Christina Hendricks is saying “time’s up” with her latest TV outing. The actor, who became a small-screen feminist icon playing self-reliant secretary Joan Holloway on AMC’s Mad Men, is back in an audacious new drama that feels tailor-made for the current era of women reclaiming power from abusive men.
NBC’s Good Girls, premièring Monday, follows three cash-strapped suburban moms who end up on the wrong side of the law when they rob a grocery store, nabbing 0,000 and invoking the wrath of criminals whose loot they stole.
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But the darkly comic series also hits on timely subjects of sexual misconduct and female empowerment: In the first episode, Beth (Hendricks) kicks her philandering husband out of the house and pays his mistress to skip town, reminding her that they both “deserve better.” Later, she saves her sister Annie (Mae Whitman) from an attempted rape by her lecherous boss — pointing a gun and fuming how “every man in the world thinks he can do whatever he wants.”
“This was written before this particular [Me Too] movement started, and we shot that scene before the [Harvey] Weinstein of it all,” Hendricks says, referring to the disgraced movie mogul. “It’s a bitter feeling, because it somehow is slightly more relevant, but it’s always been relevant. If we contribute to the conversation in a positive way, I would feel proud of that.”
Good Girls marks Hendricks’s biggest TV role since Mad Men ended in 2015, after a seven-season run that netted her six Emmy nominations. She credits the 1960s drama for her many projects since then, which include Amazon’s period cop thriller Tin Star and films Egg and The Burning Woman, due later this year.
“Before Mad Men, people thought of me as quite sweet and silly and naïve, so I got these quirky little roles,” says Hendricks, who first broke out in Showtime’s Beggars and Choosers in 2000. “After [the show], people started sending me these very strong female characters, as well as the other stuff. So it’s opened doors for me. That is a gift.”
Hendricks, 42, says it was the camaraderie among Girls’ central trio — played by Hendricks, Whitman and Parks and Recreation’s Retta — that drew her to the role. Beth’s friends support her, yet bemoan her “irrational, reactionary” decisions, which include striking a deal with a gangster and running laundered money across the Canadian border.
“Retta and I talked about that all the time, like, ‘Your real girlfriends will call you out on stuff, but they’ll always be there for you,’ ” Hendricks says. “That’s what I liked about the script: It was real and wasn’t cloyingly sweet. They fight. They say, ‘That’s a horrible idea.’ But at the end, they’re like, ‘Whatever you decide, I’m going to make sure you’re safe, you’re protected and you know you’re loved.’ ”
Playing Beth also gives Hendricks the opportunity to show a kick-ass, sometimes foul-mouthed side she couldn’t with the steely Joan, as the gun-waving soccer mom kicks soup cans down grocery aisles and bludgeons bad guys with whiskey bottles.
“Christina is hilarious, and I don’t know if people have ever seen her be quite as funny as she is in Good Girls,” says creator Jenna Bans, who worked on Desperate Housewives and four Shonda Rhimes series. “When I look at her, I just see a total fearlessness and a willingness to jump into the role. There’s really not much that fazes her.”
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