Christina Hendricks, who plays Joan Holloway on Mad Men, had it rough growing up. She moved around a lot and was bullied in high school. But she also figured out how to survive. She recently sat down with a writer from the Guardian to talk about her days as a high school goth, sexism in Hollywood, and how she was actually dropped by her agency when she had taken the Mad Men part (they didn’t think it would make money). She is remarkably candid on these and the following things in her life.
She was bullied and spit on in high school.
“We had a locker bay, and every time I went down there to get books out of my locker people would sit on top and spit at me. So I had to have my locker moved because I couldn’t go in there… I felt scared in high school. It was like Lord of the Flies. There was always some kid getting pummeled and people cheering.”
So she became a purple-haired Goth kid with Doc Martens on her feet.
“My parents would say, ‘You’re just alienating everyone. You’ll never make any friends looking like that.’ And I would say, ‘I don’t want those people to be my friends. I’m never going to be friends with the people who beat up a kid while everyone is cheering them on. I hate them.’”
Obviously, she’s never been to a high-school reunion.
“I haven’t gone to any reunions. I’m sure, if I did, they would have no idea I went there. No idea.”
She talks about experiencing sexism in Hollywood.
“You know, it’s difficult in the arts to pinpoint it but there’s sexual harassment at work every single day, all day long. Certainly in the respect and position [of women], you feel like, ‘Am I allowed to ask these questions or contribute in this way?’… Society has conditioned you that way. As women, we feel we can’t ask for things. There’s been a lot of research done recently and, more often than not, if a woman goes in to ask for a raise, she’ll get it. But she’s thinking, ‘Do I deserve it? I’ve got to give a list of why I deserve it.’ Whereas a man will just go in and ask for a raise. It’s so scary.”
It’s hard for her to watch God’s Pocket, in which she co-stars with Philip Seymour Hoffman.
“I was saying to my husband [the actor Geoffrey Arend] that sometimes when you have a friend who passes, it feels very, very final,” she says, and her eyes become filmy as she turns away and stares at the tablecloth. “But something about Philip … I keep thinking I’m going to see him again. I guess, when I watch the film now, I feel like it’s a celebration of him. I feel lucky to have gotten to work with him. I feel grateful and I feel sad.”
Her agency dropped her after she took the part of Joan Holloway on Mad Men.
“They said, ‘It’s a period piece, it’s never going to go anywhere. We need you to make money and this isn’t going to make money.’ They ended up dropping me … I had been on several shows that were meant to be the big ones, that would go on for ever, and they didn’t. So there was no sure bet and I’d already taken a chance on them and I felt, why not do the one you’re in love with and take a chance on that?”
She took her mom and best friend to the shooting of the pilot.
“I turned to them and said, ‘Is it good?’ And they both said, ‘Oh yeah, it’s good.’ I said, ‘Is it boring?’ and my mother said, ‘No, but I didn’t like that he [Don Draper] was cheating on his wife at the end.’ And I thought, ‘Oh no, she’s going to hate the show.’”
She totally does not want kids.
“I mean, they [children] are a lot of work.”
She has an anti-anxiety dog, a cockapoo named Zouzou.
“She’s an anti-anxiety dog. She calms me down.”
She does take criticism hard.
“I do take things personally because someone is always wanting to criticise or say something negative. I don’t know why it is. I’m sure there’s tons of blogs out there about how horrible Meryl Streep is. [laughs] And we all know that’s not true.”