Smash watchers know that wannabe Broadway star Ivy (Megan Hilty) has issues. And not just the kind caused by last week’s mood swings, which were the side effects of her taking prednisone to heal her vocal chords. She’s competitive to a fault. But that’s understandable, seeing that she’s always lived in the shadow of her Tony-winning mom, Leigh Conroy, who shows up in tonight’s episode. Below the real-life multiple Tony-winner who portrays Leigh, Bernadette Peters, tells us what to expect.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was Ivy’s relationship to her mother when she was growing up?
BERNADETTE PETERS: I don’t think Leigh was around much. I think she loves Ivy very much, but she was working, so she had nannies taking care of her. And Ivy’s dad. So she never had that connection, that close bond, with her. Also, you’ll see that she’s big; she’s been working in the limelight her whole life. Everything revolved around her. Everything at home probably revolved around her, too, but I do think she loves her daughter very much.
What has she been up to the last several years?
Probably living in Westchester in a lovely house. I think the father does very well in finance, but her career has just sort of slowed down. And now she’s watching her daughter and becoming almost like a stage mother to her, encouraging and coaching her.
Why is she visiting Manhattan?
She came to see her daughter, who’s in the workshop, but it’s also her turf. She wanted to get a taste of it again, so she says, “I’m coming to rehearsal,” uninvited. She had that kind of confidence, that chutzpah. When she comes to the workshop, everybody stops and looks at her and the kids even ask her to sing.
There must be some significance to her singing “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” from Gypsy, which is about Gypsy Rose Lee and her mother.
Yes, it’s about a mother and daughter, it is their existing relationship. She treats her daughter the same, like an object. And, you know, once they ask her to sing, it’s all about her.
Does Leigh know that her daughter is having an affair with the workshop’s director, Derek (Jack Davenport)?
No, she doesn’t. In fact, I’m trying to encourage her, to push them together, saying that he could really do a lot for her career. I don’t know that they’re already together.
Do you think Smash accurately depicts Broadway behind-the-scenes?
This is a drama and it’s heightened. So they’re taking the most dramatic scenarios, the worst scenarios that could happen, and making a storyline out of it. These things can happen and I think they always happen. I don’t know if they all happen [at the same time]. You have all these different types of personalities. There are definitely directors like Derek, who is all about himself. There are personalities that want to get ahead, that would do anything to get ahead, and you have people who throw monkey wrenches in. And you have people having affairs, definitely.
You’re returning for the finale, correct? Under what circumstances?
I am. The show’s going to go on that night, so she comes to see the show, basically. But I don’t want to give anything away.
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