Christina Hendricks' Joan Harris may be the soul of the AMC drama "Mad Men" as she maintains control and her moral center amid a 1960s workplace all too happy to treat women as eye candy. Likewise, the 38-year-old actress, who this year received her fourth supporting-actress Emmy nomination, finds herself balancing her love of the fashion world with some ambivalence about being judged on her appearance.
She said her fashion enthusiasm got her last Thursday's gig hosting the fashion-show kickoff to the Magnificent Mile Shopping Festival, which runs through Monday. But that doesn't mean that the stunning actress, who modeled early in her career and whose red hair and blue eyes glow more intensely in person, is always thrilled to be walking red carpets.
Showing her creative flair in a zebra-print navy shirt, turquoise pants and yellow-toed high-heeled shoes, Hendricks sat down before the event to talk (in her animated, soft, high-pitched voice) about the fun and not-so-fun sides of fashion, the emotion that's hardest to act, the actresses whose careers she most admires, how she might envision Joan moving into the 1970s and how she felt about her head exploding on screen. The following is an edited transcript.
Q: Do you do a lot of events like this?
A: This is the first fashion event I've ever hosted. I'm excited to see all the fall fashions tonight.
Q: Are you a fashion show fan?
A: I am. I'm sort of a designer junkie, like I just love what they do artistically. I love watching "Project Runway," and I love the artistry of it — and how you can come up something new every season and everyone wants to get on board. It's really sort of a very powerful job.
Q: Is this the kind of event you would have been in when you were modeling?
A: I did some runway when I was modeling, but I was always little bit short. I'm 5-8, but the girls were 5-10. I did some in London, and I did a couple in New York, but mostly I did print work.
Q: Do you like the red carpet aspect of your job?
A: (Laughs.) I do, and I don't. It is such a treat to get to wear these beautiful clothes and work personally with designers and get to know them, and then there's a lot of pressure and a lot of criticism, and you wish that you could sort of just wear whatever you wanted, but sometimes there are so many rules about it and expectations about it that you find you're being very, very careful about things. I think it's a shame that people can't just sort of be as creative as they want to be.
Q: Have you tried to be creative and been taught lessons?
A: (Laughs.) I think I still am quite creative, and sometimes people criticize me. Not everyone likes what I wear, but I try to be true to me and wear what I think is beautiful, and it's not always everyone's favorite, but I try to just wear what I like. I think there was only one dress once that I loved, loved, loved, and everyone went, "You can't wear that. That's too crazy."
Q: Did you ever wear it?
A: No. I never got the dress. I had only seen a picture of it. I still think about it.
Q: What was the dress?
A: I'm not going to say. Because maybe I can still get it and wear it some day. (Laughs.)
Q: What was so crazy about it?
A: It was very floral. The reason everyone was worried is because it had almost like a kimono fabric, and it was very, very busy, and everyone said, "That'll look crazy on camera. It'll be so, so busy." And I said, "But it'll be beautiful busy." But I got discouraged.
Q: Are there are any emotions or tones that you find particularly challenging to act?