Did anyone think it would end differently?

By the season finale, Katharine McPhee’s character Karen Cartwright landed the lead as Marilyn Monroe in “Bombshell” as it made its way to Broadway. The journey, however, was never smooth.

That’s similar to McPhee’s path as well. She rose to instant fame in 2006 as the runner-up on “American Idol” but never found the right part after that. But then “Smash” came along and McPhee knew she had to be part of it.

“I was like, ‘I want in! Will they see me?’ My first thought always is, ‘Do I even have a shot to be seen for it?’ ” says McPhee.

Her determination paid off, and within a week of auditioning, she won the role and was ready to dive into primetime television as a series regular.

“I love the sense of drive that she has for the business and that Karen’s the one person who can keep her integrity through everything,” McPhee says. “I think she could be a little bit more aggressive, but that’s what’s beautiful about her: She’s always trying to do the right thing.”

What Karen may be lacking in professional ferocity, McPhee makes up for in her spare time. In the middle of recording an album, she certainly isn’t resting on her accomplishments.

“I always relate to that struggle of trying to get people to give you an opportunity,” she says. “I’m just trying to position myself so that I can have the best opportunities for myself, to do what I love to do.”