Christina Hendricks, <EM>Mad Men</EM> Christina Hendricks, Mad Men

Talk about va-va-va-voom. Joanie, Mad Men's (Thursdays, 10 pm/ET on AMC) frisky, flame-haired office manager, is not your average secretary: She's so hot, in fact, that the company president and her roommate are after her. But could there be some flaws behind that flawless lip liner? chatted up her portrayer, Christina Hendricks, to find out about Joanie's secret life goal, her vast "rotation" of men, and how to tell when your dress is tight enough. So Joan is my favorite Mad woman — is she yours, too?
Christina Hendricks: [Laughs] I'm sure every girl in Mad Men says the same thing because all the roles are so great, but when I read [the script] I was like, "Ooh, this is the best girl part." And it's really different from any other character I've gotten to play. I usually play the sort of socially awkward, goofy best friend… the mousy, stumbling, mumbling character. So it's fun to play a woman who's so sure of herself, who walks around with incredible posture and her chin up. So the men around the office sure do like Joan. What do you think her appeal is?
Hendricks: I think one of the reasons is that she carries herself with so much confidence. I don't think they feel nervous around her or like they have to wonder what her intentions are. She's kind of saying it as it is, she doesn't hem and haw around them. And even her roommate hit on her! Do you think she was at all tempted by her roommate's offer?
[Laughs] I don't think so. I think it was a moment for Joan when she… you know, she does care about that friend. They've known each other for a long time, so I think that threw her for a loop. She had to stop and think, "How am I going to handle this?" She did treat it with respect, though.
Hendricks: With respect, yes, but she didn't give her [friend] the moment to be too tender. She didn't allow it to go any further; she sort of nipped it in the bud, without being mean. Were you at all surprised to learn about the level of sexism there was in the workplace at that time [in 1960]?
Hendricks: I'm kind of embarrassed to say that I didn't think about it much before I started working on Mad Men. That pool of women… they're surrounded by men's offices, and they're just jumping to and doing whatever they're told. I know we've come so far, but we sort of joke on Mad Men like, "How far have we really come, wink wink." But when you look at something like that, you realize there has been significant change for the better. For me it's the ogling and the open remarks in the office. You're so obviously on display, and what you look like matters more than anything else.
Hendricks: Yes, although being in the entertainment industry, where people are constantly being sort of crass [Laughs]… but even still the difference now is that if it were to happen, a lot of women would have the confidence to shoot it down, like, "Are you kidding me?" But you know, in 1960… like in the first episode, Peggy is in the elevator and these guys are saying these things all around her and she's almost cowering. It's like, you better have your safety kit in the bottom drawer of your desk because you might need it by the end of the day! But Joan doesn't cower. How do you think she feels about it? She seems to play the system to her best advantage.
Hendricks: Joan works it. You know, for research for the show I read Helen Gurley Brown. This was a woman who put out a very controversial book telling women how to work it in the workplace, how to be what she called "The It Girl" and how to get gifts from men. How to be treated a certain way… maybe a weekend away. And you could be several men's It Girl in the office. That's what Joan's doing, she's like, "How am I going to make my workplace the most pleasant? I would love a pearl necklace, I would love a beautiful bracelet, I would love to go away to the Hamptons this weekend." But I think Joan's end result is to fall in love and have a husband and be a housewife. I think she works the situation, but I think Joan's quite lonely. How do you think Joan really feels about Peggy's [Elisabeth Moss] approach, with her copywriting success?
I think she's utterly baffled. I don't think she even considers it success. She's confused, she's like, "Listen, listen, listen — you are not gonna get a husband that way!" Let's talk about her wardrobe — I think Joan is the best-dressed woman on television this season. What's it like walking around in those gorgeous clothes?
Hendricks: [Laughs] Wow! Well, Janie Bryant's our wardrobe designer and she's just unbelievable and so talented. I've never walked into a wardrobe fitting the first day and had everything fit me like a glove, and she'd never even met me before! We had the exact same ideas about what the character would wear. I love that Joan's body typifies the style of the time: She's very curvy and voluptuous.
Hendricks: You know, the clothes that she wears are actually quite conservative, but Janie just makes everything skin-tight! [Laughs] I'll try things on and be like, "This is a little tight," and she'll be like, "No, it's not!" Like if I can breathe, it's not tight enough. Some of those clothes I think could look quite dowdy — they're not the nicest length, some of them are a little boxy — but she just nips and tucks and sucks it all in. I don't think [the 1960s were the] most flattering time for women, but if you know how to work it, then it can be. Which Joanie knows how to do. [Laughs] So what's it like working with Matthew Weiner?
He's so enthusiastic, I've never been so proud and felt so lucky to be on a show. He's so encouraging to all of us; after each show he'll call me at home and be like, "You have to be happy with that, you're amazing." He makes you feel fantastic. And you can't wait to read the next script — I've never been on a show before where I'm like, "When's the next script? When's the next script?" because they're so great to read What other un-Mad projects do you have coming down the pipeline?
Hendricks: Right now I'm working on NBC's new show Life. I'm doing a recurring role on that, just finished up my second episode two days ago. Damien Lewis' father is marrying a significantly younger woman [and I'm playing her]. That adds some bumps and curves, so I'm trying to sort of fix their relationship. Will she be a sexpot like Joan, or is she more of the goofy best friend?
Hendricks: [Laughs] She's somewhere in between, actually. She's kind of like a grown-up cheerleader. She really just wants to fix everything and make everyone feel great. She's a pep-talker!

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