In 1963, air travel represented the height of luxury and Pan Am was the biggest name in the business. The pilots were rock stars and the stewardesses were the most desirable women in the world, and to represent Pan Am, they also had to be educated, cultured and refined. The women formed a powerful sisterhood, partaking of one of the few career options that offered them empowerment and respect, as they enjoyed the rare opportunity to travel outside the country.
On ABC’s new drama series Pan Am, actress Christina Ricci plays Maggie, a rebellious young woman who has to keep her wilder side in check, in order to be a workplace professional and pass the beauty checks that will allow her to stay on the flight crew. During a recent interview to promote her new Fall show, she talked about her desire for the consistency of work that TV provides for an actor, how she was attracted to breaking the misconceptions about what stewardesses were at that time, and how fun and exciting it is to portray a period in time when air travel was glamorous. She also talked about what it was like to be seduced by Robert Pattinson in the upcoming feature Bel Ami, and how gritty that material is. Check out what she had to say after the jump:
Question: You’ve got a really thriving movie career. What made you decide to do a TV series?
CHRISTINA RICCI: I’ve been looking to do TV for a while. I’ve always done guest starring stuff. I’ve done a couple of multi-episode arcs, and I’ve always loved the experience. I feel like some of the best talent is on TV right now, with the writing, acting and great directors. I’ve also been looking for the consistency of work that TV provides for you. And, I always thought it would be really interesting to live with a character for months, if not years.
What did you like about this character?
RICCI: Well, it’s difficult to fall in love with a character when you just read the pilot. You don’t really know who the character is. So, I really fell in love with the idea of the show and what the show would provide for further storylines. I loved the fact that there are the misconceptions of who these women were. I’ve considered myself somebody who believes very strongly in doing things that are good for women, not anything that would ever hurt or denigrate women, so I loved the idea of doing something that has this misconception about what stewardesses were. And, I also love the idea that these girls were navigating a blatantly misogynistic society, with the girdle checks and make-up checks. We live in a thinly veiled misogynistic society. In order to see the world and run their lives and be free, they had to serve tea and coffee. Well, here we live in a world where, what are the things that we have to do now, as women, to really be moguls?
Is Maggie a troublemaker?
RICCI: Maggie’s a little bit of a troublemaker. They met me and (executive producer) Jack [Orman] spent some time with me and, all of a sudden, my character is a troublemaker.
Being the most well-known person in this cast, was it important to you that they really emphasized the ensemble, so it’s not the Christina Ricci show?
RICCI: Well, yeah. It’s an ensemble cast. The story is about everybody in the show. It would be weird, if they advertised it as anything else.
What’s it like to have to wear a girdle on the show?
RICCI: My character refuses to wear one, very often, and gets in trouble, all the time. So, I don’t wear them as much as the other girls do, but we have to wear them a lot on the show.
Do you worry about your weight because of the costume?
RICCI: I work out. I watch my diet. I’m older than the rest of the girls, so I have to watch it a little bit more.
How often do you fly commercial?
RICCI: All the time.
Do you have any particularly memorable experiences?
RICCI: I don’t really have many memorable experiences. One time, my dog broke free and went gunning for the first class flight attendant lounge. My sister was traveling with me and leaned over and was like, “I think that’s Karen, running up the aisle.” We were flying in business. My sister made no move to help. She was just like, “I think that’s Karen, running up the aisle towards first class.” By the time I got up there, she had burst into where the flight attendants were. I heard a big “Ew!,” and then something drop.
Is it a hassle to be a celebrity and fly commercial?
RICCI: No, I do it all the time. I would love to fly privately, but unfortunately, I don’t. I don’t summer anywhere either.
Have you read any of the books about Pan Am, during that time period?
RICCI: I’ve seen the research that they’ve provided for me, and I’ve seen some advertising. They’ve got a whole book of advertisements and they provided all kinds of visual stuff. And, I’ve heard accounts in the packages that (executive producer) Nancy [Ganis] put together.
What’s it like to be portraying a time when air travel was actually fun, cool and glamorous, and not the giant pain in the ass that it is now?
RICCI: It’s fun for us. It’s something that I always remember, in my performance. This is something that is exciting. Every time we step on a plane, we are excited, just like the passengers are. It’s glamorous, and these stewardesses were looked at as really glamorous symbols. We have so much pride in welcoming these passengers onto the plane, and they have so much pride in travel. It’s something that I definitely always remember, when I’m playing a scene on the plane, just to imbue everything with that sense of excitement.
For the stewardesses, there was this sense of excitement and freedom. This job allowed these women to have a freedom that they weren’t really given, in a regular role in life, at that time. Yes, they did have to pass the girdle checks and grooming checks, but by going through those things, and having met the education qualifications, they were then allowed to travel freely and see the world, in a way that other people didn’t get to see it. They were in charge of their own lives, in a way that women, at the time, weren’t regularly in charge of their lives. It’s a misconception, which is something that really did attract me, personally, to this story. There’s that sense of excitement and freedom that goes with this sense of travel and everything being new.
It’s all in there for us, as a cast. And, I think as soon as anybody sees five or 10 minutes of the show, those misconceptions about what this meant for women are going to be gone. These women were really free and in charge of their lives. It’s actually great for young girls and women.
What was it like to be seduced by Robert Pattinson for Bel Ami?
RICCI: Oh, he’s absolutely lovely! He’s great in the movie. It’s a very different role for him. It’s classic Guy de Maupassant. It’s very interesting, grittier material. It’s really good.
PAN AM premieres on ABC on September 25th