Don't let Hilary Duff's good-girl image fool you — she can also act like a real bitch. Duff got her crack at playing a blond brat during a guest spot on "Joan of Arcadia," which she said was a nice break from her regular gig as America's sweetheart.
"It's good to be back on TV," Duff said, "and one reason I'm really excited about the part is that I don't relate to it. That's fun. I get to play someone completely different to what I live with every day."
In an episode called "The Rise & Fall of Joan Girardi," airing at 8 p.m. Friday (January 28) on CBS, Duff guests as Dylan Samuels, a catty classmate of Joan's at Arcadia High. (Click for photos of Hilary on the set of the show.) She's gal pals with the plastic popular girls and, following their cue, insults Joan and "accidentally" knocks over her stuff for kicks. That is, until Joan (played by Amber Tamblyn) saves her from the path of a speeding SUV, at which point Duff's character decides to ditch her crowd for Joan's gang. She follows Joan around, buys her a watch as a gift, confides in her about her mother and even tries to dress like her. It would seem very "Single White Female," except that Dylan switches just as easily back to her earlier persona.
"There's a metaphor at the end, when they're looking at desserts, and Dylan is like, 'I have no idea what I want. I have no idea what I like,' " Tamblyn said.
"Joan is really a girl who doesn't change to fit in with other people, and my character unfortunately isn't like that at all," Duff said. "She's very uncomfortable, and she feels very embarrassed about the life she has at home. She's always acting like somebody else, she goes where the wind blows. So if this group is nice to her this day, that's who she is, mean or nice. And she tries to become Joan, because she's so used to doing that with everyone else. But she learns in the end that she's going to get caught in all the lies and she should just learn who she is and be that person."
Duff said she wanted to be on the show because she's a big fan, but she didn't get a chance until sister Haylie was offered a three-episode stint first (those episodes air in February). "I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I love 'Joan'!' " Duff said, "and then they were like, 'Do you want to do one too?' I just happen to be beating her to the first one [to air]."
This won't be the first time the Duff sisters have been on the same TV program, albeit separately — they guest-starred on "Chicago Hope" in February and March of 2000, only that time Haylie's episode beat Hilary's to the punch. They'll also star together in the upcoming film "Material Girls," in which Hilary will put her "Joan of Arcadia" experience to good use to play another teen queen type, this time an heiress (see "Duff Sisters To Channel The Hiltons, And Possibly Madonna, For 'Material Girls' ").
In the meantime, she's just happy getting to have a small break from the madness of juggling her music career around film shoots.
"I filmed 'The Perfect Man' in Canada for four months, then went right on tour, then went to Japan and Australia and Hawaii, and then had to run back to do radio shows," she said. "This was nice to just bounce in here and there and switch up the schedule a bit, to come in to work every day and have that be life for a little while. But the biggest thing I've learned is not to get caught up in that or pay attention to the drama, not believe in my own success, not take myself too seriously. If I take it day by day, then every day is a surprise. I wake up and I can't believe this is my job and I get to do this."
For a full-length feature on Hilary Duff, check out "Hilary Duff: The Nicest Brat."