Christina Hendricks | Interview
Christina Hendricks's response to all the love? A great big bear hug.
Christina Hendricks has spent the morning and afternoon on the set of AMC’s Mad Men, whose fourth season premieres Sunday 25; after our chat, she and a designer will discuss the dress she might wear at the Emmy Awards on August 29. It’s fitting that on this day the radiant redhead, who calls from her L.A. home, tends to both the work and the look: That dichotomy applies equally to her fascinating character, regal office manager Joan Holloway.
Mad Men creator Matt Weiner is known for being historically exacting. How’s that affected your understanding of Joan?
When I read a script, I jump immediately into: Where was a woman’s place at this time? And what was expected and what was accepted? It wasn’t that long ago, so we have a lot of people to reference.
Who do you reference?
I love hearing my grandmother’s stories of being a wife at that time. She’ll watch the show and go, “I remember this.” She had a drink ready for my grandfather when he’d get home at the end of the day. She never once took out the trash in her whole life because my grandfather didn’t want her touching garbage.
When people talk about the show’s gender dynamics, it’s often as a thing of the past. Do you see any similarities between then and now?
Oh, goodness, yeah. I’m constantly surprised that people have decided it’s so completely different: “Thank God that doesn’t happen anymore!” A lot of things are still a little primal between men and women.
What things come to mind?
The sexualization and objectification of women. I hear men talk about women like that in the workplace all the time still, and there’s still that idea that a powerful man is a successful man and a powerful woman is a bitch.
Joan knows how she makes men feel, and she uses that knowledge. How do you compare your relationship with men to Joan’s?
I’m far less aware of my physicality and my manipulation of physicality than Joan is. I was recently having a conversation with a girlfriend who said, “Now that I’m in a serious relationship, I don’t hug people in a certain way. I hold my body back.” I thought, Wow, I wonder how I hug people; I think I just give people great big bear hugs. I don’t think I’m as conscious [as Joan] of what I’m doing with my feminine wiles. [Laughs]
With all the attention your looks get—Esquire’s sexiest woman alive, New York Magazine talking about how everyone else talks about how you look—do you feel you share Joan’s struggle a bit, the struggle of being judged on your beauty rather than your talent?
Uh, gosh, people have talked about my figure a lot. They’ve been incredibly wonderful and gracious and complimentary, but I happen to be on this amazing show that really does highlight everyone’s talents. I’ve gotten a lot of compliments for my ability as an actress also.
As the Emmy nomination testifies.
Oh, yeah, that felt good! [Laughs]
So you don’t feel there’s been a misplaced emphasis?
That happens in Hollywood. When a show is popular, people look into every aspect of it and they get excited, and this highlight on the fashion in the show and the silhouettes of the women, it has brought attention to my figure and all the women and the undergarments and the clothes.
You’re very humble about it.
[Laughs] Well, it’s all so fleeting, and it can change on a dime. I just feel so darn lucky right now. What else can you be?
You modeled internationally for years before acting. How was that?
Because I didn’t go to college, it felt like an education to me, experiencing all these different cultures and observing all these different people. I truly loved it, and I was good at it because it was freeze-frame acting in a way: You get dressed up in these wild getups and you become that person.
You said a similar thing about Joan: When you first put on her clothes, you suddenly understood her. What clothes express you?
I like to mix it up ’cause I’m a little crazy, so there’s all sorts of me’s inside. I’m a romantic and a girlie girl, and I’m drawn to feminine lace and bows and [Laughs] all things girlie.
If you could bring back one aspect of the culture and times that Mad Men depicts, what would it be?
I do believe 2010 is a better place to be, so I would choose little aesthetic things: men wearing hats and the respect and formality used when putting yourself together. Our fashion has gotten so sloppy. If aliens came down, they’d be, like, Everyone on Earth is homeless! [Laughs] We wear pants falling off our butts and our underwear’s hanging out, and this is fashion. Joan would be appalled.
The fourth season of AMC’s Mad Men premieres Sunday 25 at 9pm.