SMASH’s New Showrunner Talks About All Those Great Changes He Was Hired to Make

Because this is his Big Chance:

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Josh Safron on SMASH Season 2: “I Wanted to Create New Stakes for Everybody’
by Lesley Goldberg

Josh Safran has some big shoes to fill as he prepares to launch Smash‘s second, rebooted season and its first without creator and Broadway veteran Theresa Rebeck at its helm. After a creatively disappointing season that spawned the creation of the dubious term “hate-watching,” Rebeck parted ways with the Broadway drama she created, with formerGossip Girl showrunner Safran taking the top job.

His first order of business was to clean house and rid the series of what he calls characters with short shelf-lives, including Karen’s cheating boyfriend Dev, Julia’s annoying husband Frank, and Ellis, who quickly became one of the small-screen characters that audiences most loved to hate.

In their place, Safran added a long roster of high-profile guest stars, including Jennifer Hudson,Liza Minnelli and Sean Hayes (a Will and Gracereunion!) as well as Broadway standouts such as Jesse L. MartinJeremy Jordan and Krysta Rodriguez, among others.

His mission was to revive the Broadway drama — a pet project of NBC entertainment president Bob Greenblatt, who brought the Steven Spielberg-produced drama with him from Showtime — and reverse the missteps that earned the series the dubious title of the most hate-watched show in primetime.

The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Safran to discuss his Broadway cred, goals as showrunner and the many ways the sophomore season of Smash will be different, including more pop songs, a larger episode order and appealing to the Gossip Girl set.

THR: Most people wouldn’t associate theGossip Girl showrunner with Broadway andSmash. How long have you been interested in musical theater?
Safran: I was a playwriting major at NYU. I wanted to be a playwright, but it didn’t happen and I became a screenwriter instead. I dated one of the leads of the original cast of Rent (Anthony Rapp) when it opened on Broadway and moving forward. Being with Anthony for six years was very instrumental, and if I hadn’t done that, I don’t think I’d have this job.

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EDITED TO ADD: Since this interview was held, Safron’s new version of SMASH had its debut – and scored one of the lowest ratings in TV history, a full 71% of its 1st season numbers. So we’re guessing we can take all this talk with a very large grain of, you know, salt.