Christina Hendricks Christina Hendricks

Sterling Cooper's sexiest office manager may be known for her sultry looks, fetching style and honey-dipped confidence, but she's had some travails in recent weeks that have taken her character in new directions.

As Joan treaded on new ground, her real-life alter-ego, Christina Hendricks, also discovered new aspects of her Mad Men character. "I was surprised this year that she was challenged, with the character Jane coming in and taking over her role a little bit," she told "I think Joan felt very threatened, and that was a side we hadn't seen of her, so I thought that was an interesting storyline."

Jane, who arrived on the scene mid-season as Don's new secretary, disrupted not only Joan's professional life, but also her personal life, when Joan's former lover (Roger Sterling, played by John Slattery) takes more than just casual notice of the new girl. When asked how Joan will handle the recent revelation of the affair, Hendricks got a mischievous look in her eye. "Oh, gosh…" she began."It's going to be big."

As for what may come beyond Joan's current dramas, Hendricks hasn't yet been privy to plans for her character next season (the series just got a third-season pickup). But she did profess her faith in Matt Weiner, who created and exec produces the show. "[He's] so amazing in his writing," she said. "I never know where his stories are going to go, what's going to happen. I just love learning a little bit about her, bit by bit, and it's always a twist that I would never have thought of."

Apart from the storyline specifics, the actress does have a strong sense of how Joan and her fellow female Mad Men characters reflect the way women are treated in the workplace — not 40+ years ago, but right now. "I'm surprised that people think it's changed so much, to be quite honest," she reflected. "I'm sure, as women, every single one of your friends has a story that's not OK. And it's changing slowly."

"But there's still a lot of bulls--t that goes on," she laughed, "for lack of a better word."

Hendricks, who spoke with us before presenting an award to Mad Men's costume designer at Hollywood Life's 5th Annual Hollywood Style Awards, is no stranger to the perils of her own business, but explained that her own experience in Tinseltown's modern era has been trauma-free. "I was a model before, and you would think that there would be a lot of opportunity for situations where you felt taken advantage of, but I've never had anything," she said, adding, "I've had pretty good experiences in Hollywood. They don't discriminate between men and women about who gets treated poorly in this town! Everyone gets it."

Mad Men's Season 2 finale airs October 26 on AMC (10 pm/ET).