There was a comedy called The Hangover she was up for, and didn't get

By Aili Nahas and Stephen M. Silverman
Updated February 07, 2012 03:15 PM
Will Hart/NBC

With Monday’s premiere of NBC’s heavily promoted Smash, season-five American Idol alum Katharine McPhee finally got to show herself off as a triple threat: singer, dancer, actor.

While her vocalizing had already helped give her fans something called McPhever, and her acting chops were put on display in the 2008 movie comedy House Bunny, the performer still harbored some pre-Smash regrets for some roles that got away. Specifically, one in the biggest comedy of 2009.

“It was between me and the girl who got it for The Hangover [as] the bride,” McPhee, 27, recently told PEOPLE. After meeting with director Todd Phillips, “I didn’t get it, but I went all the way. I would have loved to play that part.”

Rather than shun the finished product, McPhee went to see The Hangover, and laughed along with everyone else.

“It was so much better than I would have ever thought it could be,” she said. “It was unbelievably hysterical, and I remember in the theater I was like, ‘I wish I had gotten that part!’ ”

Although it remains to be seen whether her Smash character, Karen Cartwright, lands the plum Broadway musical role of Marilyn Monroe in the storyline that will unfold on the new show, McPhee admitted that she can identify with some of the challenges faced by Cartwright.

“I think you’re always in that place, no matter what level you’re at. Even the biggest of actresses, unless you get the direct offer, whenever there’s a hot project, all the top actresses go in for the part. Everyone in this business can relate,” she said.

“It’s always about trying to prove yourself, to get people to see you in a different light, and in my case it rang more true, because I’ve come close to getting movies and not getting them – having it be between me and two other girls … and not getting it. It’s just the name of the game.”

So, how does one cope in the tough world of showbiz? “You keep plugging ahead if you believe in yourself, and you have people around who believe in you.”