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Christina Hendricks on the ‘Catwalk’ of ‘Mad Men’ and Not Needing a Happy Ending

Christina Hendricks on the 'Catwalk' of 'Mad Men' and Not Needing a Happy Ending

Christina Hendricks is one hot ticket. As “Mad Men” gets ready to fade into the television landscape, the woman who made Joan her own has been taking roles in the film world left and right: In the last few years alone, she’s co-starred in fellow “Mad Men” star John Slattery’s “God’s Pocket,” Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut “Lost River,” Gillian Flynn’s follow-up to “Gone Girl,” “Dark Places,” and she’s currently filming Nicolas Wynding Refn’s “The Neon Demon” opposite Keanu Reeves. With all those film roles, who needs TV?

Hendricks, that’s who. Even after eight years on “Mad Men,” Hendricks isn’t ready to say goodbye to the medium that helped break her onto the scene just yet. She starred opposite Luke Wilson in the Cameron Crowe pilot, “Roadies,” a hotly-anticipated dramedy at Showtime that’s still awaiting a series order.

With that talent involved, it’s hard to imagine them saying no, but Hendricks will be fine even if they do. The five-time Emmy nominee has put herself in a great position for the future, even if everyone else is still very focused on her present. Indiewire sat down with Hendricks (and a gaggle of other reporters) to get the scoop on her final season as Joan, what’s been her favorite part of playing an early-era feminist and, of course, those clothes.

READ MORE: Review: ‘Mad Men’ Season 7 Episode 9 ‘New Business,’ or ‘Ghosts of Exes Past’

What was your favorite arc for Joan over the years?

I look at it as a whole big trajectory, really, but certain storylines [stand out]. Obviously, I always loved the Joan/Roger [relationship], seeing what was going to happen between them. And the way Peggy and Joan bounce between hardly being able to tolerate one another to admiring one another and giving each other advice, I always loved that. I mean those are obviously her big, long, ongoing [storylines], and her rising in the ranks at work. I just really loved seeing her year after year becoming a very richly-written character. When I started playing her in Season 1, I thought, “Oh, what a fun, bitchy, sassy girl I get to play!” And I would never call her that now, you know? So I guess I just enjoyed watching her go through very real and human things and learn from them and grow from them and become a much wiser character and woman by the end.

How about playing the accordion?
[laughs] It was fun, it was nerve-wracking. I was a beginner accordion player and Matt called and said, “Do you speak French and do you play the piano?” And I said “I’ll learn French, and I don’t play the piano, but I do play a little bit of the accordion.” And wouldn’t that be way easier to somehow all of a sudden see an accordion in Joan’s apartment than, like, all of a sudden… “We’ve never seen the piano in the corner of the room!” So when we realized that it was going to be helpful in so many different ways, it became the accordion. Plus it was a much more popular thing to play in the ’60s. I mean, kids used to take accordion lessons. It’s not so common anymore. So, it all sort of ended up being perfect. 
Wait, wait. You corrected Matt Weiner on something? [laughs]
I didn’t correct him, I gave him an option! [laughs] How about that? 
Do you think the core of who Joan is has changed over the course of the show, or is it just that she has grown and adapted to the times she’s in? 
I think the core of who she is is the same. I think that we just didn’t really know who she was at the beginning. It was a reveal each episode. Certainly for me as an actress, I didn’t know who she was. The stories had to be told, and I think a lot of the characters in the show went through very wild story lines and also some things they didn’t learn as a character. I think she’s somehow learned from a lot of her mistakes or a lot of her situations, so I think it turned her into a different kind of woman. But I think she’s always been a hard worker and she’s always had this sort of fun enthusiasm about her, and I think that’s always been there.

Working with the great Janie Bryant, what did you learn about dressing yourself from somebody that smart about fashion?
Look at me, I’m like a Joan-clone now. [laughs] Well, she’s just so great, she’s so talented, and she knows so much about fit. Yes, all of the costumes were beautiful, but it’s also because she made them fit us as perfectly as they should have, and I think that makes a world of difference.
One thing I love about Joan and how she wore clothes is that everything you wore was with such confidence. Was it fun to play a character — even when she was knocked down a bit — who always carried herself with such confidence?
Yeah, I’d like to think that I learned from some of that. I decided very early on — there must have been a line or something where I said — “When this woman walks through the office, she is absolutely certain that someone’s looking.” [laughs] Like, “at least one or two people in this room have stopped working to look and watch [Joan] walk across the room.” Which is kind of a bitchy thing to think, but it’s also a fun thing to play. So even if I didn’t have a line, if I had to walk from one side of the room to the other I was like, “Joan thinks someone’s looking, and she dresses to prove it,” and so I would just hold my head high and walk the carpet. It was sort of a catwalk, you know? She didn’t just go from one place to the other.

