Christina Hendricks: ‘People think I’m Joan. They think I’m sexy and sophisticated and really cool’

How do you leave the office politics of ‘Mad Men’ behind? Starring opposite the late Philip Seymour Hoffman is a smart move. TV's `embodiment of beauty’ talks about saying goodbye to Joan, surviving high school and the power of hair colour

Fri, Aug 8, 2014, 14:07

Christina Hendricks doesn’t walk into the room so much as glide, as if perched on an invisible pair of roller skates on unseen tracks. And she doesn’t speak so much as trill, in a pleasing baby-doll lilt, as if she’s addressing a pretty kitty or a unicorn foal. Even before you get a good gander at the sleek red hair, the flashing pale eyes, and those golden-ratio curves, she makes an extraordinary impression.

But you knew that. For how could anyone have failed to notice such cultural events as the 2010 Esquire poll in which she was named best-looking American woman and sexiest woman in the world?

She simultaneously draws admirers from both genders. Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood has called Hendricks “the embodiment of beauty”. In 2011, then British junior equalities minister Lynne Featherstone praised Hendricks’ hourglass figure as “an ideal shape for women”.

Hendricks, one senses, has heard such sentiments a little too often. Two years ago she laughed, exasperated, and refused to answer when an Australian interviewer insisted on using the term “full-figured” in two successive questions.

She tells me a story about shooting her final scene for Mad Men, which wrapped, after seven award-winning seasons, just two weeks ago.

“It’s funny because it was a very emotional day and as each person finished their last scene, they’d say thank you and goodbye to the crew and then [series creator and producer] Matt Weiner would say something to the actor. So I said that this experience has changed my life in every way imaginable. People think I’m Joan. They think I’m sexy and sophisticated and really cool. And what I love about you guys is that you know that I’m not.”

What did she like best about being Mad Men’s office queen bee?

“I love that she looked like me. That became incredibly convenient,” she says, laughing. “And I loved that she wasn’t just one thing. She was resilient and confident and even when she was dealt some really lousy stuff, she seemed to learn from things. She was a smart cookie. I loved that every week I would get a script and I would read it and think: ‘Oh wow, Joan does that this week’. I joke that she was like my much cooler best friend. But she really was.”

Mad Men crept up on Hendricks in much the same way it crept up on America. The first two seasons were characterised by confused conversations and a whole lot of explaining: “It was endless,” she says. “What’s your show called? Mad Money? What Men? Where’s it on? AMC. TNT? No. AMC. What’s AMC?”

It took a while for her to realise that it had snowballed into something big and zeitgeisty. “There was no one moment – just lots of little weird ones,” she says. ”When Jon Hamm won the Golden Globe for best actor and we won for best show that first year, we didn’t even know anyone was watching. And then we were spoofed on Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons. And that was amazing. And you suddenly realise: oh, this really is something.”

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