‘Pan Am’ revisits air travel’s golden age
Fasten your seat belt for a flight back to the 1960s.
By definition, a series titled “Pan Am” would have to be set in an earlier era, since the title airline went out of business in 1991 after 64 years of operation. However, it’s now back in business for ABC: With an emphasis on escapism, a drama about the personnel and passengers of Pan American World Airways premieres Sunday, Sept. 25.
“What really locked in for me when we were developing the project,” says series creator and executive producer Jack Orman (“ER”), “was this concept of the Jet Age. The idea that you could get to go on an airplane was part of the whole trip; it wasn’t something you wanted to ‘get through.’ It almost feels like science fiction now. You went through no security, there was a lounge, they were having martinis. It was a lot of fun, and it was real.”
Christina Ricci, Margot Robbie, Kelli Garner and Karine Vanasse play stewardesses, with Mike Vogel and Michael Mosley among the pilots. Known for often-edgy roles in such movies as “Monster” and “Black Snake Moan,” Ricci embraces the idea of playing an air hostess without her character, Maggie, being any sort of stereotype.
“There is sort of this misconception,” she reflects, “because in reality, the job allowed these women to have a freedom they weren’t really given in a regular role in life at that time. Yes, they did have to pass through the girdle checks and the grooming checks ... but having met the education qualifications and all these other things, they were then allowed to travel freely and see the world in a way that other people didn’t, and be in charge of their lives in a way that women at that time weren’t necessarily.”
Another executive producer of “Pan Am” knows that well, since Nancy Hult Ganis actually was a Pan Am stewardess from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s. “We would become friends with our passengers,” she recalls of that era. “We would know them by name, we would know about their children, where they were going. Because the flights took more time and there wasn’t entertainment or iPads or any of that, it was much more interactive.
The Pan Am experience played a role in another significant career: Patricia Ireland was another stewardess who eventually would serve as president of NOW, the National Organization for Women.
Karine Vanasse, Michael Mosley, Margot Robbie, Mike Vogel, Christina Ricci and Kelli Garner (from left) star in “Pan Am,” premiering Sunday on Channel 4.