Christina Hendricks is best known for playing Joan Holloway in AMC’s Mad Men, a role that earned her six Emmy Award nominations. However, since the end of the period drama in 2015, the Knoxville, Tennessee-born actor has been keen to spread her wings, and her latest role is as one of the leads in female-driven heist comedy Good Girls. In the NBC show, which was created by The Family’s Jenna Bans, she plays Beth Boland, a suburban housewife, who, along with her sister and best friend, played by Mae Whitman and Retta respectively, finds herself mixed up with gangsters after a raid on a local supermarket.
What attracted you to the role of Beth Boland?
I was originally attracted to the idea of comedy and drama genres bleeding together, and getting to expand what I get to do. I generally work in drama, and I liked the idea that this was an edgy, funny show on a network that understood that things were changing, and the old formula’s not working anymore. NBC wanted to do something different. I had always felt on Mad Men that we had pioneered that wave of changing AMC and cable to a certain extent, and I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if we could change network television too? I was excited about working with these other women, and exploring a show with three great friends who love each other, and how much fun that would be.
What was it about network television that needed to change?
What audiences seem to like, and what you see at awards shows, are cable shows, and it’s because there’s more artistic freedom, and they’re intelligent, and they’re following their leaders and creators. There’s been so much fear about what the masses want on network television that it’s always glossing things over and making them softer, and making sure that everyone’s happy all at once, and that’s not what people want. They’re finally starting to realize that.
Does that pose a challenge as an actor?
It doesn’t pose a different challenge for me, but there are a lot of conversations with our creator and co-stars, and even with the network, to make sure that we don’t slip off this track that we’re on, and to make sure that we keep the vision and not wander off, especially with a show that is genre-bending. Because it’s on a network, we’re constantly checking in to make sure we’ve got the tone we want—it’s really just about having a heightened awareness. It’s challenging and fun, and really rewarding, and I know Mae and Retta feel the same way.
What’s it like to work with Mae and Retta?
I adore them. We all have each other’s backs, and are incredibly supportive and collaborative. If one person feels passionately, we have each other’s backs. We feel like we’re a team and we have the same goal.
Do you feel that it’s a good time to have a show about three women kicking ass?
I think it’s always been a really good time, personally, but people are definitely responding to it right now. There’s a lot of conversations, and a lot of things going on in our environment, politically and socially, that this speaks to. It was written before any of this Time’s Up movement started, and it just happens to be even more relevant right now. It was written before, because it’s a show that’s needed to be written and exist either way.
Was it true that there was a real-life robbery taking place during filming?
I wasn’t on set, but during the hold-up scene in the pilot, apparently next door someone was trying to hold up the store, so everyone had to take a break and let the cops deal with that. It was just a very surreal situation. It was actually quite brilliant; pop up on a movie set and see if you can get away with something.
Had you ever worked with Jenna Bans before?
I had never met Jenna before, but we spent hours on the phone over the course of a month talking through ideas, and I got a sense of who she was, and how much she believed in her show and vision, and I began to trust her. I realized she was listening to me, she wanted to hear what we had to say. It feels like she values our opinions, and knows that we’re on set living it every day, so we know how it feels and how things may look one way on paper, but when you start interpreting them, things can change.
Has working with the likes of Bans and Matthew Weiner made you want to produce or direct?
I’ve thought about producing for a while and I’d love to do that. This year was the first year that I thought I might like to direct. I was on set all day, every day, which was the first time in my whole career that I’ve done that for such a long period of time. I got a much closer relationship with the crew than I’ve ever had, and even greater understanding of the mechanics of how everything was working. I got pretty excited about problem solving and storytelling, and I may pursue shadowing some directors this year and see if it’s for me.
You’ve starred in a number of feature films recently. Does that flex a different muscle than TV?
I approach film and TV in the same way. In television you get to create a character over time, and you don’t know the end of a story, which is exciting, whereas in a film you know the beginning, middle and end, and you know the answers already. The way we shoot is the same way, and the way I approach the material is the same; you just have to say goodbye to your friends quicker on a movie set.
You recently starred in Tin Star, a UK drama series. How was that experience?
I’m in the middle of filming Season 2 of Tin Star right now. The opportunity to work with Tim Roth, who I adore, was a great draw, and it was a different kind of project with a different kind of tone. I’ve been up in Calgary, freezing my ass off climbing around in waist-deep snow for the past few months. It’s been a joy and also brutal.
Given that it’s been picked up for a second season, do you believe that Good Girls can run for a number of years?
That’s always the hope, but you can never roll the dice or put money on it. You have no idea how people are going to respond; you can just hope you’re making the best show you can. But I would love to play Beth for a while, and I love to work with all of these people, and I think there’s so much that can be done with these characters, and I think it can really go anywhere. It’s outrageous, they can succeed or fail at this at any moment, and they’re still trying to fly under the radar, but their lives are getting deeper. I think it’s going to be super exciting.
Have you learned anything about becoming a crime boss?
Who says I haven’t already started as a criminal mastermind?