Katharine Hope McPhee
(born March 25, 1984) is an American actress, singer, and
songwriter. She gained fame in May 2006 as the runner-up on the
fifth season of American Idol.
Her self-titled debut album was released on RCA Records on January
30, 2007, and debuted at number two on the Billboard 200, selling
381,000 copies (as of December 2010). The album's first single,
"Over It", was a Pop Top 30 hit and was certified gold in 2008. Her
second album, Unbroken, was released on Verve Forecast Records on
January 5, 2010, and debuted at number 27 on the Billboard 200. The
album featured the single "Had It All", which peaked at number 22 on
the Billboard AC chart. It has sold 45,000 copies as of January
2011. Her third album, the holiday-themed Christmas Is the Time to
Say I Love You, was released on October 12, 2010. The album debuted
at number eleven on the Billboard Top Holiday Albums chart while the
single "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" peaked at number
sixteen on the Billboard AC chart. As of January 2011, this album
has sold 23,000 copies.
McPhee has also established an acting career, co-starring in The
House Bunny and Shark Night 3D. She played Karen Cartwright, one of
the lead roles on the NBC series Smash. She is currently starring in
the CBS series Scorpion.
McPhee was born in Los Angeles, California. Her father, Daniel
McPhee, is a television producer. Her mother, Peisha (née Burch)
McPhee, has been a vocal coach on American Idol since 2011. The
family moved to the Sherman Oaks neighbourhood of Los Angeles when
Katharine was 12 years old. Peisha McPhee recognized her daughter's
musical talent and decided to train her. McPhee's older sister,
Adriana, has been a vocal coach on American Idol since 2012. McPhee
is of Irish, Scottish, and German descent.
McPhee attended Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, where she
performed in school plays and musicals. She graduated in 2002. She
attended Boston Conservatory for three semesters, majoring in
Musical Theatre. She left college before graduation on the advice of
her manager and returned to Los Angeles to try out for television
pilots. McPhee was cast (during the time she had dropped out of
college and was auditioning in Los Angeles) in a mall-based MTV soap
opera pilot, You Are Here, playing the older sister of a more
popular younger sister. MTV never aired the pilot and did not pick
up the series.
In March 2005, McPhee starred as Annie Oakley in a Los Angeles-based
production of the musical Annie Get Your Gun. McPhee was nominated
for an Los Angeles Stage Ovation Award in the category of "Lead
Actress in a Musical". McPhee had a small role as Paramount Girl in
the 2007 musical film Crazy, based on the life of Hank Garland.
McPhee filmed the role in early 2005, before she auditioned for
McPhee has struggled with eating disorders. She told People that at
age 13, she began starving herself and exercising compulsively and,
at age 17, became bulimic. McPhee gained weight in college due to
her bingeing. After seven years of illness, she finally entered a
three-month rehabilitation program after successfully passing her
American Idol audition; her rehab stint ended just before the Idol
semi-finals started in February 2006. During her run on American
Idol, she lost 30 lb (14 kg) due to eating better as part of her
She told Teen Vogue in May 2007 that "I eat whatever I crave—I'm
just really careful about portions." McPhee and her sister appeared
on the debut of The Dr. Keith Ablow Show on September 18, 2006, to
discuss her struggles with bulimia and her childhood fear of her
father. Also on the show, McPhee stated that she was misdiagnosed
with a learning disability during her middle school years but was
finally correctly diagnosed with a vision problem that caused her to
have trouble reading in class. McPhee claimed she was known as the
"pretty but stupid" girl in school because she had trouble reading
In 2005, McPhee was persuaded by eventual husband Nick Cokas and her
parents to try out for the television series competition American
Idol. She auditioned in San Francisco and sang "God Bless the
Child", originally performed by Billie Holiday, and was selected to
be a participant in the fifth season, which aired in 2006. After the
first round of Hollywood week, she sang "I'll Never Love This Way
Again" by Dionne Warwick which earned favourable comments from the
judges. During the second round, she performed in a group, singing
"I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)" by the Four Tops,
forgetting the words, but the judges decided to advance the entire
group. During the third round, she sang "My Funny Valentine" a
cappella and advanced to the top 40. She was angered when fellow
group member Crystal Stark did not make the top 24. McPhee's run on
American Idol led to the use of the term "McPheever". The inclusion
of producer David Foster and singer Andrea Bocelli as guest mentors
for Top 6 Week turned out to be a fortuitous introduction for McPhee,
as she has worked on various music projects with both men post-Idol.
