you think of Community? Were you a big fan?
Katharine McPhee: You know it's funny. I tell the story, Joel - I got on the show and obviously, you know, I was in a really crazy cycle because I was just coming off of my first promo week of my record being released and so I wasn't watching any television at that time. And Joel was like so, you know, how do you like our show, you been watching it? And I was like, uh, I've seen it but I haven't been seeing it. And he goes - he was like oh, that's horrible. He was like, that's horrible, you're on our show and you haven't even watched it. He was like, you'd better go home and watch it. And I swear to you since then I've TiVoed and watched, you know, because I haven't been home - literally watched every episode. And, I just - I just think of - in all sincerity, separate from me being a part of the show for this one episode, I think it's one of NBC's best shows on TV right now, because it's so well written. All the characters are so defined and, you know, I just wish the best for all of them on that show because they really deserve it. It's a great show.
Will we see you in Community again? Is there a chance for you to come on again?
Katharine McPhee: You know, I think there's always a chance. I was discussing - no, well I wasn't discussing. The producers had come up to me - they always have a couple of characters come back and reoccur. And they said, "Well oh, maybe we'll be able to have you back," which was always a nice thing to hear. It means you did a good job and - but of course if my show - I got this pilot that I got which was also an NBC show, if it gets picked up I highly doubt I'll be another guest. I probably won't be the guest starring on their show because I don't know if there's competition within your own networks but, I'm not sure yet.
How was working alongside Chevy Chase? I mean you play his what - his stepdaughter?
Katharine McPhee: Yeah, well speaking of someone who's funny, he is a fun guy. You never know what's going to come out of Chevy Chase's mouth, it's just like unpredictable. And he's very sweet. And I was worried like the first day and I'd never met him before and I was like oh, I hope he's nice. And I get intimidated easily and he was just such a lovely guy - really, really, lovely. I mean everyone was lovely on the show.
What can you tell us about your character in the NBC pilot that you're filming; I guess it's called The Pink House or something?
Katharine McPhee: Yeah, my character's name is Emily and she's a girl from Chicago, a girl from the Midwest. And really like the character is identified by the other character as well, Jamie, who they've - they're just in the process of casting right now. But they're roommates and they have this really - they're roommates but they don't like each other very much and they're both very opposite from each other. So the other character is very - my character is the anti Hollywood. She, you know, doesn't worry about the calorie consumption she's taking in. She is very, you know, a nice girl but says what's on her mind. And the other character Jamie, is like the quintessential girl who comes here to LA to simply not really even have a career just to marry a rich man and that's her goal in life. And mine is to, you know, have a career. And I work for a pharmaceutical company but I don't enjoy working for it. I make a lot of money but from an integrity standpoint she doesn't think that's a great job, forcing people - you know, selling products that make people have horrible side effects. And that's pretty much about her. She's just a very natural girl really.
I know you said you had to rearrange your tour dates because of your TV work and stuff. Are you going to go on tour and what's that going to be like when you do?
Katharine McPhee: Right now there are tour dates, like individual dates and they're on my Web site, KatharineMcPhee.com, and they all are different venues. They vary from House of Blues and then to theatre dates and things like that. So they're all kind of different and they're all throughout the spring and summer.
Katharine McPhee: Well I think it's not even so much the role as it is the experience that helps you every time you do something. You learn how you want to do it better next time or whatever. And for me The House Bunny really wasn't so much about, you know, me getting the shot to be a big -- sorry -- lead in the movie. It was really more about just getting the experience and the opportunity to be on a set for two months, two and a half months. We shot here in L.A. I was there every day on the set and I really got to learn and not have to be consumed with like, you know, 40 lines a day. It was more like 3 lines a day so that I could really just go slowly. That's really what the show - that move was for me, and it's always - every time you do something I think it prepares for the next thing.
I wanted to know, do you have any scenes with Ken Jeong?
Katharine McPhee: I do, excuse me. I do. There's not much interaction between us but it's Family Day on Community and we're - our first - one of the first scenes takes place in his Spanish class and so we're all sitting there and all the new family members are there and he pokes fun at quite a few of them. And his character is not politically correct at all, but it's - he's hysterical in this episode.
Were these things that - with Community and the Pink House, were those things you were actively seeking out or were those things that came to you?
Katharine McPhee: Well as I was kind of saying a little earlier, Community was not something that I actively sought out. It was - I was up for this last summer or something I was up to do like a reoccurring on Trauma. It was when the show had already started and they were going to add a new character and, you know, they were negotiating to go into - have me do network tests. And then I was kind of weary. I don't think I was in the stage yet where I was ready to sign a six-year contract and I was just a little weary of it. And so it didn't work out. I didn't end up going to test for it, but that's how the network sort of became aware of me. And I think it was actually a little bit more of push from my agents and managers to get me on NBC - on Community because I really wanted to do a guest star and just kind of keep my feet wet and keep my talent up. And so it was actually more of a push from my side of the thing for Community. But Pink House, absolutely. You know, I got a phone call to meet with producers and director and did a first read with - work-through with the director and then I had to do a studio test and last I did a test so that's really how - and I found out I got it on Friday. So no, I went through all the rounds and definitely pursued this pilot.
You can watch the new episode of Community guest starring Katharine McPhee on Thursday, March 11 at 8 PM ET on NBC.