Katharine Hope McPhee was born on March 25, 1984 in Los Angeles, California. She is known for her leading role as Karen Cartwright on NBC's TV series Smash and as the runner-up on American Idol. She attended Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, graduating in 2002, and later majored in musical theatre at Boston Conservatory until leaving college to pursue a career as an actor.
After starring as Annie Oakley in the Cabrillo Music Theater production of Annie Get Your Gun in March 2005, her big break came after successfully auditioning for American Idol and becoming a participant in the series' fifth season on Fox, which aired in 2006. She eventually ended up as the runner-up behind Taylor Hicks.
As a recording artist, McPhee has released a total of five studio albums, beginning with her self-titled debut album in 2007, followed by Unbroken and Christmas Is the Time to Say I Love You in 2010, Hysteria in 2015, and I Fall in Love Too Easily in 2017.
She made her feature film debut in a cameo role in the movie musical Crazy in 2007 (which she filmed prior to her audition for American Idol), and following her rise to fame, she starred as Harmony in The House Bunny in 2008. From 2007 through 2010, she made guest apperances on television shows such as Lonelygirl15, Ugly Betty, CSI: NY, Tit for Tat, and Community before appearing in a string of films in 2011 including You May Not Kiss the Bride, Shark Night 3D, and Peace, Love & Misunderstanding.
For Broadway fans, her most memorable TV role was as Karen Cartwright in NBC's Broadway-centric musical series Smash, appearing in a total of 32 episodes from 2012 to 2013 and performing musical numbers such as "Let Me Be Your Star" and "Don't Forget Me." Since Smash, McPhee has played the role of Paige Dineen in CBS' TV series Scorpion, which first aired in 2014.
McPhee made her Broadway debut in the leading role of Jenna in Waitress at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre for a limited engagement from April 10 to June 17, 2018. She returned for a second shift at the diner from July 5 to August 19, 2018, and she had third and final shift, closing out the original Broadway production, from November 25, 2019 to January 5, 2020.