In May 2006, McPhee visited her alma mater Notre Dame High School
for her hometown celebration. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa visited the
school and proclaimed the day Katharine McPhee Day. She finished as
the runner up to Taylor Hicks.
2006–08: Katharine McPhee album and feature film debut
On June 6, 2006, Sony BMG announced that McPhee had signed to
American Idol series creator Simon Fuller's 19 Recordings Limited
and Sony BMG's RCA Records. Also in June, McPhee performed at the
J.C. Penney Jam: Concert for America's Kids, soloing with "Somewhere
Over the Rainbow" and performing a duet with Andrea Bocelli on "Somos
McPhee's Idol single, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/My Destiny" was
released on June 27, 2006 by RCA Records. "Somewhere Over the
Rainbow" peaked at number twelve on the Billboard Hot 100 and "My
Destiny" peaked at number 60. 32 weeks after its release, Somewhere
Over the Rainbow/My Destiny had climbed to number four on the
Billboard Hot Singles Sales charts. It was the second highest
best-selling single of 2006 after Taylor Hicks' "Do I Make You
Proud". "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/My Destiny" remained on the
chart for more than 58 weeks.
In July, McPhee missed the first three weeks of the American Idol
Tour due to laryngitis and bronchitis. She joined the tour beginning
with the July 28 show in Washington, D.C., singing only two songs
"Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree"
instead of the usual four on doctor's orders to conserve her voice.
At the August 1 concert in Charlotte, North Carolina, McPhee
suffered a hairline fracture of her foot when she tripped backstage
and was fitted with a walking boot cast. Once she recovered from the
foot injury, she added "Think" to her concert set.
McPhee recorded a duet with Andrea Bocelli on "Can't Help Falling In
Love" for his Under the Desert Sky album, which was released as a
CD/DVD package on November 7, 2006.
McPhee signed a two-year endorsement deal in 2006 with Sexy Hair
Concepts to become their first celebrity spokesperson for their
hair-care product line. Also in 2006, McPhee founded a charity
called McPhee Outreach. The purpose of the charity is to team up
with other foundations or organizations and help in any way
possible. The foundation teamed up with The Lollipop Theatre Network
to provide music outreach (called "Rhythm of Hope") to sick children
in Southern California hospitals. McPhee Outreach teamed up with
Global Compassion Services to build a preschool in the West African
nation of Burkina Faso to help combat that nation's high illiteracy
McPhee's self-titled debut album, Katharine McPhee was released on
January 30, 2007 and sold 116,000 copies its first week, debuting at
number two on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart. The first single from
the album was "Over It" peaked at number 29 on the Billboard Hot
100. The second single, "Love Story" failed to crack the Billboard
In early 2007, McPhee guest-starred in the web series, lonelygirl15
as an unnamed character in the episode "Truth Or Dare". McPhee made
a cameo appearance as herself on the ABC show Ugly Betty in the
episode "I'm Coming Out". The episode was broadcast February 1,
2007. During the 2007 Christmas holiday season, McPhee released a
Christmas single "O Come All Ye Faithful".
On January 11, 2008, it was reported by Billboard.com that McPhee
had been released from her contract with RCA Records. A spokesperson
for the label stated, "She is going to record her next album on her
McPhee signed a two-year endorsement deal with Neutrogena to become
the new spokesperson for their anti-acne skin-care product line. In
March 2008, she filmed her first commercial, which began airing on
television in May 2008 and on Neutrogena's skinid.com website.
McPhee appeared on Idol judge Randy Jackson's album Randy Jackson's
Music Club, Vol. 1, which was released on March 11, 2008. McPhee
recorded a duet of "Real Love" with fellow American Idol 5
contestant Elliott Yamin. On March 12, 2008, McPhee returned to the
American Idol stage during the Top 12 results night of the seventh
season of the competition. She performed the Beatles song
"Something", with producer David Foster, on piano. After the
performance, Foster indicated that he and McPhee were collaborating
on her second studio album (though it ended up he was not part of
the finished product). McPhee took part in the David Foster tribute
concert Hit Man: David Foster & Friends, which was filmed by PBS, in
May 2008. She soloed on "Somewhere" and performed a duet of "The
Prayer" with Andrea Bocelli. A CD/DVD was released in November 2008.
David Foster recorded "I Will Be There With You" for Japan Airlines
(JAL), with McPhee on vocals. Starting in June 2008, it was used to
promote the introduction of new aircraft to JAL's US flights.
