With her shock of red hair, it’s hard to miss Joan Holloway. And yet that’s exactly the predicament “Mad Men” fans found themselves in last season as the smokin’ hot office manager quit her job and left Sterling Cooper to the wolves. Thankfully the just launched fourth season has placed Joan back where she belongs: running an office, sauntering through its halls and knowing everything about everyone who walks through the front door.
This week, the newly formed Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce hold its first holiday party and you can be damn sure Joan’s going to make it better than her going away party, which ended in tears. And bloodshed.
Despite her character’s reduced screentime last season, actress Christina Hendricks snagged a well deserved Emmy nomination thanks in no small part to an enchanting accordion performance. I recently had the pleasure of chatting with the beyond bubbly actress about her musical stylings, Joan’s journey in season four and if those Joan/Roger ‘shippers should hold out hope for a reunion!
PopWrap: Congratulations on the Emmy nomination — I was pulling for you because although Joan wasn’t in season three that much, the scenes she did have were electric.
Christina Hendricks: That’s exactly right – when Joan was there, the material was amazing. But there wasn’t a lot of filler. She came in with a bang but there were so many other [characters] to service. Her story was so rich and fantastic last year. It just was condensed.
PW: Would you agree that Joan lost herself a bit after she left Sterling Cooper?
Christina: Absolutely. I think season three was very much about Joan “getting what she wanted” and then discovering, “oh no, this is not how the plan was supposed to go.” Joan excels in the office. She’s respected as a woman and someone who keeps the ship running. But she lost some of that power, so she lost some of her confidence. There’s nothing more fun than being good at what you do and I think she missed that. One thing that I thought about Joan from the very first moment in the pilot is that she is someone who needs to be needed. So that moment at the end of season three was great because it felt like, “oh I’m needed again.”
PW: That must have been a relieving script to read.
Christina: Well, I had spoken to [creator] Matt Weiner earlier in the season and said, “so what’s the plan here because as far as I can tell, I’m not working at the office anymore.” [laughs] He explained his plan to me so I was excited about that moment – even though it’s a brief moment on screen, it’s a grand idea for those characters. And I think it was nice too because although Roger has the idea, as soon as he says, “I know who to call” everyone knows who he’s talking about. So everyone was already on board, which was cool.
PW: It’s like she’s back where she belongs this season.
Christina: Yea, that’s how it felt to me too.
PW: You said that season three was about discovering that her plan was flawed, does season four involve Joan readjusting that plan?
Christina: Season four opens with this line of “who is Don Draper?” and there is an underlying theme of “who am I” for everyone. Obviously at the end of season three, Joan’s husband announced that he joined the army without consulting her. There’s definitely still discomfort and unease at home – so we see her figure out how to deal with that. You’ll definitely learn more about their relationship [this season].
PW: Sunday’s episode involves the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce Christmas Party — is it less lively than Joan’s going away party?
Christina: [laughs] What could be more lively than that?!? That was like the worst party ever – guest of honor cries, man is amputated. That was a dismal party. I can’t wait for people to see this because it’s incredibly clever. I hope that it comes across that way.
PW: Hosting a party at the office is kind of like Joan’s bread and butter.
Christina: Absolutely, are you kidding. This is like Christmas for Joan, but it actually is Christmas [laughs]. It’s the best gift she could get – organizing a party.
PW: Joan’s other season three party led to one of the most beautiful and memorable moments of the whole show — that accordion performance.
Christina: Thank you. That was something I knew was coming from the beginning of the season. They called me and asked if I spoke French and played the piano. I said, “I could learn French and I don’t play the piano, but I do play the accordion.” So they got me some freshen up lessons. It was a one of those great things as an actress where you get to refine another skill.
PW: What other skills would you like to obtain through work?
Christina: I always wanted to do a movie where I had to learn kung-fu for three months. Where if someone made you do it, you could do it. But there was a moment of, “what do you mean I have to sing on screen? What do you mean it’s in French? What do you mean it’s while playing the accordion?”
PW: You already had an accordion playing foundation — how did that come about?
Christina: I had always enjoyed the instrument and vocalized that many years ago, so a friend bought me an accordion. I kinda looked at it like, “I can’t believe you bought me this,” and stared at it for 6 months before finally calling around to find lessons, which aren’t that easy to find. You’d think they’d be on every corner! The Silver Lake Conservatory of Music teaches every instrument, so I started to take some lessons five years ago and did for maybe 8 months. I never really revisited it until “Mad Men” asked me to.
PW: Are there any other instruments you play?
Christina: No. I love to sing and I sing all the time much to the chagrin of my husband [laughs]. I’m a huge music lover and an admirer of people who are really good at it.
PW: What’s your go-to song for serenading Geoffrey?
Christina: Sometimes they’re just made up on the spot – which are particularly dismal. I probably belt out musicals more than anything else. Maybe a little Jesus Christ Superstar or Hedwig [and the Angry Inch]. My husband is actually a really great singer and he did a little performance of a couple songs from Hedwig last week and I did his makeup. It was fabulous.
PW: More than any character, save for maybe Don, Joan has deeply permeated pop culture. I can’t count the number of times a rival Pub Trivia Team has been named “Joan Holloway’s Accordion” or “Joan Holloway’s Pen Necklace.”
Christina: [laughs] Oh my gosh, I’m so flattered. I got some goosebumps. First of all, I love that they say Holloway, not Harris.
PW: I believe we prefer to think of her like that.
Christina: I still do! I remember at the first season three table read, we have nametags with our characters on them so guest stars know who we play, and mine said Joan Harris. When time came to introduce ourselves I said, “Hi I’m Christina Hendricks and I play Joan H-H-H … I couldn’t bring myself to say it. So I just said Joan [laughs].
PW: Are you aware of how fond people are of Joan — and by extension, you?
Christina: It’s really been phenomenal. And I really think the moment for all of us was getting our Barbies. I put her up on her little stand, and I’m analyzing all the little bits about her — I kind of undressed her a little bit.
PW: Era appropriate undergarments?
Christina: She had a cool corset on. She’s so cool. But I still can’t fathom that it’s a character I play. It just looks like a cool doll. It’s a lot to swallow. I love playing with her, bring over your Roger doll!
PW: Do your Joan doll and Roger doll have chemistry?
Christina: Well the fact that I would only choose to play with those two doll should tell you how I feel about it [laughs].
PW: Elisabeth Moss told me she was shocked fans still want Peggy to be with Pete — what are your feelings on a Joan and Roger reunion?
Christina: I think there is an undeniable caring about the two of them. And in a way that maybe you don’t see with other characters. When he had his heart attack and she’s left helpless, you can feel that yearning. He wants comfort from her and she wants to offer that, but can’t because the whole office is watching. I think the audience feels that and wants that, so Matt’s like “well if the audience wants it, of course I won’t do it” [laughs]
PW: Is that a rule?
Christina: No, I’m joking – he just cares that what is going to naturally happen, naturally happens. What I think is fascinating are the people who want Don and Joan together, based on that one scene when they sit together. It’s so random, but for some reason people want that.
PW: What do you say to that?
Christina: You never know!