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Characters Introduced in Season 1
Julia Houston (Debra Messing)
Book writer and lyricist of the creative team, Julia is a talented and successful writer whose personal and professional lives often clash, sometimes with disastrous results.
Derek Wills (Jack Davenport)
"No matter what happens next don't ever doubt you are a star."
The no-holds-barred director and choreographer with brilliant visions but a serious disregard for others. Has a nasty past with Tom and puts his work above all else.
- The Alcoholic: Often turns to drinking when having problems. All he does for several days just before the Tony awards is sleep and drink.
- Badass Longcoat: Derek has quite a few. They resemble like those of another famous Brit.
- Casting Couch: Sleeps with two of his three Marilyns, and comes thisclose to the third, as well as several others (which eventually comes back to bite him in a big way). He genuinely does fall in love with Ivy, though.
- Deadpan Snarker: Has a dry comeback for every occasion, particularly directed at Tom and/or Jimmy:
Jimmy: Lea Michele? Lea Michele?
Derek: If you say it one more time, she magically appears!
- Handsome Lech: More than happy to use his rakish good looks to bed a pretty chorus girl or leading lady.
- Insufferable Genius: Derek is an in-demand director and choreographer and knows it.
- Jerkass: Derek appears to have a reputation for being talented, but a massive jerk:
Tom: HE IS A TERRIBLE HUMAN BEING!
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: YMMV, but Derek's "jerk" behavior is just managing show business. When he's speaking to Ivy as a human being (as opposed to a director), he's fairly tenderhearted and supportive. He's not a bad or uncaring person. He drives people hard (and/or manipulates them) to create the best art he can.
- Love Confession: Acknowledges his love for Ivy at no smaller event than the Tonys.
- Love Triangle: Attracted to both Ivy and Karen, but ends up in a full-blown romantic relationship with Ivy while settling into a friendlier muse-director relationship with Karen.
- Mean Brit: A harsh perfectionist to the point of outright cruelty towards his cast, and sometimes even his fellow creative team members.
- Only Sane Man: Tends to think he is, given he is less emotional than his colleagues, but is a bit of a mad genius in his own way.
- Nepotism: Accepts the idea that a critic once praised him because said critic was a longtime family friend. Tom reveals that in fact the critic was sleeping with Derek's father.
- Perma Stubble: Generally well-kept, but grows into a full-on Beard of Sorrow during his pre-Tonys disaster.
Karen Cartwright (Katherine McPhee)
- Audience Surrogate: A fairly generic, nice character who serves as the audience's window into the theater world.
- Country Mouse: The more experienced cast members tease her about being this, although technically she's more like a "Midwest suburban mouse".
- The Ingenue: Sweet, naive, inexperienced, yet talented.
- In-Series Nickname: Her castmates call her "Iowa," at first as a derogatory shot at her inexperience and Midwestern upbringing, later as an Affectionate Nickname.
- The Muse: Karen claims to be this for Derek in the Season 2 series premiere, following several scenes in Season 1 in which he hallucinates her as Marilyn.
- Na´ve Newcomer: A Midwesterner with essentially no showbiz experience, she finds herself in way over her head and has no idea how to navigate the professional and sexual politics of the theater world.
Tom Levitt (Christian Borle)
Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty)
- Ambition Is Evil: Initially presented as an antagonist for the simple fact that her ambitious career goals put her opposite Karen.
- Alpha Bitch: Ivy behaves like this towards Karen by being rude to her or passive aggressively trying to get her thrown out of the workshop. She gets a little better.
- Blondes Are Evil: The show quite obviously pushes Karen as 'good' and Ivy as 'bad.'
- Depending on the Writer: Gets hit with this hard in Season 1. Depending on the episode, Ivy is portrayed as either a pathetic victim, a vengeful diva, or a genuinely hard-working actress. Season 2, fortunately, evens her out.
- Deuteragonist: Karen is the point-of-view character, but the story is driven almost equally by Ivy's arcs.
- Inadequate Inheritor: Struggles with feeling unworthy to follow in the footsteps of her famous, acclaimed mother.
- Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: Invoked and subverted. When Ivy becomes pregnant, Sam asks if the father could be anyone but Derek. She immediately answers in the negative.
- Mommy Issues: Her mother was (and still is) a huge Broadway star who enjoys the spotlight and can often be insensitive, leaving Ivy with no small amount of confidence issues.
- Benevolent Boss: Despite being technically in charge and very no-nonsense, Eileen treats her co-workers and employees with respect.
- Deadpan Snarker: Along with the rest of the Bombshell team, has a very dry sense of humor.
- Only Sane Man: As the non-creative partner, tends to be the most levelheaded and business-minded
- Team Mom: Spends a fair amount of time wrangling the rest of the creative team and trying to work out their differences.
Sam Strickland (Leslie Odom Jr.)
- Black Best Friend: To Ivy
- Straight Gay: He doesn't want to have to wear a label, but his massive love for sports and lack of any stereotypical gay mannerisms make Michael Swift comment that, if he wants to get a date with anybody, he might literally have to.
- Twofer Token Minority: Subverted, as he's both gay and black but he's also a big sports fan and a regular churchgoer, two traits not often found among actors/dancers. The actor who plays him downplays his sexuality in interviews, saying it shouldn't matter.
- Jerk Ass: Ellis, what with his constant squabbling with Julia and poisoning Rebecca Duval in an attempt to put Ivy in the role of Marilyn.
- Professional Butt-Kisser: Towards Tom, Derek, and Eileen.
- Put on a Bus: Following extremely negative fan reaction, was fired at the end of Season 1 and completely written out for Season 2.
- The Scrappy: Ellis, for Julia in-universe (And for many fans as well)
Frank Houston (Brian D'arcy James)
Michael Swift (Will Chase)
John Goodwin (Neal Bledsoe)
- Hello, Attorney!: Tom is unenthusiastic about going out with the lawyer his mother set him up when. Once he sees him? "Yay, Mom."
- Satellite Love Interest: John hangs around for a few episodes, helps Leo out with his legal issues, and gets dragged along to a few events before dumping Tom over his obvious attraction to Sam. That's about it.
Leigh Conroy (Bernadette Peters)
- Parental Neglect: Though not intentionally cruel, her ambition, sharpness, and lack of filter made her a less-than-ideal mother to an insecure young Ivy.
- Real-Life Relative: In-Universe, as the Bombshell team brings on Leigh to play Marilyn's mother, playing on the publicity of having a real mother and daughter playing Gladys and Marilyn.
- Stage Mom: Literally, too.
Rebecca Duvall (Uma Thurman)
Characters Introduced in Season 2
Jimmy Collins (Jeremy Jordan)
Kyle Bishop (Andy Mientus)
- Adorkable: Particularly in his awkward early attempts at flirting and whenever he meets someone famous.
- Ascended Fanboy: Has loved the theater his whole life and now finds himself right in the middle of it all.
- The Knights Who Say Squee: Even once Hit List becomes a realized production, he consistently fanboys over his theatrical idols.
- Morality Pet: Does all he can to keep Jimmy in line.
- Your Cheating Heart: With his celebrity crush, Tom Levitt.
Ana Vargas (Krysta Rodriguez)
Scott Nichols (Jesse L. Martin)
Blake (Daniel Abeles)
- Satellite Love Interest: All we ever really know about him is that he's a lighting designer, he can stand up to Derek, and he really likes Kyle.
Patrick Dillon (Luke Macfarlane)
- Transparent Closet: Apparently everyone knows he's gay, even though he insists otherwise. Eileen even comments that he's the reason they invented the term "glass closet."