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Katherine McPhee: 'Scorpion' is ignored by critics but loved

The actress chats about the third season of "Scorpion."

“Scorpion” is a television series inspired by the life of renowned computer expert Walter O’Brien. In it, he and his team of geniuses work to defend the world against tech threats. Katharine McPhee stars as Paige Dineen, their office manager, who helps them understand everyday people a little better. We chat with McPhee about what to expect from Season 3, the show’s success and the future of her singing career.

What is the series about?
"Scorpion" focuses on the life of Walter O'Brien, an eccentric genius who participates in a group of brilliant minds that forms the last line of defense against the threats humanity faces. The team of geniuses includes O'Brien, one of the smartest people in the world with an IQ of 197; Sylvester Dodd, the human calculator; Happy Quinn, the prodigy mechanic; and Toby Curtis, a behavioral expert. Cabe Gallo is the government agent assigned to the team and its government supervisor. Paige Dineen was a waitress with a gift to relate to people and helps them understand the world. In return, they help her better understand her son, who is also a genius.

What’s new in third season of "Scorpion"?
The team will continue to go through the same situations but there will be more romance. If there is someone in the audience betting on the relationship between Toby and Happy, I can say that a lot more will be revealed this season. I think the writers are getting better and the characters individually are going to have more fun. We have not finished filming the entire season — we have five episodes to go. What I can say is that the relationship between Paige and Walter is going to go through some very complicated moments.

Why do you think "Scorpion" is so successful?
A number of factors. I think the audience connects to the admiration that is felt towards people who are smarter than us. And to see their human side and how they struggle with the same things that we all struggle with day to day. People love to see this group of social misfits who are super good at what they do but often collide with ordinary society — yet they find a family amongst themselves.

How satisfied are you with the evolution of your character in this season?
This year, writers are giving me much more material to play with. I'm getting to know more about Paige's past, her motivations and where she comes from. For example, we will learn more about her mother, because she will arrive to the show and that will clear up many questions about her personality. This season Paige is very stressed and frustrated by her situation and has to learn to work with Walter again. I think this season is stronger for me and for the character. I am also excited that we will see Paige more angry than we have ever seen her.

It's been 11 years since we met you on "American Idol." What's your perspective on your career and the industry?
I am very grateful for the way my career has been taking very different paths. I've always had the opportunity to do various things and that's what keeps me in love with what I do. These 11 years were interesting. I did my first show [musical drama television series "Smash"] that lasted only two years, but I was able to sing, dance and act and I played a sweet and innocent character. Now I'm playing a single mother, who has to be strong. This is a show about procedures, but it's a lot of fun. I’ve been able to try some comedy and drama. Shows like "Scorpion" are ignored by critics, but they are successful. And I'm very lucky to be able to do all this.

Have you ever met anyone in real life who could be part of "Scorpion"?
The pilot was based on the real life of Walter O'Brien and from there, writers have developed fictional stories inspired by him. He sometimes visits the set and is always working on crazy things. I think it's the closest I've been to that kind of work in real life.

Have you learned all the technical jargon?
Well, I'm the one who uses it the least. But for the rest of the cast, I know it's been the most challenging series. And their technique is to repeat it over and over again until they learn those complicated dialogues by heart. The way I learn my lines is by understanding what the intention of the scene is. That is how words come to my mind. Maybe they are not the exact ones, but the intention is [there]. And that’s the important thing. However when it is a very technical dialogue, it is more difficult because they have to be the exact words although sometimes they do not make any sense.

It's been two years since you released your album "Hysteria.” Do you have any plans regarding your musical career?
Yes. I'm working on a record now, with a legendary producer who has worked with John Mayer and The Rolling Stones. I met him a year and a half ago behind the scenes of a Frank Sinatra special. It will have a lot of that style of songs that I listened to while I was growing up. If you remember my passing through "American Idol," I did things like that. I do not know why I did not keep up with the genre, but I love it.
We started working in November, I took a break but I hope to finish it this year before summer. I plan to sing the music that I have always loved and that many like. I hope I can create something with it. For example, going on tour and presenting it live because that's what I really love the most. Being in front of an audience, communicating with people through that form of art. I hope that happens and I can talk to you about that soon.

Is there any other genre that you would like to explore as an actress?
Yes, I'd love to do a romantic comedy. It is a genre that is being done less and less, like the ones Julia Roberts used to do. Among my favorite movies are "The Father of the Bride," "Pretty Woman," "Love Actually." I hope those kinds of films come back, because I would love to play a character like that.

The next episode of "Scorpion" airs tonight on CBS at 10 p.m. EST.

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