With AMC’s award-winning series Mad Men airing new episodes Sunday nights, I recently had the chance to participate in a roundtable interview with Christina Hendricks. Since the cast is always guarded when talking about upcoming episodes, most of the interview covered the twists and turns of last season, how much she finds out about upcoming storylines, Joan and Don’s (Jon Hamm) relationship, the wardrobe, what the most challenging storylines were for her to play, and more. In addition, she also talked about Ryan Gosling‘s directorial debut, How to Catch a Monster. Hit the jump to either read or listen to what Hendricks had to say.
Before going any further…spoilers from previous seasons and the season 6 premiere are discussed during this interview.
If you’d like to listen to the audio of this interview, click here. Otherwise the full transcript is below. Look for another Mad Men interview soon.
CHRISTINA HENDRICKS: Different from the ones that were out?
Definitely. I’m just curious, have you ever seen the art and all the other stuff?
HENDRICKS: No, I haven’t. I haven’t seen any of it. I wanted one of the… Diesel was going to do the Scorpion jackets and something fell through, but I still want one of those.
You can get variations of them online.
HENDRICKS: Really? I could deal with a variation. I want to rock it. I want to wear it around town. Maybe if you were in the movie, it’s weird. People will be like, “Let it go Christina. That was last year.”
Now that you have had time to play this character for a while, when you look at her, what do you think she represents as far as women of that era?
HENDRICKS: It’s tricky because I don’t think Matt has written any of these characters to represent or to be stereotypical in any way. I don’t know that she represents anything specifically for her era. I think a lot of people if you said Joan, maybe the first think people would say is strength or confidence. I think that is one of her wonderful attributes of the character, but I also think she has also shown an incredibly vulnerable side and a fragile side. That is why I love playing her. She gets to do all this different stuff that Matt writes. But I definitely think she is a fighter for sure.
We’ve seen her make a lot of sacrifices for what she wants, whether it is power at the office or her home life. Will we see more of that this season?
HENDRICKS: We definitely are sort of exploring the fact that we have seen her all of a sudden become partner and sort of what that means. Are people going to just all of a sudden turn around and, “Oh, Joan’s a partner. Let’s treat her like a partner.” Or, is how she got there going to affect … Or is it a title and just everything same as usual. That is the something going into Season 6 that we explore with Joan.
HENDRICKS: One of the great things about Matt is that he carries some of these storylines through season after season after season, so these characters’ decisions affect all their decisions after that. So, it will always be something that she knows she did, but, I think, one of the things I really like about Joan is that she makes a decision, sticks with it, demands not to be judged for it in all sorts of things that she does throughout the show, and I think this is another one of those things.
I am curious how it has changed in terms of finding out the storylines for the seasons. For example, this season how much were you told before it started shooting where it was going to go?
HENDRICKS: Nothing! This is the first year. Usually, I call Matt at the beginning of the season and I say, “Okay, what’s going on?” And he’s like, “Well, I’m not really…” and then he tells me everything, which is awesome. This year, I’ve called him time after time and I said, “What’s happening next? What’s going on?” He said, “I’m not quite ready to tell you.” So, I got nothing this year.
Were you bummed when you got the premiere script this year and you had fewer lines than Don Draper?
HENDRICKS: Everybody has fewer lines than Don Draper.
He doesn’t even speak for the first 10 minutes.
HENDRICKS: Is that true? I don’t even remember. I don’t remember feeling bummed. I just remember thinking it was a great script.
Can you talk about not knowing? Does that make it different as you go into a season to act out the role? Was it better not to know? Or do you like to know the end and this is where this going to take me?
HENDRICKS: I think I am able to have that information and not have it influence my performance. I think I am able to do that. I like knowing. It is fun to know. I get the scripts each time and I am, “What’s going to happen? What’s going to happen?” I have a little more anxiety to see it because I am so excited to see them in the past, I have had a little more inclination. It’s been different.
HENDRICKS: I love that the audience wants this because it has been very little hinting at that. Yes, they had some really great scenes last season, where there was definitely flirtation and chemistry, but I think that scene was really about mutual respect and about two people having a lot of history together and knowing each other quite well. But you never know!
Would you like to see it go in that direction?
HENDRICKS: If it made sense for the characters. I am sure if that was something that happened, it would be for a very good reason that Matt would inform us of.
At Roger’s mother’s funeral, the guys are still talking about whether or not Joan and Roger are still sleeping together. This is the ’60s and it is the sexual revolution, does it bother Joan that she may be a partner, but she doesn’t get equal respect because the guys still think she slept her way into it?
HENDRICKS: It is hard to answer that without revealing too much. I do think that Joan thinks she deserves the title and deserves the job and, I think, she has proven herself to be incredibly capable and quite talented at it, so I think, if she found out she wasn’t getting the respect she deserved, it would bother her.
