From executive producer/writer Jenna Bans (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal), the NBC series Good Girls, currently in its second season, follows three suburban moms – Beth Boland (Christina Hendricks), her sister Annie Marks (Mae Whitman) and best friend Ruby Hill (Retta) – as they continue to deal with and learn to navigate the consequences of their criminal behavior. With their behavior getting riskier and tensions in their families becoming heightened, they must do whatever it takes to keep the truth about their crimes from coming out.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actress Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) talked about why she was so intrigued with the Good Girls script, how she got over her doubts about signing on for a broadcast network TV series, the show’s tricky tone, what she enjoys about getting to explore the dynamic between this trio of women, the reckless choices that Beth is making, and whether her character could ever return to her normal life, at this point. She also talked about how cool it is to voice a character for Toy Story 4, joining a hugely popular animated film franchise, and who Gabby Gabby is, as well as her desire to produce and direct.
Collider: I love this show! These characters are just so much fun.
CHRISTINA HENDRICKS: Thank you! We’re having a blast.
What was it that originally attracted you to Good Girls and this character? What was it that made you want to play and explore who this woman is?
HENDRICKS: I was really intrigued with the script. The tone of it was really different from anything I had seen. It had me cracking up, and it also had really dramatic moments. As an actress, you’re always looking for something like that, that can challenge you or that you feel like you could contribute something to. So, I talked to Jenna Bans, our creator, for a really long time. I was really nervous about being on network. I was like, “You know, we have to maintain this tone. We have to keep this cool, interesting, quirky vibe. It’s gotta be dark. It’s gotta be weird.” She kept saying, “We promise, that’s what we wanna do.” So, I thought, “This could be an interesting, modern woman. Her life has been turned upside down. Wouldn’t that be fun to throw myself into?”
She’s definitely an awesome character. After you did the first season, and then found out about the decision that was made for Season 2 to be darker, bolder and much more complicated, what was your reaction to that? Were you ready to see how much further these characters could be pushed, or were you nervous about what viewers might think?
HENDRICKS: I wasn’t worried. It does get darker because that’s the natural progression of what’s happening to these people, but the comedy is still there, in every episode. To me, it’s just becoming more defined, as what the show is and was always meant to be. It’s just getting more refined.
This is a show about normal people in crazy situations, which obviously leads to moments of humor, but I wouldn’t necessarily describe the show as a comedy. Does finding that tone ever feel like a tricky balance, or does it feel like it comes very naturally from the scripts that you get?
HENDRICKS: It sometimes does feel a bit tricky, especially in Season 1, because it was new to us all and we really wanted to make sure that we got it right. Working in episodic, you have a different director, each week, so as we’re starting to understand it and nail it down, someone else might come along who doesn’t quite get it yet. So, it was really about communicating with each other, all the time, talking to Jenna, all the time, talking to the other actors, all the time, and really just making sure that we were like, “Let’s always play these moments, as real as can be.” The humor is there because, situationally, it’s insane. Now, we just have it in our system and we can feel it. So, as we went through Season 2, it just became easier.
The relationship between these three women is at the center of this show and it’s really the heart of this show. What do you most enjoy about getting to explore in the dynamic between them and seeing how that evolves, over the episodes?
HENDRICKS: They’re all very different. They’re three very different women, but they’ve got such history with one another. It’s fun to see how they all react differently, and how they would want to solve a problem, or when they feel like it’s time to back out, and yet they’re all in it together, no matter what. It’s fun that you get to see everyone stewing in their own pot, and what comes out of that. It’s fun for me, when I’m on set. Retta and Mae [Whitman] are such amazing actresses. They may read the script one way and do something that is so hilarious or so amazing, and I’m like, “God, I love working with you!” They’re just awesome.
I love watching the three of you guys together. As interesting as all of your characters are, individually, it’s so fun when you get to have scenes together.
HENDRICKS: Absolutely! That’s our favorite thing. I like that we’re going deeper into their relationships, how all of this is affecting their families, and how it makes them feel in their community. They don’t feel like they belong in this crime world, at all, but now they don’t feel like they belong in the old world that they were in before. There’s no one else who can understand it, except for each other. They want to communicate it with their spouses and their families, but also protect them, at the same time.
Were you surprised that Beth would have sex with Rio, or was that an action that made sense to you, considering where she’s been headed, in her own life?
HENDRICKS: She’s being completely reckless. These decisions that she’s making and the adrenaline rush that she’s on from all of this is turning her on. She doesn’t know if it’s Rio, or if it’s the crime, but she’s just completely letting loose and going against everything that’s expected of her. She’s out with her husband, trying to help save the family, and she’s got all of these really great ideas, but he just shoots her down. She has this very super-reactionary way to deal with it. That made sense to me. None of what she’s doing makes sense because it’s the element of fantasy in the show. That’s what’s so fun about it. We’d never go do these things, but the bad boy that you would never, ever in a million years hook up with, she’s doing it. That’s just crazy.
