Ticket? Check. Baggage? Check. Girdle? Check. The plane is now ready for lift-off.
On ABC's new period drama Pan Am, the elite ranks of Pan Am stewardesses need to pass daily weigh-ins and girdle checks before they are allowed to fly. On the flip side: They are worldly, empowered women who producers would like us to view as a new breed of feminists.
"It was part of the irony of the profession," creator Jack Orman told reporters at ABC's fall previews Sunday. "It was a coveted position at the time for young women. They needed to be college-educated and speak several languages. They were really pioneers. The fact that they had to be subjected to girdle checks and weigh-ins adds a certain realism, but also a dramatic push."
"In reality, the job allowed the women to have a freedom they weren't given in a regular role in life at that time," added Christina Ricci, who plays stewardess Maggie. "These stewardesses were looked at as these glamorous symbols. It's something that we have so much pride in welcoming these passengers on the plane and they have so much pride in traveling."
To further add to the realism of the era, the show replaced the previously cast Jonah Lotan, 37, with 32-year-old Mike Vogel to play the young and charismatic pilot Dean. "We're going for this idea of Camelot at the time," explained Orman. "Most of the pilots at the time were 45 years old and... Dean jumped the line; he got promoted early. He's one of the new hires that are going to take the airline into the next decade."
The very white show will eventually address the issue of race, once the show's timeline catches up to the point when ethnic diversity on planes was historically accurate. "What we want to do is make it an event as opposed to it's just there," said director and executive producer Thomas Schlamme. "This is still a little early, but in '64 -'65, the first African-American stewardesses were hired, and so we're going to bring that down and it will be part of the story line later."
Despite the show's efforts to maintain realism, the tone will remain lighthearted and fun. "Our show is sweeping and epic and wish-fulfilling," said Orman. Vogel added, "It's escapism at its best."
Pan Am will premiere on Sunday, Sept. 25 at 10/9c on ABC.