McPhee made her studio acting debut in the comedy The House Bunny,
co-starring as one of the few members of a misfit sorority. The
movie, released in August 2008, starred Anna Faris as a Playboy
Bunny who took the girls under her wing. It was directed by Fred
Wolf for Columbia Pictures and produced by Adam Sandler's Happy
Madison Productions. McPhee released a cover of the song "I Know
What Boys Like", featuring the other cast members of the movie The
House Bunny. In September 2008, McPhee took part in Chris Botti's
concert, which was filmed by PBS in Boston. She sang "I've Got You
Under My Skin" accompanied by Botti on trumpet. The concert was
shown several times on PBS starting in January 2009. A live album
Chris Botti In Boston was released on March 31, 2009 on CD/DVD and
2009–10: Unbroken album and TV and movie projects
It was announced on January 27, 2009 that McPhee had signed a record
deal with Verve Forecast Records (part of the Verve Music Group
under Universal Music Group).
McPhee guest starred on the CBS show CSI: NY in the episode "Prey"
as a singer and stalker victim who murdered her stalker. The episode
was broadcast April 8, 2009. In September 2009, McPhee took part in
the United Negro College Fund's "An Evening of Stars" concert that
was a tribute to singer/songwriter Lionel Richie. McPhee sang You
Are. The concert was broadcast in syndication and on BET the weekend
of January 23–24, 2010. A 2-disc DVD of the concert was available
for a time through a donation to the United Negro College Fund.
McPhee joined actresses Alyson Hannigan, Jaime King, Minka Kelly and
Emily Deschanel in a video slumber party made available in October
2009 and featured on FunnyorDie.com and other Internet platforms in
a comedic take to promote regular breast cancer screenings for the
organization Stand Up To Cancer. A Christmas single "I'll Be Home
for Christmas" was released November 17, 2009.
McPhee's second album Unbroken was released January 5, 2010 and
debuted at number 27 on the Billboard 200 chart, selling 15,000
copies its first week. For her second effort, McPhee worked with
producer John Alagia. The first single from the album, "Had It All"
was released to McPhee's MySpace page on August 25, 2009.
McPhee appeared on the Jan 19, 2010 episode of the NBC reality show
The Biggest Loser (its ninth season) in the show's Pound for Pound
Challenge segment (an initiative to challenge viewers to get healthy
while helping to fight hunger in their own communities). McPhee was
shown volunteering at a Los Angeles food bank and meeting with
children at a Boys and Girls Club and talking about the importance
of helping to fight hunger in America. On February 1, 2010, McPhee
joined over 75 other musicians, including fellow American Idol
alumni Jennifer Hudson and Jordin Sparks and American Idol judge
Randy Jackson, for a remake of "We Are the World", retitled "We Are
the World 25 for Haiti", which marked the 25th anniversary of the
iconic song and for which proceeds will go to Haitian earthquake
During the week of February 8, 2010, in the pre-taped Hollywood Week
portion of Season 9 of American Idol, contestant Didi Benami was
shown singing "Terrified", a song on the Unbroken album and written
by Idol judge Kara DioGuardi. As a result of the exposure on Idol,
digital downloads of the song (the album version featuring Jason
Reeves) rose nearly 10,000% from the week before, selling about
20,000 copies for the week, for a total of 22,000 sold at that
point. On February 22, 2010, McPhee appeared in the production of
110 Stories, directed by Mark Freiburger at the Geffen Playhouse in
Los Angeles. She co-starred alongside Ed Asner, Diane Venora, Gail
O'Grady, John Hawkes, Malcolm-Jamal Warner and many others. The play
was a benefit to help the victims of the recent Haiti earthquake.
Proceeds went to the Red Cross of Greater Los Angeles. On March 9,
2010, McPhee performed "Surrender" at the White House, in front of
President Obama and the First Lady as part of International Women's
Day. McPhee guest starred on the NBC comedy Community in the episode
"Basic Genealogy" as Chevy Chase's character's ex-stepdaughter and
potential love interest for Joel McHale's character. The episode was
broadcast March 11, 2010.
