Broadway backstabbing
Karen (Katharine McPhee) and Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty) face off in Smash. Picture: Supplied.

Broadway star turned small screen siren Megan Hilty is doing her best to prove Rod Stewart's claim that blondes have more fun. The affable singer/ dancer/actress is having the time of her life playing ruthless chorus girl Ivy Lynn on Emmy-nominated US musical drama Smash.

"Yeah, a couple more people want to talk to me on the street compared to a year ago," she says, giggling down the line from the set of the show in central Manhattan, where she is filming the second season.

"People have no problem coming right up to me and telling me exactly what they think of me and exactly what they think about my character.

"I have to remind people sometimes that I'm an actor and I'm not actually Ivy Lynn."

Ivy is an ensemble performer who has spent years pursuing stardom, only to be bumped back into the chorus again and again, until she finds herself in contention for the lead in a musical about the most famous blonde of all - Marilyn Monroe.

"I love her because there are so many different levels to her," Hilty says of Ivy.

"Just when you think you can label her as one thing she'll show you a completely different side. She's a tough cookie but she's also extremely vulnerable and has a very sensitive side too."

Ivy's ongoing antagonist is the sugary Karen Cartwright (2006 American Idol runner-up Katharine McPhee), a small-town girl trying to make it big on Broadway who is also up for the part of Marilyn. In spite of their on-screen hair pulling, in reality the women are firm friends.

"We've actually become really close which is really great," Hilty says. "When the cameras go off we're immediately goofing around or if we're on location, we sneak off and go shopping."

For every sequin on Smash it seems like there is a superstar cast member to go with it. Hilty's onscreen mum is played by seven- time Tony Award nominated Bernadette Peters, while former Will & Grace star Debra Messing plays one half of the hit-making Broadway writing team behind the Marilyn musical.

The inimitable Anjelica Houston takes on her first TV series regular role as legendary producer Eileen Rand. Then there's the glittering guest stars such as Nick Jonas, Uma Thurman and Meryl Streep's daughter Grace Gummer.

But Smash's biggest star of all is omnipresent executive producer Steven Spielberg. "He comes to visit on the set all the time and he calls us and gives us lovely gifts and notes of encouragement," Hilty gushes.

"He's very much involved, he watches everything. When we were doing the pilot he had a live feed because he couldn't be there all the time obviously because he's got a lot on his plate but he would actually give the director analysis while we were working from wherever he was."

Smash, which screened on Foxtel in Australia earlier this year, has been a huge hit in the US with viewers tuning in each week to get their dose of razzle-dazzle and backstage backstabbing.

As Glee did in 2009, Smash has reinvigorated viewers' love for musical theatre.

"I'm so proud to be a part of something that gets people excited about going to the theatre again. That's the greatest compliment ,I think," says Hilty, who made her Broadway debut as Glinda in Wicked in 2004.

While Hilty adamantly states that she enjoys working in television and on the stage equally, there's no denying her first love was the theatre.

And according to the accomplished performer, Smash is indicative of show business "for the most part".

"There are so many people attached to this show that come from that world that you can't help but keep it authentic on some level," she explains.

"That said, we're not a reality show so we are going to embellish things to keep things entertaining.

"There's a scene where Ivy leaves a Broadway show in her costume, gets drunk and sings in the middle of Times Square. In no way would anyone be able to leave any theatre in any kind of costume but the scene would have been boring if I was just in a sweater.

"Showbiz is just like any other business; we're just full of a little more drama."

Smash airs tomorrow at 9.30pm on Seven/GWN7

The West Australian

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