She did make the deal with that client, but most of those guys don’t know about it. They only know about her and Roger.
HENDRICKS: Most of the men know about that. Pete is the one who brought it up in the first place and they had a group meeting about it, remember last season? Even Roger was, “I don’t want to know about it, but I know about it.” There were a lot of people who were mad at Roger for his reaction last year.
You have played Joan for so long, what do you really want to see for her this season?
HENDRICKS: It’s hard because you really just want to do all these great scenes and that can be disastrous or happy. It doesn’t matter as long as it is beautiful material and it always is luckily. As we get toward the end here, I just hope that it wraps up beautifully for her. I don’t think I will ever be satisfied because I would like to play her forever, so it will be difficult. I want her to be happy and in love, but it is Mad Men, so who are we kidding? Who knows what is going to happen?
What is your romantic life in the new season, maybe Roger or someone new?
HENDRICKS: I can’t say that. I can’t say that.
But she has one? She has a romantic life?
HENDRICKS: I can’t say that.
Can you talk a little bit about your wardrobe? Your personal style is amazing, and so is your style on the show.
HENDRICKS: Thank you. I have definitely been very influenced by Joan in my real life, as you can see by my pencil skirt today. Janie Bryant, our costume designer, does an extraordinary job and the fashion is definitely changing. We are moving along in the ’60s. I think Joan has a bit of a consistency, not only to her character, but to what she knows works for her and what she likes. She is definitely someone who reads fashion magazines and moves with the trends, but she definitely knows what works for her. I think the men’s fashion this year is standout. Since you guys have seen it, it is definitely groovier. My outfit in that first episode, I feel like Daphne from Scooby Doo. There’s a lot of Scooby Doo outfits.
HENDRICKS: We are on the 11th.
Have you seen the finale script?
HENDRICKS: No. No one has seen it. I don’t know if it exists.
Joan has experienced a lot of heartbreak through all of these seasons and viewers have experienced it with her. I think it might be safe to say that last season with the Jaguar client was one of the most, if not the most, heartbreaking. Was that the most heartbreaking or challenging for you to play?
HENDRICKS: I didn’t find it heartbreaking. As an actress, it was extraordinary because there was so much there. It’s sad in its consistency that that was her only option and that is disappointing and real and maybe it is heartbreaking. But to me for her personal life, I think her marriage not working and obviously some of the horrific things that happened with her husband were heartbreaking to her, even some of the things that happened with Roger were quite heartbreaking, going all the way back to Season 1. Watching your lover have a heart attack and not be able to help and not being able to be visible, I think, is quite heartbreaking.
Do you do that a lot? Look back at past seasons and watch them for inspiration?
HENDRICKS: I think I just have an incredible memory for them because every time we play a scene all those things influence your decisions as an actor. You have to remember that relationship that those two people have every time they walk into a room together, there is that history, which is one of the best things about being on a show for six seasons is you have all that information. You’re not having to create a history. But every once in a while in the middle of the night, I watch a rerun from the early seasons and I love it. I love it because there are things you forget, and you get to see Kiernan and she is so little and she is so fantastic. That is pretty fun to walk down memory lane like that.
HENDRICKS: Technically, that is what we all contractually, I think, have decided on. I am putting it out there into the world that I am hoping that Matt changes his mind and decides he wants to write a couple more seasons because I would do it gladly and with bells on. So, I am putting it out there in the universe that we get more.
There is a logical next step is following Entourage and doing a movie. Has that been bandied about at all?
HENDRICKS: I have not heard that. You are the first person to say that out loud I think.
Would you like to see it?
HENDRICKS: I guess so. I feel like that hasn’t worked so many times and I would never want to taint what Matt has done thus far. If anyone could do it right, I am sure it would be him, but it is that scary feeling of: Don’t mess with what was good.
HENDRICKS: Serenity was good. That was a good movie. That’s true. That was a good example.
Joan is different than the other partners because she is a mom. Is Matt going to address the issue of working mothers because it was in the ’60s when women decided they could leave the house and go back to work?
HENDRICKS: Yes, I think he addressed it even in the beginning of last season when Joan comes in overdressed and all dolled up with her pram, like, “I’m fine. Everything’s fine.” And desperately wanting to be needed. I think that was a good introduction to even that then, but Joan is a single mother and she has her crazy mom to help her out.
HENDRICKS: It is pretty much what we are actually going to shoot. We do get a blue script that has changed a little bit and then, I think, we get like two pages of pink and that is really where it ends. It never goes further than that. To be quite honest, I oftentimes can’t tell the changes. They are pretty spot-on when we get them. That is a luxury. I know a lot of shows are last minute on-set getting re-writes and that would make me… Especially on a show like ours, we do not change a word of what’s on that page. We do not add an “s,” we do not add an apostrophe. It is exactly as it is.
