Christina Hendricks on Her "Playful" Post-'Mad Men' Role in 'Hap and Leonard'

"I hope I've never been window dressing," she said at a panel for her new Sundance TV series at the Television Critics Association press tour.
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Christina Hendricks

Mad Men alum Christina Hendricks isn’t intentionally veering away from drama now that the AMC critical darling has concluded.

When asked about her newfound affection for comedic roles while peddling her new Sundance TV series Hap and Leonard at the Television Critics Association winter press tour (she was seen on the small screen most recently in Comedy Central’s Another Period), Hendricks explained that the pattern isn't deliberate.

“I haven’t had a plan. I really have just been going from project to project,” she said onstage at the Television Critics Association winter press tour. “[I’ll sign on] if there’s something that I read that seems really special and I feel like I can contribute in a way that helps tell the story.”

Hendricks did acknowledge, however, that the quantity and quality of her offers have improved significantly following her work in the Emmy-winning drama starring Jon Hamm. “Mad Mad was so amazing for all of us in the cast as far as opening doors. Maybe people didn’t consider us for comedies before, so we’re taking advantage of the fact that people think we can do it,” she said before adding to laughs in the ballroom: “I’m hilarious, you guys. I’ve always thought that.”

Hendricks’ latest series, bowing March 2, centers on a pair of best friends and martial arts experts, Hap Collins (The Following's James Purefoy) and Leonard Pine (Boardwalk Empire's Michael Kenneth Williams). Based on the book series by Joe Lansdale, the dark comedy follows the pair as they struggle through misadventures in a bid to stay on the right side of the law in 1980 East Texas.

For her part, Hendricks plays Hap's ex-wife Trudy Fawst, who resurfaces after two years with a proposition Hap can't refuse. “When I read it, she jumped off the page to me,” said Hendricks of what attracted her to the character, who has a thick East Texas accent. “I thought, ‘I want to get to know her. I want to embody this person.’ I liked her freedom, her saunter, her vernacular. I find her very playful and hopeful — and a trainwreck. I liked all of those things.”

Jim Mickle serves as the writer, director and executive producer on the six-episode series, which he said has a bit of Dukes of Hazard and Miami Vice in it. Lansdale remains intimately involved in the show — reading every draft, watching every cut and even being present on set every day (with his family in tow).

When one reporter asked Hendricks how she would avoid becoming “window dressing” in the show — implying that her Mad Men character, Joan, was such — Hendricks responded, “I hope I’ve never been window dressing.” Mickle added that her Hap and Leonard character defies stereotypes. “One of the fun things about the show is that it plays with pulpy noir tropes,” he said. “You think [Trudy’s] going to be the classic femme fatale … but then Christina makes her a really multilayered human being.”

Hap and Leonard premieres Wednesday, March 2, at 10:00 p.m. on SUndance TV.

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