Christina Hendricks on ‘Good Girls’ and What Men Can Do Better

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - MAY 29: Actress Christina Hendricks poses for a portrait during the Variety Studio powered by Samsung Galaxy at Palihouse on May 29, 2014 in West Hollywood, California
Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for Variety

Actress Christina Hendricks, who played Joan—everyone’s favorite staffer from Mad Men— is back with two new projects. And this time, she’s fighting trailer-park psychos 
and engaging in armed robbery.

You’re starring in next month’s The Strangers: Prey at Night, in which you spend most of the film running away from a bunch of homicidal psychos in a trailer park. Are you a big horror movie fan?
I love horror movies. My husband (actor Geoffrey Arend) and I watch them all the time. The original Strangers was one of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen in my life—like, I still shudder. It’s the scariest scenario I can imagine, because it’s not like someone’s out for revenge. These people just knock on your door and want to fuck with you, so anyone is prey to it.

Are you a fear junkie generally?
Not really. For years, I couldn’t go on roller coasters, and I would never jump out of a plane. But there’s something about horror films—it’s just enough scare for me to handle.

What’s the most frightened you’ve ever been?
When I was 7 years old, our Volkswagen van went over a cliff in the snow in the Teton mountains. Luckily, the other side of the cliff had a ledge.

You’re also in the new NBC show Good Girls, a dark comedy about three suburban moms who turn to armed robbery to provide for their families. Why do you think women as breadwinners is still touchy for some men?
These women end up going into a life of crime in this sort of absurd, over-the-top way. But I’ve known many, many female breadwinners with very confident husbands who are just fine with it. Obviously there are traditional roles that we shed just a little bit more of, generation after generation, and of course there’s a bit ingrained in us from our parents and our grandparents.

Have you ever broken the law yourself?
I’m sure, yes. But I’ve never been caught.

A lot of actresses’ careers slow down when they hit their 40s, but it seems like the opposite is happening to you. Why do you think you’re on the upswing at 42?
I don’t know if it’s my age or my particular circumstances. I finished Mad Men a couple of years ago, and the success of that brought me to the attention of other filmmakers, so it could just be that. Or maybe we’re looking at women in their 40s in a different way than we have in the past.

What do you think has changed?
I think as a society, we look at our 40s, 50s, and even our 60s as more youthful than when I was a kid. Age doesn’t define us or restrain us.

A couple of years ago, you were voted “the sexiest woman in the world.” What makes you feel sexy?
I feel the sexiest when I’ve done a really good job at work and killed what I was trying to do—I have this confidence of doing what I do well. That always makes me feel sexy and powerful.

You don’t often hear people associate work with feeling sexy.
Confidence, strength, and individuality are sexy. As an artist, I get to explore those feelings at and through work, as well as other places in my life. Feeling like I’m doing what I set out to accomplish, and doing it well, turns me on.

I’m sure he’s used to it, but how does your husband handle it when guys hit on you or check you out?
First of all, I love that you think that happens.

It doesn’t? I can’t believe that.
I’m very well-known as a married woman at this point, so no men really try. It would probably feel nice if someone was flirting with me, but I can’t honestly even remember the last time something like that happened. If it did happen in front of Geoffrey, I hope that he would be proud and just laugh it off.

You both travel a lot to film in different locations. How do you make that work?
Well, generally our dream is to always meet up in L.A. because that’s what we consider our home. But right now, I’m in Atlanta and he’s in New York. So he’s been coming down to visit me, and I’ll go up to see him. I’ll be in Calgary next, so I’m sure we’ll be going back and forth between New York and Calgary. We really have to be flexible.

Your character, Joan, on Mad Men faced sexism, unequal pay, and constant sexual harassment. We’re hearing more about these issues in Hollywood and beyond. Have you dealt with those issues in your work life?
Every woman has. For years and years, interviewers would ask about Mad Men: “How do you feel that things have changed since the 1960s, and do you think we’re in a better place?” For years and years, I’ve been saying, “Yes, I think we’re probably in a better place, but we have a really long way to go.” Every woman I know has experienced this kind of workplace inequality. It’s better now, but it’s still not OK. I can’t believe it’s been going on this long.

What can men do better?
Look at us through the same eyes you use to look at your male coworker. Same job, same treatment. It really doesn’t have to be complicated, people.

Good Girls premieres on NBC on February 26. The Strangers: Prey at Night will debut in theaters on March 9.