The Big Shot

The Big Shot

The Big Shot

Hollywood's Resident Buxom Beauty Christina Hendricks Braces Herself For a New Season Of TV's Beloved Blockbuster Mad Men. But By Taking Aim At Iconic and Offbeat Roles, the Sex Symbol Shows Us She's Setting Her Sights Higher Than Ever

Hollywood's Resident Buxom Beauty Christina Hendricks Braces Herself For a New Season Of TV's Beloved Blockbuster Mad Men. But By Taking Aim At Iconic and Offbeat Roles, the Sex Symbol Shows Us She's Setting Her Sights Higher Than Ever

Photography: Cedric Buchet

Styling: Clare Richardson

Text: Mark Jacobs

“Oh, I can totally go unnoticed. I ran around all day today. Not a mention,” insists Christina Hendricks, star of AMC’s 1960s period series Mad Men. “In Los Angeles you know the neighborhoods where you’re more likely to get noticed. And then you probably put on lipstick.”

It’s difficult to accept that after four seasons of embodying Joan Harris (née Holloway)—the efficient, famously voluptuous office manager who thanklessly presides over Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce wearing a parade of wiggle dresses—Hendricks could still enjoy anonymity. Fans will surely be looking for her when Mad Men returns on March 25th, eager to discover more about her character’s unexpected pregnancy. “It probably surprised a lot of people. It certainly surprised me,” she says. “Joan certainly has motherly instincts—at least in a bossy way.” Hendricks is more savvy now than she was when Mad Men introduced its distinctive brand of cerebral, obsessively art-directed drama. For example, she no longer turns black-and-blue from wearing her character’s restrictive girdles and garters. “Now I put moleskin underneath the rubber so it doesn’t rub against my skin,” she says. “I still get a little bruised up, but I’m learning the tricks of the trade.”

Born in Knoxville, Tennessee, Hendricks landed her first consequential role in 1999 on MTV’s teen soap Undressed—a Skins precursor that served as a Mickey Mouse Club for maturing young actors (“Most people in Los Angeles have that on their résumé,” the multiple Emmy-nominee explains with a laugh). She played a college student named Rhiannon who crashes at her aunt’s house with a rapper she meets at a bus station (YouTube can fill in the rest). “I used to play characters more naïve than Joan, who is so sophisticated and…not jaded, but worldlier,” she says. “I’ve definitely learned from playing a character that is so confident and resilient.”

Which is not to say that during her rise to fame the radiant natural blonde did not receive her share of industry-issued validation. She can share a proper fashion anecdote dating to her time modeling in the mid ’90s, like walking in a Hussein Chalayan show or inspiring a young Karen Elson to dye her hair a career-boosting red. But because of her work on Mad Men, Hendricks now commands red carpets—and has even orchestrated some bonafide Hollywood bombshell moments, like at the 2011 Golden Globe Awards when she lost an $850,000 bracelet on loan from Chopard, and after an event worker found the ornament and returned it to her, pleaded with security to allow her to leave the auditorium and deliver it to her publicist for safekeeping, whereupon the guard watched as Hendricks pulled the 124 carats of platinum-set diamonds out of her acclaimed cleavage and passed them to her rep through a crack in the door. Bull’s-eye. “I couldn’t put it in my purse,” Hendricks explains. “Have you seen how tiny those little handbags we all carry are?”

But if her primary public persona is a glamorous throwback, Hendricks also makes choices that reveal an endearing playfulness. In the past several years, she has donned a motion-capture suit to star in Need For Speed: The Run, an installment in a massive racing-simulator-video-game franchise; judged an episode of Top Chef Masters (with her husband, actor Geoffrey Arend); appeared as a Latisse spokeswoman for a special project to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation (“I have long, beautiful lashes right now,” she says); and is currently the voice of the Baskin-Robbins “Flavortising” campaign (“I’ve always been a butter-pecan girl”). She has also admitted to enjoying a drive in her PT Cruiser and, it should be noted, appeared twice as Saffron, a seductive outer-space con artist, on Joss Whedon’s 2002 short-lived but slavishly followed Firefly (fanboys never forget). Her brief, scene-stealing turn in last year’s Drive—as Blanche, the shifty stripper with strategically questionable styling—verged on iconic, but in a very different way than Joan does. “The idea was that she kind of look a little terrible. We chose makeup colors that were just a little bit off, lipstick that was a little too purple and colored my hair a pinkish magenta. You’re never going to catch me wearing an acid-wash hoodie any other time,” she laughs. Perhaps Hendricks will approach director Nicolas Winding Refn about a prequel spin-off to further showcase the character? “It would have to be a prequel, wouldn’t it?” she says playfully (that’s a spoiler). “The second Nicolas calls, I’ll do whatever he asks me to do. So if he wants to do a prequel for poor Blanche, I’d love it."

Moving forward, the woman with her own Mad Men Barbie doll will play a chirpy stepmother in the coming-of-age comedy Struck By Lightning, the feature screenwriting debut of Chris Colfer (Kurt on Glee). Then Hendricks plays her first serious mother role in Bomb, a drama from writer-director Sally Potter (Orlando), set in the ’60s in working-class London, against a backdrop of sexual revolution and nerves about nukes. Hendricks joins Elle Fanning (as her politically rebellious daughter), Annette Bening, Alessandro Nivola, and Alice Englert (daughter of director Jane Campion). “She really wants to make a special piece of art,” Hendricks says of Potter. “It’s so rare that you get to rehearse and actually be creative with a film. It feels like doing a play and a movie at the same time.” “It’s amazing to even get these opportunities,” she continues. “I didn’t have them before Mad Men—it opened up so many doors. I feel like a kid in a candy store and I want to try everything.”

Credits: Makeup Vanessa Scali for Nars Cosmetics (Tracey Mattingly)  Hair Jen Atkin (The Wall Group)  Manicure Elisa Wishan  Set Design Philipp Haemmerle  Photo Assistants Alex Salle De Chou and Mark Luckasavage  Digital Technician Ludovic Nicolas  Stylist Assistant Ronald Burton  Set Design Assistant Danny Diamond  Production (New York) Tina Preschitz (Nex9 Productions)  Production Assistants Zein Zubi and Chelsea Sillars (Nex9 Productions)  Production (Los Angeles) Joy Asbury Productions  On-Set Producer Wonder Serra (Joy Asbury Productions)  Equipment Rental Smashbox Studios, Los Angeles  Catering Love Catering  Special Thanks Boxeight Studios, Los Angeles


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