For the millions of Broadway babies - those who can recite lyrics from Rent and Les Mis in the same breath as songs by Britney Spears and Eminem - Smash is a TV dream come true. The show about a show - a fictional Marilyn Monroe musical called "Bombshell" - follows the entire cast and crew from conception to opening night, and deals with major drama both on and off stage. The main plot spotlights a doe-eyed newbie (Katharine McPhee) and her professional rival, a jaded theater veteran named Ivy Dickens (Megan Hilty), whose bitchy one-liners, slapstick comic moments, and show-stopping voice have made her an unlikely audience favorite. Before Smash, Hilty was best known for replacing Kristen Chenoweth in Wicked on Broadway. But we met the 30-year-old as she cruised into Sephora on a hot pink bicycle, ready to celebrate Hello Kitty's latest makeup collection.
Hello Kitty doesn't have a musical about her - probably because she doesn't have a mouth...
Yeah, that would be tough. But I always wanted to be in the musical Cats, and I always wanted to be the White Cat, who looks the most like Hello Kitty! And you know, she doesn't even sing, she just kind of hangs out in the back and dances.
You've got one of Sephora's Hello Kitty bows on. Maybe you could sneak that onstage.
I know, I'm sort of in love with it. I might just try and walk out of the store with it!
Have you ever walked out of the theater with a costume?
No, I haven't! I've taken all my shoes, but that's because legally I can - that's in the contract. So far, Glinda [from Wicked] had the best ones -really the most fantastic shoes, very sparkly. They got them from Barneys and they were really great. That might have been the first time I got to wear designer shoes onstage.
When you got the role of Ivy on Smash, it meant you also had to be Marilyn Monroe. What did you do to prepare?
I read everything I could get my hands on. All her biographies, and I watched a lot of her interviews on YouTube to watch her talk - not her characters, you know, just her - and to try to get a hold on her thought process. I wanted to get the essence of her, which isn't necessarily who she is in her movies.
A big plot point on Smash is who should get to play Marilyn on Broadway. Do you think your character Ivy is the best actress for the part?
Absolutely, I do! I am heading up Team Ivy! I'm just waiting for the t-shirts to come out. There will be more people wearing "Team Karen" [Katharine McPhee's character] but that's okay, that's all right, I'll be rocking a bedazzled "Team Ivy" shirt all over Times Square!
Is a show like Smash good for the Broadway community?
Oh yes. I love it. I wish I could have seen something like it when I was younger. I think it would have empowered me as a young performer a lot more into thinking, "Oh, I can actually do this as a career." At the same time, I think the show gives you a sense that it's not all glitz and glamour. We're not doing a reality show, but there are so many aspects that are pretty realistic - certainly the parts about all the hard work, and the days you spend in a rehearsal studio working on a show that may not even get onto a "real" stage.
What's the worst advice you've ever gotten?
Anything to do with caring what other people think about you.
What's on your iPod right now? Your answer can't be a show tune...
My Morning Jacket. They're awesome; I love them.
Uma Thurman's been guest-starring on Smash as a movie star who wants to play Marilyn. She has to sing quite a bit. Did you offer her any help?
No way! She didn't need any - she was fantastic at that role!