Christina Hendricks is still blonde. After her Clairol Nice n’ Easy spot revealed her new ‘do, Hendricks found a role that allowed her to keep it that way. On Hap and Leonard, she plays Trudy, Hap (James Purefoy)’s ex who returns with information about a stash of loot. Trudy just needs Hap to find it under the rivers of the American south of the 1980s. Hap and his friend Leonard (Michael K. Williams) need the cash, so they agree, even though Trudy’s new lover is in the mix.
We sat down with Hendricks before the Hap and Leonard panel for the Television Critics Association. Read on to see what she had to say about the new series, what life is like in the wake of Mad Men, and being starstruck at awards shows.
Fred Topel for Rotten Tomatoes: Why are you credited as a special guest star? Are you in every episode?
Christina Hendricks: I’m not gonna say. I’ve been trained for nine years to be very secretive so I’m going to stick with that.
Rotten Tomatoes: I think it could just be that you’re more special than a regular supporting actor.
Hendricks: Let’s go with that.
Rotten Tomatoes: Did you think about the archetype of a femme fatale?
Hendricks: Well, it was sort of presented to me that way, coming from these pulp fiction novels. They’re sort of classic characters in a way, but all with an interesting twist. So she was definitely presented to me as a femme fatale character. She’s definitely wrapped up in a different kind of package than you would expect.
Rotten Tomatoes: Right. After the first episode, do we sort of see that facade crumble down when she goes to work as a waitress?
Hendricks: Can a femme fatale not be a waitress?
Rotten Tomatoes: I hope she can, because I like it. Was it sort of a wall coming down when we see her in her daily life?
Hendricks: Well, I read at least an outline of what was going to happen so I knew who she was and her story. That’s what I thought was so interesting about her, that she’s not a stereotypical character. She’s not a one note character. I think that immediately makes you go, “Huh, wait, what’s going on here?” Which I think hopefully you did. I like that there’s a little twist right away.
Rotten Tomatoes: Do you relish lines like, “Maybe I should just leave so you can both put your d***s on the table?”
Hendricks: That was pretty fun. That was fun. That was also a line that my dialect coach wanted to go over and over and over because apparently I wasn’t saying “d***s” right. So we had to say “d***s” a lot. But yes, it was fun, and we all got a laugh out of it at the end of each take.
Rotten Tomatoes: Are there other brash, memorable lines she has?
Hendricks: I think she’s just sort of a little bit of a say-what’s-on-her-mind, say-it-straight-to-you kind of gal. She’s a southern gal. She’s quite casual. She’s not posh, so you’ll get some lines out of her that are pretty fun.
Rotten Tomatoes: Had you had any experiences in the south before?
Hendricks: I have a lot of relatives in Georgia, but not Texas, so that was a different kind of accent for me. But my mother grew up a little bit in the south and I had southern relatives, so I’m used to southern cooking and things like that.
Rotten Tomatoes: Is the hair specifically for the character, or is it left over from the dramatic ad you did revealing your new hair?
Hendricks: Well, that’s when I had wanted to change the color so it sort of corresponded. I had talked to Jim Mickle and I said, “You know, I’m blonde right now and I’d like to stay blonde.” He goes, “Actually, I was going to ask you if you would go blonde. Then I looked up and you were blonde so it just timed out perfectly.” If I felt like the character should have been a different color, I could’ve gone a different color.
Rotten Tomatoes: Is the ‘80s a very different sort of period piece than you did on Mad Men?
Hendricks: I’ve never done ‘80s, but also I think the nice thing is there’s hints to the ‘80s, but there’s also sort of a neutral feeling about it. There’s a bit of a timeless feeling about it. [Anthony Hopkins walks by.] Is that Anthony Hopkins? That was super exciting just now. All of a sudden, I doubted myself that that’s who it was. That’s so crazy and so exciting. I’m a little starstruck.
Rotten Tomatoes: Did you legitimately get starstruck by Sir Anthony?
Hendricks: Yes, my God, are you kidding me? That was amazing.
Rotten Tomatoes: Do you get starstruck when you go to awards shows and other places where you see lots of other actors?
Hendricks: I do. There’s always at least one person that gets me. I got really, really nervous when I met Dustin Hoffman. I couldn’t even look him in the eye. I really kept looking at the ground. I think he felt bad for me.
Rotten Tomatoes: By that time did he know who you are?
Hendricks: Well, I was sitting with Jack Black and Jack Black introduced me, so he got my name. I don’t know if he knew who I was other than that introduction.
Rotten Tomatoes: So we were talking about doing an ‘80s period piece.
Hendricks: Yeah, it was fun. Sometimes I find when you do something that’s a bit rural, the timeline as far as wardrobe and things like that are blurred a little bit. I go back and visit towns that I’m from and people are still wearing their favorite thing from 10 years ago. Hell, I still wear my favorite thing from 10 years ago. So it’s a little more neutralized. I think the things that stand out more is there’s no cell phones and things like that. But then again, I’m used to doing that. It didn’t feel dramatically different. Obviously the music is really a standout so that’s a nice way to place you in the ‘60s and then in the ‘80s.
Rotten Tomatoes: Do you get to hear the music on the set?
Hendricks: No, but when I went back and saw the first three episodes, I was like, “Oh, this is great.” Jim told us a few of the songs that he was going to use so we sort of had that idea of what we might be dancing to or what we might be listening to in the car.
Rotten Tomatoes: How much do you know about Trudy and Hap’s past relationship?
Hendricks: I know lots. I guess more will be revealed but you obviously can tell these people were married and she left him. They still have a connection. There’s no anger there. There seems to be a bit of sadness about what could’ve or should’ve been. But it seems they keep coming back to each other every few years. They keep track of each other.
Rotten Tomatoes: Did they pull jobs together before?
Hendricks: I don’t think so.
Rotten Tomatoes: Is Trudy getting more out of this job with Hap than even she expected?
Hendricks: Well, I think if she didn’t want to be involved with him, if she didn’t want him around, she would’ve figured something else out.
Rotten Tomatoes: Do you get to be naughty in Bad Santa 2?
Hendricks: [Laughs] I get to be a little bit naughty. The script is very naughty. It’s very hilarious and Billy Bob’s going to get to be incredibly naughty.
Rotten Tomatoes: What really opened up the comedy world to you? Was it doing Another Period?
Hendricks: I think so. I think that was maybe the first thing that I did. It’s odd. I think quite a few people from Mad Men have gone on and started doing comedy. I think basically Mad Men just opened the doors for us in general. So we’ve been able to read more diverse kinds of things. Let’s be honest, comedy is so different and so much fun. To be able to do both is a treat that maybe not all of us had before.
Rotten Tomatoes: Have you thought about Joan since Mad Men ended?
Hendricks: I think about her every day. I don’t go through a day where someone doesn’t approach me and talk about the character or talk about the show which is great. It’s nice that people are still watching it or just now discovering it or re-watching it or introducing it to other people. I think I get to live with her for a while longer than maybe I thought, which I’m perfectly happy to do. I miss her but I also feel very close to her still.