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AP: The songs you’ve picked aren’t in the traditional set list at a nightclub. People might expect Broadway show tunes.

James: Yes, I feel like I am taking a bit of a chance by saying, “Hey, you might want to hear me sing `Marry Me’ from `Titanic’ or something from `Sweet Smell of Success,’ but that’s not going to happen.” Hopefully, the music is the thing that will be successful in terms of how people receive it. It all goes back to: What am I going to have the most fun doing? Hopefully that will be something that people will feel. If they’re not fans of three-chord pop songs, then maybe I can make them fans.

AP: Fans of yours were waiting patiently for you to sing on “Smash.” When you finally did in Episode 8, it was a warbling version of Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” while accompanied by “Guitar Hero.” Did you purposely try not to blow everyone away?

James: My intent was not to make it bad. My intent was to try to come off as a guy who wasn’t singing for a living like Katharine McPhee or Megan Hilty. I couldn’t do that even if I was trying to sound as good as they sing. But it was an interesting challenge. By no means did I go there and say, `I’m really going to stink!’ It was an interesting acting challenge in a way. You want it to be good enough to make it fit into the system but also distinct enough and believable enough.

AP: On stage, will it be leather pants or black tie?

James: No pants! I’m thinking no pants for at least the first three songs. I have the same style I had in the eighth grade, the equivalent of me playing Atari in my basement _ that’s about the height of my sartorial eloquence. So I’ve had to really think about these things. I definitely want to represent the class of this room, which is such a stunning room but also perhaps not to be so dressed up. Usually when I’m singing in concert, I’m in a bowtie or a formal suit. It would be nice not to wear a tie but hopefully look good enough so they don’t kick me out.

AP: Will you be returning to “Smash”?

James: I can tell you that I’m coming back for at least one episode _ where I sing for the whole hour! That’s what I pitched them. I said, `I think the first season should have been all Frank’s dream and it should be retitled “Frank!”` That didn’t go over with the NBC executives. The truth is that I will be used in a much, much more limited way. I know I’m coming back for one. The door is open for them to use me as they see fit dramatically, but I would guess that once Frank is out the door, he’s going to pack up his knives and leave.

AP: On balance, how has the experience of “Smash” been? You’ve had to give up opportunities to stick with it, on the one hand, but it must have offered a lot of exposure, on the other.

James: Net-plus, for sure. Having a season under my belt, I learned so much. And the consistency of doing it was something I really enjoyed and benefited from. While it did kind of put a pause on some things theatrically, I think it’s only really helped, especially in terms of perception. That’s such a huge thing in this industry and in that sense it might make a producer a little less queasy to hire someone who’s not Hugh Jackman. These are all steps forward for me.




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