In the box-office champ Flightplan, Jodie Foster plays a woman whose daughter goes missing in the midst of a transatlantic flight. Or does she? The rookie flight attendant played by Erika Christensen is a touch more sympathetic to Foster's far-out claim than others on the airline crew. TVGuide.com spoke with the actress about the career plan she has navigated since earning kudos for her role as Michael Douglas' strung-out kid in 2000's Traffic.
TVGuide.com: I just have to say, not many flight attendants look like Erika Christensen.
Erika Christensen: Flight attendants don't look like me? Thank you... I guess? But yeah, at one point some of us on the cast were going, "We are a really young crew, aren't we?" [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: Do you harbor a great regard for flight attendants as a result of your prep for the film?
Christensen: Yes, I think they're actually hugely underestimated.... My grandmother was a stewardess — back when they were called stewardesses — and she just loved to travel, she was a real people-person. So on the one hand, there's this sense of adventure and fun and glamour in the people who choose to do that kind of job....
TVGuide.com: But since 9/11, the demands on them have changed.
Christensen: Yes. One little piece of evidence regarding the huge responsibility of their job is that the manual that has all the security procedures in it is like 5 inches thick. I found it awesome to realize the magnitude of their job. I also spoke to some flight attendants as soon as I got involved with the project, and they were telling me, "Yeah, I think we're kind of underappreciated, because we're like 10 jobs in one. We're not waitresses — we're security guards and nurses and all of these other things rolled into one."
TVGuide.com: I wonder if your words here will get you a pat on the back — or, better yet, an extra fresh-baked cookie — the next time you fly.
Christensen: [Laughs] I hope so!
TVGuide.com: You've seem to enjoy edgy and interesting roles — a heroin addict in Traffic, an obsessed high schooler in Swimfan, a teen involved with a man twice her age in The Upside of Anger. Is Jodie Foster an idol of sorts for you?
Christensen: Absolutely. I think probably the biggest factor in my doing Flightplan was wanting to work with her. She certainly has so many things that I admire about her, one of which being that she started acting so young. I would love to have a career like hers, where she diversified and produced and directed and always finds roles that are interesting to her and that are strong [women]. Obviously she's very intelligent, but there's another quality as well that to me seems to come through — a kind of nobility or something that demands you respect her no matter what she's doing. You want to watch her.
TVGuide.com: Was it tricky choosing follow-ups to Traffic, for which you received so much acclaim?
Christensen: Yeah, I was talking to [Traffic director] Steven Soderbergh about that and he said, "Well, you do have to eat" — which is funny because it's true, but at the same time it's acknowledging just how good Traffic was. But in choosing my projects I look for something that I personally feel like I can put myself behind, where there is something about the content that makes me proud.
TVGuide.com: Have you found Swimfan to be a bit of a cult hit?
Christensen: Absolutely. It definitely [appealed to] a lot of teens and people in their early twenties. And strangely enough, you would think guys would say, "This is the girl from hell," but they really seemed to like her!
TVGuide.com: Have you ever found one of your film shoots to be surprisingly fun?
Christensen: Honestly, I have always had such fun working. But every once in a while I am surprised by specific people and how much fun they are. Michael Douglas has a kind of insouciance about him, and Jodie Foster definitely has a good sense of humor. And Peter Sarsgaard in Flightplan, he's such an incredible actor I kind of figured he would be like a brooding actor. But he is so silly. It was awesome.
TVGuide.com: Which of your films do you feel didn't get a fair shake?
Christensen: There certainly is still hope for The Upside of Anger. I was really, really proud of that, and I think its performances merit consideration come the end of the year. However it happens, Kevin [Costner] and Joan [Allen] should be remembered, because they were amazing to me.
TVGuide.com: What's the status of A Hole in the Earth, in which your parents are William H. Macy and Annette Bening?
Christensen: It actually has never been financed, so that's a dream waiting to happen. It has William Macy and Annette Bening, a wonderful script, great characters for all three of us.... Someone out there, if you have a few million dollars and you want to make a few more, give us your money and we'll make a great movie!
TVGuide.com: I'd totally help out, but my Visa is maxed. Lastly, you've done some TV in the past; do you ever get pitched juicy guest-star spots?
Christensen: I do, sometimes. I've just recently been considering doing some, because there is some really good material on TV, but really, films are my passion, my dream, my joy — boy, that sounds trite, but it's really true. So I think that's certainly going to remain my mainstay.