In April 2010, McPhee made a TV pilot for a new comedy series for
NBC called The Pink House. McPhee played Emily, a down-to-earth
Midwestern girl new to Manhattan Beach, Los Angeles. The pilot was
shot as a possible pickup for the Fall 2010 season and was produced
by Conan O'Brien's production company, with O'Brien as executive
producer. Shooting took place April 9, 2010. NBC did not pick up the
On May 4, 2010, a new version of the Unbroken song "Terrified"
featuring actor Zachary Levi premiered on Entertainment Weekly's
website and was made available for purchase on iTunes. The
accompanying music video premiered on May 7, 2010 on the music video
website Vevo. In the summer of 2010, McPhee partnered with Feeding
America and ConAgra Foods Foundation to help launch the Hunger-Free
Summer Initiative, which aimed to help children at risk of hunger
during the summer months. Throughout the month of July, McPhee
travelled around the country to various Feeding America food banks
to raise awareness.
McPhee released a Christmas album titled Christmas Is the Time to
Say I Love You on October 12, 2010. The album debuted at number
eleven on the Billboard Top Holiday Albums chart and sold 1,000
copies in its first week. One of the Christmas album's songs "Have
Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" was released to radio in November
2010 and peaked at number sixteen on the Billboard Adult
Contemporary Chart. Country singer Chelsea Field's song "Love's
Never Leavin'", a song that McPhee co-wrote with singer-songwriter
Richard Marx and producer Trey Bruce, was made available for
purchase on iTunes on November 9, 2010, with 100% of the proceeds to
benefit the Tammany Humane Society in Covington, LA. On December 15,
2010, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital released a video on
their website for their Thanks and Giving Campaign that featured
McPhee interacting with sick children at the hospital with her song
"Lifetime" playing over the soundtrack.
2011–2013: Smash series and new record deal
In February 2011, it was announced that McPhee had landed a starring
role in the NBC TV pilot Smash, also starring Debra Messing, Megan
Hilty, Jack Davenport, Anjelica Huston, Christian Borle, and Brian
d'Arcy James. In May 2011, NBC picked up Smash as a series. The
series, set as a musical drama, follows a group of characters who
come together to put on a Broadway musical inspired by Marilyn
On June 9, 2011, it was announced that McPhee had signed a record
deal with Columbia Records (a label under Sony Music Entertainment),
in conjunction with Columbia teaming with NBC to distribute the
music for Smash. In July 2011, Forbes reported that McPhee was
number ten on their list of the 10 Top-Earning American Idols (she
was tied with David Archuleta and David Cook), earning $1 million
(pre-tax estimates before subtracting manager and agent fees) for
music and acting endeavours for the period May 2010 to May 2011.
McPhee co-starred in director David Ellis' shark thriller indie film
Shark Night 3D, which was released September 2, 2011.
In December 2011, McPhee became a spokesperson for the Malaria No
More organization to help raise awareness about the campaign to
NBC debuted Smash in mid-season of the 2011–12 television season on
February 6, 2012, to generally favourable reviews, scoring a 79 out
of 100 on Metacritic. In March 2012, McPhee traveled to two
countries in Africa, Ghana and Burkina Faso, on behalf of Malaria No
More to raise awareness and to help distribute mosquito nets. On
March 26, 2012, Smash was renewed for a second season. McPhee
recorded a voiceover for the Fox animated series Family Guy, for the
episode "You Can't Do That On Television, Peter", playing the voice
of Mother Maggie. The episode was broadcast April 1, 2012.
McPhee had a cameo role as a singer performing at a festival for the
feature film Peace, Love & Misunderstanding which stars Jane Fonda
and was filmed in upstate New York. McPhee filmed her cameo in
September 2010. The film was released to theatres in limited release
June 8, 2012.
In early 2009, McPhee was cast in a lead role in the independent $6
million romantic-comedy You May Not Kiss the Bride., which was
filmed in Hawaii. McPhee played the role of Masha, alongside Dave
Annable. The film debuted at the 14th Annual Sonoma International
Film Festival that was held April 6–10, 2011 The film was released
theatrically in the US in late 2012, premiering August 29, 2012 in
Hawaii and September 21, 2012 in several mainland markets including
Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles, as well as Video On Demand, iTunes,
and Amazon. One of the songs included in the movie was co-written by
In January 2013, Forbes reported that McPhee again made their list
of the 10 Top-Earning American Idols (she was tied with Kellie
Pickler at #7), earning $1.1 million (pre-tax estimates before
subtracting manager and agent fees) for music and acting endeavours
for the period May 2011 to May 2012.
