Westporters know David Marshall Grant from his starring roles with Staples Players back in the early 1970s.
Television viewers remember him for his groundbreaking role as Russell Weller in “thirtysomething.” Broadway fans recall his Tony Award-nominated performance in “Angels in America.” Moviegoers have seen him in “The Devil Wears Prada.”
Now David Marshall Grant is hard at work on “Smash.”
NBC’s new drama premiered last month to enormous fanfare. It’s a pull-out-all-stops innovation: a prime time soap opera about the backstage drama involved in the creation of a big Broadway musical.
NBC is betting the house on “Smash.” And Grant — as executive producer/writer — is one of the reasons the network thinks “Smash” will be a smash.
(Other reasons: executive producer Steven Spielberg, actress Anjelica Huston, plus original music and Josh Bergasse’s choreography. Joining the ensemble cast soon: Uma Thurman and Bernadette Peters.)
Grant knows its tough finding an audience for a TV show about a Broadway musical. But, he told the TV website The Futon Critic, “A lot of the key audience in America loves Broadway musicals, and I think the Broadway community is very central part of America’s cultural identity. I think that a Broadway musical is a cultural icon, so I was always optimistic that a show that has great music…would attract an audience.”
The characters form intricate relationships. Plot points are clever — and of course, there is plenty of music and dancing.
It’s a bit more complex than “Brothers & Sisters” — the ABC series Grant worked on as screenwriter, story editor and head showrunner.”
“Smash” even has a nod to “the great old days” of music and choreography, Grant told the Courant — “even extending to the way it’s filmed. There’s a nod to the great heyday of the MGM musicals. It’s more romantic.”
Growing up in Westport, Grant was not one of those go-to-Broadway-every-weekend theater geeks. But Staples gave him a great introduction to theater. He honed his skills at the Yale School of Drama, then embarked on a long career on stage and screen (plus TV). He’s had roles in “Bent,” “The Stepford Wives,” “CSI: Miami” and “Law & Order.”
He’s also a playwright (“Snakebit” and “Pen”).
But right now — nearly 40 years after first starring at Staples — David Marshall Grant is still enchanted by theater, in all its forms.
Just because a Broadway musical hasn’t been the subject of a TV series before doesn’t mean that it can’t be, well, a smash.
“If people see the right musical done the right way, they’re going to respond,” he told the Courant. “I really have high hopes for a public appreciation of this art form.”