At the January gathering of the Television Critics Association (TCA), the new NBC series Smash is introduced at a press conference that includes eight executive producers (including Steven Spielberg and series creator, Theresa Rebeck) and eight series regulars (including Anjelica Huston, Debra Messing, Katherine McPhee and Megan Hilty). They are bombarded with questions by the 150-plus attending TCA members for close to 45 minutes, Also sitting amongst the cast members onstage is Boston-born Puerto Rican American Jaime Cepero. He is not asked one question during the conference; but he is quite chatty afterwards. Cepero laughs, “With Spielberg, Angelica Huston, Debra Messing, Kat (McPhee) and Megan around, who wants to talk to me. This is my first TV series.”
Smash debuts Monday, February 6. Set in New York, the show revolves around a group of characters who come together to create a Broadway musical, based on the life of Marilyn Monroe. One of the main plot points is the competition between a seasoned Broadway performer (Hilty) and a complete newcomer (McPhee) for the musical’s coveted title role. The show features the music of Tony winning Broadway composers Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (Hairspray) who are also executive producers on the show.
Cepero explains, “I play Ellis, a show business wannabe who maneuvers his way into being an assistant to the show’s fictional Broadway composers, played by Debra Messing and Christian Borle. Ellis is charming but he is also ruthlessly ambitious. He is a great character to play and I am really looking forward to his journey in the series.”
Although it is not in Ellis’s character description, Cepero is quite a singer in his own right, having toured in the 75th anniversary national tour of Porgy & Bess. He has also been featured in regional theater productions of Hair at the Prince Music Theatre and Jesus Christ Superstar at the Alliance Theater Company. Cepero also has voiced commercials for American Eagle Outfitters and has performed as a backup vocalist for several artists, including Kameko and Tituss Burgess.
“I have no idea whether Ellis will get to sing or whether they’ll provide any back story to his obvious multi ethnic looks,” says Cepero. “I’m just happy he is a vital part of the continuity of the show. I hope he becomes even more important to the plot as the series develops through the season. This show has an unusual premise. It has never been done before. I am just happy to be here.”