On March 28, 2013, McPhee returned to the American Idol stage to
perform on the twelfth season Top 8 results show with OneRepublic
where she lent guest vocals to the group's latest single, "If I Lose
By April 2013, McPhee had begun recording her fourth studio album,
then scheduled for release in late 2013 and featuring song writing
collaborations with Ryan Tedder, Linda Perry, and Sia Furler. Smash
was cancelled that same year, after two seasons. In August 2013,
McPhee indicated in an interview for an upcoming concert that she
hoped to see the album released in 2014.
2014–present: Scorpion, Hysteria
In January 2014, Forbes reported that McPhee again made their list
of the 10 Top-Earning American Idols (she was tied with Jennifer
Hudson at #10), this time for 2013, earning $1 million (pre-tax
estimates before subtracting manager and agent fees) for music and
acting endeavours for the period May 2012 to May 2013.
In November and December 2013, McPhee filmed a Hallmark Hall of Fame
movie for ABC in Vancouver, Canada, called In My Dreams. Directed by
Kenny Leon, it stars McPhee and Mike Vogel as two people searching
for love and meeting in their dreams. The movie was broadcast on
April 20, 2014.
On March 17, 2014, it was announced that McPhee would star as the
female lead Paige in the CBS drama pilot Scorpion. A TV production
website indicated filming would start that same day and McPhee
posted a picture on her Instagram account on March 18 of her in an
outfit and indicated that she was currently filming the pilot. CBS
picked up the show on May 9, 2014 and it was scheduled to premiere
on September 22.
McPhee guest-starred with fellow Smash actor Megan Hilty on the
Wesley Taylor web series It Could Be Worse. McPhee and Hilty filmed
the roles in January 2014 and the episode premiered with the second
season on Hulu in July 2014.
McPhee said in interviews for Scorpion, including one to the L.A.
Times in September 2014, that her fourth album had been put on hold
due to Scorpion being picked up and that there would be some
realigning as far as where the music fits.
CBS debuted Scorpion on September 22, 2014 as part of the 2014-15
Fall season. The pilot received generally mixed reviews from
critics. On Metacritic, it received a score of 48/100 from 19
critics, indicating mixed or average reviews. The pilot's ratings
earned 13.83 million viewers and a 3.2 in the 18-49 demo. McPhee
covered the Frankie Valli song "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" in the
episode "Risky Business".
On November 5, 2014, McPhee was a presenter for the 2015 People's
Choice Awards nominations announcement.
McPhee performed on CBS' 16th annual A Home For the Holidays
adoption special that was broadcast on December 19, 2014. This was
her second appearance on the annual special.
On January 7, 2015, McPhee was a presenter at the 2015 People's
Choice Awards, where she introduced a performance of Lady
On January 12, 2015, Scorpion was renewed for a second season.
On January 18, McPhee sang the national anthem before the NFC
Championship Game in Seattle. On January 26, she co-hosted with
sports analyst Boomer Esiason the 2015 Greatest Super Bowl
Commercials special on CBS. On February 8, McPhee was a presenter at
the 2015 Grammy Awards on CBS, where she introduced a performance of
Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga.
On April 6, 2015, actor Ari Stidam, one of the cast members on
Scorpion, announced in an Ask Me Anything session on reddit that he
and McPhee had recorded a duet called "Just Us" for his upcoming EP,
indicating a summer timeframe for the release.
On April 9, 2015, McPhee posted a photo on instagram, teasing about
the upcoming music video of the first single off her fourth album.
"Lick My Lips", written by Florence and the Machine member Isabella
Summers, was released on May 26. The tracklist of Hysteria has been
revealed with one song written by Ryan Tedder and another song
written by Sia Furler. On August 14, "Stranger than Fiction," a song
co-written by Ryan Tedder and McPhee, was released. On August 28,
"Love Strikes," was released on iTunes. Hysteria, McPhee's fourth
studio album was released as scheduled on September 18, 2015.
On December 6, Katharine performed "You Make Me Feel So Young" and
with John Legend on "You and Me (We Wanted It All)" on the Sinatra
100: An All-Star Grammy Concert.
On February 12, 2016, Katharine announced she would be returning to
perform on the final season of American Idol at the Delta Pre-Grammy
event. The performance is scheduled to take place on 24 March 2016.
On February 2, 2008, the then 23-year-old McPhee married 42-year-old
Nick Cokas at Beverly Hills Presbyterian Church. On May 22, 2014,
McPhee's representative announced that McPhee had filed for divorce
from Cokas, after "having been separated for the past year." News of
their split came seven months after Katharine was photographed
kissing her married Smash director, Michael Morris. Her divorce with
Nick Cokas was finalized on February 8, 2016.