They also start to leverage that with each other, as he’s hinting at maybe telling her husband and she uses it to get him to do things that he probably wouldn’t normally do. Will we see more of that?
HENDRICKS: There’s a real cat-and-mouse thing going on. I don’t think Rio is particularly interested in Beth. He thinks it’s amusing. To him, they’re playing a game. But I think that he’s definitely pulling the strings more. She’s not used to doing something like this, so her natural inclination is to be like, “But do you like me? Are you my boyfriend?” Even though it’s ludicrous, it’s all that she’s ever known. She married her high school sweetheart, so if you have sex with someone, then you’re in a relationship with them, to a certain degree. She’s smart enough to know that’s not really what’s happening, but she’s teetering back and forth, trying to read his body language and understand, and over-analyzing every word he says. That was really fun to play because he plays everything so mysterious. It gave me lots to sit there and ponder, and forget about.
As the actor, when you’re playing a character who does such crazy things and makes such crazy decisions, do you feel like you need to justify her actions, or do you feel like you just need to try to understand where she’s coming from?
HENDRICKS: I think every person in the world justifies their behavior. I’m sure serial killers aren’t like, “I’m gonna go out and be a horrible person.” In their mind, what they’re doing makes sense. So, when you’re an actor and you have to pour yourself into another person who’s making those decisions, you have to try to understand why they’re making those decisions, how they justify it, and how it affects them, after they’ve done it. Just because they do it, doesn’t mean they don’t have regrets afterwards. They can know they made a huge mistake and that they did something incredibly stupid, but you have to try to make it as human as possible. If it’s on the page and it’s in the script, that means she’s decided to do it because Jenna has decided that Beth is doing that. So, I have to figure out why and how.
It’s so interesting to see how Beth is learning about herself and finding a newfound confidence in criminality. Do you think that, if her life of crime ended today, she would be able to go back to her normal, non-criminal life?
HENDRICKS: I think that’s what Season 2 is about for Beth, I really do. The entire season is her going, “Wait, can I just stop for a second? I’m a mom.” Then, she gets that itch. So, I think this entire season is her contemplating that.
You also got to join the Toy Story franchise and voice a doll for Toy Story 4. How cool is that?
HENDRICKS: It’s so cool!
What’s it like to not only join a beloved animated film series, but to do so as a new character who, just by looking at her, is clearly going to make an impression?
HENDRICKS: I was so thrilled. I kept pinching myself and going, “Wait, do they really want me, or are they auditioning me?” I would be in there, day after day, during the recording, thinking, “Maybe they’re recording someone else, at the same time. I don’t know.” I just thought it seemed too good to be true. I was really so thrilled. The first time that I went in, they showed me some animation, showed me the doll, and showed me her minions, who are these creepy ventriloquist dolls. I was like, “You guys have no idea how perfect this is for me. I actually have a weird ventriloquist doll at my house.” Of course, the doll looks like me, so I was in heaven. Not only that, my doll lives in an antique store. I was like, “You don’t understand. I’ve spent half of my life in antique stores. You guys got in my weird brain.” So, I get to see it tomorrow (on March 27, 2019) for the first time. I’ve only seen my stuff, but I get to see the full film tomorrow. I can’t wait. It’s gonna be like Christmas.
Who is this doll? What leads a doll to have a gang of ventriloquist dummies as her henchmen?
HENDRICKS: The idea behind Gabby Gabby is that when she was made, she was made defective. Her voice box never worked. In the Toy Story world, the one thing that a toy is supposed to do is to be there to love a child, and have a child love them back, but no child has ever wanted her ‘cause she’s defective. She’s from the 1950s, and she’s been stuck in the curio cabinet of an antique store, seeing kids coming in and out, every once in awhile with their parents, just wanting to love, and be loved. She’s a bad guy, but you completely understand where she’s coming from. So, when she meets Woody, she’s like, “Oh, my gosh. He’s got a voice box and it works.” That’s who Gabby Gabby is. The idea is that she’s this naughty, weird, creepy baby doll, but then, you go, “Oh, my gosh, she just wants to fulfill her toy dream.”
That’s so awesome. In the last year, you’ve said that you’d not only like to produce, but you’d also like to direct. At this point, have you shadowed any directors, to get a feel for that? Is that something that you’re really serious about doing?
HENDRICKS: I am really serious about doing it. I was going to shadow this year, except that I’m on set, every day, all day. In a way, it was almost like shadowing, every day, because I just got to be there, every single moment. My friend, Dean Parisot, who directed the pilot of Good Girls, has been super open about me being able to go shadow him, whatever his next project is, if I’m on hiatus. I have such admiration for his work, so I think that would be a really, really great learning experience for me. And right before talking to you, I was sitting here reading a script for something that I’m interested in producing. So, I’m taking this little hiatus as a moment to educate myself, and hopefully pursue some of it.
I’m excited to see the rest of the season of Good Girls, and I really hope that you guys get a Season 3.
HENDRICKS: Me, too. Fingers crossed.
Good Girls airs on Sunday nights on NBC.