Looking for the right role

Actress Christina Hendricks visited Singapore as a speaker at the Spikes Festival of Advertising and did some sightseeing.
Actress Christina Hendricks visited Singapore as a speaker at the Spikes Festival of Advertising and did some sightseeing.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Christina Hendricks of Mad Men fame gets to travel while waiting for a new gig

What do you do after starring in what is regarded as one of the best television series of all time?

For Christina Hendricks, there have been plenty of "exciting opportunities" after Mad Men (2007-2015), an American drama set in the advertising world in the 1960s.

She tells Life with a laugh: "I'm looking for something really specific but I don't even know what it is. I just know it's out there and I'm about to find it."

The 40-year-old actress was here as a keynote speaker at the Spikes Festival of Advertising yesterday. Dressed in an elegant black and blue geometric print dress, she met Life after her session.

She played Joan Holloway in Mad Men, who starts out as office manager and head of the secretarial pool at advertising agency Sterling Cooper. The role earned her six Emmy nominations and two Critics Choice Television Awards for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.

The critically beloved drama by Matthew Weiner also made stars of other series regulars such as Jon Hamm and January Jones.

As Hendricks puts it, the show has changed her life "in almost every way I can imagine".

Like being given the opportunity to come to Singapore. In her two days here, she managed to squeeze in an impressive amount of sightseeing. She ticks off Little India, Chinatown and the "incredible" Gardens by the Bay.

She also enjoyed a drink atop Marina Bay Sands, had an "amazing" dinner at Jaan restaurant in Swissotel The Stamford and "beautiful chicken briyani" at Tekka market.

And to think it all started with a show that "we didn't know if anyone would watch or not". As acclaim started to snowball, some pressure built up as well.

Hendricks adds, though: "In a good way. We were so proud of it that we never wanted to fluctuate and we wanted the quality to always remain."

At the very beginning, Hendricks reveals that she was actually scared of her character.

"I thought she was sort of mean and pushy and opinionated, and a bit harsh. One thing that Weiner said to me was 'She's really just trying to help. She really thinks she's helping.' And I thought that's a great way to move forward with her."

While the show is considered to be quite serious, off the set, there were games of backgammon, charades and Catchphrase going on. "I'm really good at Catchphrase," Hendricks adds with a laugh.

Filming the last few episodes turned out to be pretty emotional.

She recalls: "It was pretty rough. There was a lot of tears, a lot of speeches, a lot of goodbyes and hugs. A lot of people were showing up on set to watch other people's final performances. To see some of these characters say their last words was hard."

What was also hard for Hendricks was her sex symbol status. She was voted Best Looking American Woman by Esquire magazine in 2010 and, in that same year, in an interview with GQ magazine, she said: "I was working my butt off on the show and then all anyone was talking about was my body."

Asked if there are double standards for men and women in Hollywood and she says firmly: "Absolutely. There's definitely more undressing scenes for women in Hollywood than for men. Although Jon got his fair share."

Even as she waits for the right gig to come along, Hendricks, who is married to actor Geoffrey Arend, has been busy with other projects. She starred in the period sitcom Another Period (2015) and did voiceover work as an alien entity on animated series Rick & Morty (2013-present).

"I love doing voiceover work. I think it's really, really fun. I also did Tinkerbell. I find it artistically interesting - you just have to use such different story-telling techniques because you don't have your physical presence to help you."

Thus far, she has been choosing her projects instinctively.

"I'm looking for characters that are well-rounded and interesting and I feel like I can contribute to the story-telling. I know it when I read it, I kind of go with my gut."

And it has been working for her so far.

"I keep thinking I'm going to be on a talk show and they're going to come up with some clip I'm going to be humiliated about.

"But I can't think of one. I can also laugh at myself. If there's something out there that's a little cheesy, I'm okay with that too."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 11, 2015, with the headline 'Looking for the right role'. Print Edition | Subscribe