Do you think Joan was a feminist?
I do. I don’t think she knew she was. And certainly starting out, I mean, the thing that she says in the pilot episode to Peggy is, “If you play your cards right, you’ll get a husband, you’ll move to the country” — and that’s not a very feminist statement. But I think she started changing, and I think watching Peggy’s growth inspired Joan’s character and to see the things that were changing around her. And I think she had some accidental feminist movements in the beginning that turned into her pursuing it and taking charge of it and being more in control of it.

Looking back at the last seven years, what do you take with you when you walk away? How do you encapsulate the time period for you?
You know, I think about the time period less than I think about the characters and the environment and the very specific capsule these people were in in this office. And yet, because we got to play a decade, we would sort of highlight something political or something societal that was going on. To me it felt like this energy of seeing this change, and having people have a strong opinion and a cause. And many people did not, of course, but that seems to have shifted. People going out there and feeling so strongly about a specific cause, I still think of that as the 1960s. I think a lot of people do still think of that at a time of a great deal of change.
Through the course of the show did you ever meet anybody who was a real-life Joan and told you what her experience was like?
A hundred, a hundred of them. It was so fun because we would go and have a premiere or do a Q&A or even just being out shopping or something. And we would either get, “I was Joan,” or “My mom’s friend was Joan,” or “I was Peggy, but I knew Joan.” [laughs] So yeah, so many different variations of it. What I was really surprised about is before I started the show, I didn’t know that I’d ever met that many people in advertising. And now, everyone’s in advertising! People are like “I work for this,” and I’m like “Wow!” I had no idea — everywhere I go people are in advertising. Who knew?

Were you able to use any of that information that the people from that world wanted to tell you? 
Well, most of the time they were coming back saying, “Boy, Matt really got it right.” You know, “I really remember that, I really remember that.” Oftentimes their stories were very similar to the things that I read originally when I was doing research for the character, when Matt said read “Sex and the Single Girl” or read “Sex in the Office.” These sort of expectations of a woman in the office, and even just the way you would set up your desk. You know, “Make sure there’s candies on your desk. If a man wants to come by, he’ll stay longer and talk to you if you’ve got a little sweet for him,” you know. Things like, “If you’re sitting at your office, why not hike just the top skirt up an inch so they can see the lace of your slip. It’s a little suggestive.” You know, all these funny little things that people are like, “We did that! That was a real thing.”
As a viewer, are you a fan of happy endings? Do you like that as an actor or as a viewer?
Oh gosh, I guess it’s so specific to the project. Not necessarily. I don’t need a happy ending.
Does anything compare when you read scripts now?
Well, it hasn’t been that long. I have already worked on some fun, super fun things. I just did a pilot that I’m excited about. [It’s] so different, apples and oranges, you really can’t compare them.
Is that the Cameron Crowe [pilot]?
Yeah. And, I mean, to get to work with Matt and then to get to work with Cameron Crowe, I mean it’s just, I would not have had that opportunity, had it not been for this. I will always miss it, but I have to be grateful at all the doors it opened for me. 

The Joan-and-Peggy relationship is so important to the show. What do you see as the core of these two’s friendship/rivalry?
I think respect. I think there definitely is respect; even early on when Joan was just being downright mean to Peggy sometimes. One great thing about Peggy is she’s always listening and taking in the information and then being like, “Is that true? Is my sandwich sad?” [laughs] And she may not change or she may not do it, but she’s internalizing it and there’s so many scenes between the two of them where they’re comparing my way versus your way, and I always really liked that. And I like when she stands up for herself further into it, but they still always end back in that situation, discussing it, and I think they’re always truly wondering if their way is right and truly wondering if the other’s is right. And I think that’s cool about that relationship.
Joan and Roger were big ones, but were there any characters you wish you’d had more scenes with over the seven years?
Well, obviously Don and Joan don’t have tons together, but when they do they’re sort of these — at least for me — fantastic scenes. So maybe it was good that there were just a few here and there because they were so special that I always loved doing scenes with Jon. And I loved doing scenes with Aaron Staton. I just love his character so much, every time he’s onscreen he cracks me up he’s so funny. In the beginning of 7a, we got to do more stuff than we normally do, and I always really have fun with him.
The earrings thing was really great.
Yeah. [laughs] It was like nowhere near where Joan is and she was like, “Oh… Sorry buddy.”
Those Don and Joan scenes were really great, and I think the audience really loved them and was wondering what their history was. Did you and Jon and Matt talk about, like before the show started, how well they know each other and things like that?
We had discussed it several times, because there are moments where they would cross and make a joke or something, and so we had discussed that […] she’s like, “I got your number, I know who you are,” and he’s like, “I got yours. Let’s not bother each other, and let’s go about our business.” But there’s that wonderful scene where they’re at the bar when she gets her divorce papers, and he actually gives a little bit of the history. He’s like, “When I first came to this office I was terrified of you. You were getting flowers every day and you were this and that.” And so he sort of gave a history of that’s how they met, and […] she was very powerful and he sort of kept his distance. And then of course he sends her those flowers, which I thought was so sweet.
If you could sum up the end of the series or the finale in one word, what would it be? 

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