Has it been like that through all the seasons?
HENDRICKS: Always. It has always been that way.
Joan and Peggy had such a great relationship in the earlier years. Now that Peggy is not at the office, are we going to see anymore of that? Will they interact at all this season?
HENDRICKS: Um. Yes… Dot, dot, dot.
What else about the ’60s besides wardrobe have you come to love? Is it the music? Is there something political that you like? Do you ever wish you could live during that time period?
HENDRICKS: I think we are in a much better place now in pretty much every regard and we can just steal the fashion that we want, so that is better, too. I am not missing any pineapple salads, or anything food-wise. No, I think we are in a better place.
A follow-up to that. Is there another period you would be interested in playing?
If I’m not mistaken, you’re going to be in Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut? Talk a little bit about how you got involved in that. Are you looking forward to being a part of it?
HENDRICKS: I am. I am super excited. As you know, we worked together on Drive. One day when we were in that crazy car, he was like, “I would love to direct you in something one day.” I was like, “Okay. What a sweet thing to say, and, are you a director?” Then, almost a year later, he called me and said, “I have written this script and I imagined you in this role and would you consider it?” I was just incredibly flattered and honored. He sent the script that he wrote and it was fantastic. We are going to go shoot it in Detroit in May. I am super excited.
You said we have it better now in so many ways. Can you talk specifically about women in the workplace? Are we so many miles ahead that you wouldn’t have wanted to live and tried to work in the ’60s.
HENDRICKS: My experience is all from the show and the research that I have done, so I don’t know what it was truly like, but based on the storylines, it was an important time because things were really starting to change for women then. Based on the characters in this show, watching Peggy really grow and able to move into a job that was mostly men. So I think it started there and now we don’t even question whether I could be the president of a company, or any of that, and I think that is fantastic. I think we have further to go, but…
Joan has an amazing talent for telling people exactly what they want to hear but in a sincere way. Do you think she was able to do that because she put aside her own thoughts and feelings for a long time, or is she just able to balance an alternate society where women have a certain role vs. what she ultimately wants to achieve?
I am thinking of the first couple of seasons, where she is in this very misogynistic office, and she recognizes that but she still plays along to the sense that the men are never ruffled and she manages to still balance what she ultimately wants to achieve.
HENDRICKS: I think that’s one of her strengths is that she is incredibly political in that way and she can really gauge her environment. I think that is why she can take the sexual remarks and the behavior at work by turning around and joking with them but just enough to say, “Back off. But I am not going to make a big deal of this.” And she does have a really nice balance. Then, on the other hand, she goes and says really rash things to some of the girls in the office, but I think it is because she is trying to be helpful and she believes that she is running the ship and she needs everyone in order, so she needs to make it run smoothly. I think that is how she survives with the men and the women in the office.
Jon Hamm directed his second episode this season. Can you talk about working with him as a director? Was it any different the second time?
HENDRICKS: I did not work with him last time, so it was my first time with him. I believe that is right. He is great and John Slattery as well. They know the characters so perfectly, and they know the story and they know the complete history, so any note they give you, you’re, “Oh, yeah. Of course.” And because they are actors, they know how to talk to other actors so easily. They are great at it.
HENDRICKS: I binged watched House of Cards because I was allowed to binge-watch. Netflix, yay! I thought that was so great. I watched the whole season in three days, so I loved that. I think a lot of people binge-watch shows. I think a lot of people wait and they watch them all at once, or they watch a couple of seasons at a time. That is how I watched Deadwood. I watched it years after everyone else. Then I was literally bleary-eyed and I started dressing like them. I am not allowed to binge watch it because it just comes on weekly, but I have been into The Following. I think that show is really good.
Any chance you might guest on Body of Proof? Do you and Geoffrey have plans to work together?
HENDRICKS: A couple of seasons ago, we did an episode together. I haven’t done anything with him this season. We have no future plans to, but we had a lot of fun doing it together. It was romantic.
The cast of The Walking Dead has cast dinners when people die. They disguise them as birthday dinners.
HENDRICKS: Do they? They must have a lot of dinners.
Do you do anything like that as a cast? Any traditions?
HENDRICKS: I don’t think we have any traditions. I have to say, my husband has been saying this since the beginning, “You guys celebrate more than any show I have ever seen.” We have a party for the beginning, the end, this and that. We always find a reason to get together, socialize and hang out. We’re very festive of group.
Mad Men airs Sunday nights on AMC. And if you missed our interviews with Matthew Weiner, Jon Hamm, John Slattery, January Jones, or Elisabeth Moss, click the links. Look for another Mad Men interview tomorrow.