Mad about you
Christina Hendricks makes “magic” in TV’s hottest new anthology series, The Romanoffs
IF Christina Hendricks was hoping to recreate some magic by reuniting with her nine-time Emmy award-winning Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner, it appears to have worked.
The much-missed show’s breakout star earned six Emmy nominations as buxom feminist Joan Holloway, a role which positioned her as one of the most mesmerising actors of television’s modern renaissance.
Cast again by Weiner in his hotlyanticipated new series The Romanoffs, Hendricks is back at her best, reuniting with former Mad Men co- stars, John Slattery and Jay R. Ferguson, as well as Diane Lane, Aaron Eckhart, Kathryn Hahn, Noah Wyle and Radha Mitchell – all of whom play people who believe themselves to be descendants of the famously doomed Romanov dynasty.
Hendricks is the protagonist in episode two of 10 – a fish- out- of-water tale where reality and fantasy are indecipherable.
In a role she describes as “the closest I’ve ever played to me,” Hendricks is diva movie star Olivia Rogers – dispatched to Prague to replace an actress, playing one of the Romanoffs in a film, who has left the production under mysterious circumstances.
When Olivia arrives on set, she is met with a highly combative and eccentric director (Oscar winner Isabelle Huppert) and an ego maniac of a leading man (Jack Huston).
Olivia discovers she has been cast partly because of her physical attributes, and is complimented about filling out the Romanoff costume in ways her predecessor did not.
For Hendricks, it’s a familiar refrain, with much made of her Marilyn Monroeesque, hour-glass figure – a rarity in modern Hollywood and the catwalks of the fashion world. More’s the pity, the 43-year- old tells TV Guide, concerned by the pressure put on women to adhere to a ‘ thin is in’ norm.
While the natural-born blonde began dyeing her hair red at the age of 10 (inspired by her love of Anne of Green Gables), she insists she’s “never been asked to change my look.”
“I just think it’s unfortunate that we look to fashion magazines [for] inspiration because obviously they are a bit of fantasy,” she says. “Those girls are mostly 16 and 17 years old, so it’s very hard for a grown woman to look like that … it’s tricky.
“We put too much pressure on ourselves to try and achieve that, whether it’s having 16-year- old skin, 16-year- old hair or a 16-year- old body,” she adds, urging women “to be nicer to ourselves and really embrace and love our individuality.”
Being replaced in a role is also territory Hendricks has confronted in her 16year career; a scenario she says is more common than the audience realises.
“I have replaced someone and I’ve been replaced,” she says. “It happens very often in this town. And you’re usually not the first choice when you get a job in the first place. You have to be very, very open and accepting of those facts.”
Playing a character plagued by insecurities like Olivia left an imprint on Hendricks, just as being bold and assured like Joan did in Mad Men.
“You’ve got to tap into those [insecurities] that you know about yourself and explore that: wanting to be respected, wanting to be liked, hoping that you’ve earned it and that you’ve proved it and that you’re adequate in all those things.”
She is anchored by her marriage to another actor, Geoffrey Arend, even if their schedules keep them apart. “He’s already back to work on Madam Secretary, [and] his hiatus is different from my hiatus, so we only got two weeks’ together. My dear friend Michael Gladis from Mad Men got married, so we went up to Idaho, went to a beautiful wedding and that became our vacation,” she says, adding: “so we’re just texting right now.”
She filmed her Romanoffs scenes in Czechoslovakia, while the anthology production shot in seven countries, including France, China and the UK.
At a rumoured cost of $6 million an episode, it’s not only one of the most ambitious TV projects for Amazon to date, but also one of the most expensive.
“I’d never been [to Prague] and I feel like I left my heart there,” says. “It was honestly the best thing I’ve ever worked on. A truly magical experience.” Thanks to the marriage of former Suits star Meghan Markle to Prince Harry, fascination with royalty is arguably at an all-time high – it just doesn’t interest Hendricks in the way this Russian royal mystery does.
The execution deaths of the real Romanovs, following orders from then- Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin, have long intrigued – with the remains of the youngest daughter Anastasia never found.
“Even though it happened so many generations ago there’s an element of, ‘ Did one really survive?’ and that has kept it interesting and tragic at the same time,” Hendricks says, adding “people love a mystery.”
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