'Community': 'American Idol's' Katharine McPhee joins the family

katharine-mcphee-joel-mchale-community-320.jpg Katharine McPhee is guest-starring on "Community" Thursday (March 11), but had things broken a little differently you could have seen the former "American Idol" runner-up on an different NBC series this season.

McPhee tells Zap2it that earlier this season she talked with NBC about a role on "Trauma": "It was after the show had already started to air," she says. "They were going to add a new character, and I was going to go to network and test for the part, but I really wasn't ready to sign on for a show. ... It just didn't work out."

The experience did, however, put McPhee "on the NBC radar," and that eventually helped lead to her guest spot on "Community." She shared some details about her role, the NBC pilot she just landed and balancing acting and singing with Zap2it.

Zap2it: You're playing Chevy Chase's stepdaughter, correct?
McPhee: It's family day on "Community," so all the characters have brought their families in. My character comes in as the sweet, long-lost ex-stepdaughter of Chevy's character. She starts off like she's there with the great intention of reconnecting with her stepfather, and you kind of find out later that she's not as sweet as you thought. She's really there for an ulterior motive.

Were your scenes mostly with Chevy?
Chevy and Joel [McHale] -- mostly the two of them.

Does she maybe have an eye for Joel's character, Jeff?
Um, yes [laughs]. Yeah, I spent some time making out with Joel McHale. That was not the difficult part of the job.

"Community" has a pretty specific rhythm. How do you slide into that as a guest star?
For me, I just try to figure out how I want to play it regardless of the style of the show. From reading it you get the sense that it's very fast-paced, very witty. ... I hope I was able to [live up to] that as a guest star. Being on set with them -- Danny Pudi is just awesome. Getting to watch him and how he plays Abed, you get the point really quickly that it's a very specific style.

You were just cast in NBC's pilot "The Pink House" -- what can you tell us about it?
I'm excited to be part of a new show. I hope it does well and gets picked up. It's very exciting, but in this industry you always have to jump through hoops, and it's definitely a process. ... I've had friends call me and say, "So when do I get to watch you on TV?" And I'm like, well, that's a little bit of a ways off. We have to shoot the pilot first. But for me, I'm so excited to be part of a show that I think is going to be really cute.

As you move more into acting, how do strike the balance with your singing career?
I just take it day by day, or week by week. ... I already had to reschedule one of my tour dates, but it's fine. It's totally doable, and it actually makes my drive for getting out there and performing for people who want to see me that much more of a goal. I just want to do it even more knowing I have to really make the time. It's just a matter of having someone who's really good at scheduling [laughs]. ... I love both -- the worlds are really different, and I absolutely love that I'm able to get to do both.

Are you working on any new music, or just supporting "Unbroken"?
I'm not working on any new music right now. There was talk that I was going to do a Christmas album this year with my label. I'm not sure --- we have to figure out the schedule. ... We'll figure it out.

McPhee's episode of "Community" airs at 8 p.m. ET Thursday on NBC.

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'American Idol': Katharine McPhee's advice to the top 20: 'Pick a direction'