The Arc of Joan: The Secrets Behind 'Mad Men's' Most Divisive, Decisive and Delicious Character

8:03 AM PST 06/06/2012 by THR staff

In the new issue of The Hollywood Reporter, Christina Hendricks reveals how she won the role of Joan Holloway (she was called in for Peggy), why she once dismissed Joan as “a bitch,” and her own thoughts about the indecent proposal that exploded into TV's most-talked about moment. Plus: Hollywood women share their deepest feelings about the character, as Matthew Weiner explains her motivation.

Ever since May 20, Christina Hendricks has been in defensive mode. That was the night that Mad Men’s steely bombshell, Joan, did the unthinkable. She slept with a lecherous Jaguar dealer in exchange for a partnership stake in Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. No sooner had Joan’s fitted dress fallen from her pale shoulders in the episode titled “The Other Woman” did the Twittersphere explode with opinions ranging from horrified shock to guilty delight.

PHOTOS: Unzipping Joan: Christina Hendricks Is TV's Most Talked-About Bombshell

In a series long driven by the exploits of Jon Hamm’s Don Draper, Hendricks’ Joan suddenly has found herself Topic A among the TV-viewing intelligentsia (the AMC show has averaged 2.6 million viewers this season). In an era where great female roles are few and far between, a role that brims with sexuality (and just plain sex) is far from that of a bimbo.

The Hollywood Reporter senior writer Lacey Rose sat down with Hendricks for the most insightful look yet at the woman behind the bombshell -- just one part of a Mad Men-themed cover section that includes a selection of personal essays on Joan by some of Hollywood’s top female voices, Matthew Weiner’s own take on Joan’s evolution and a look back at TV’s water-cooler moments for women.

Some of the other details from THR’s Hendricks cover story:

HENDRICKS READ FOR PEGGY AND MIDGE BEFORE BEING CAST AS JOAN
Hendricks was initially asked to read for the part of Peggy, the overearnest 20-year-old secretary role that ultimately went to Elisabeth Moss. Hendricks had her manager address her concern that she was too old to play 20, so instead she read for Midge (a shorter-lived part of Don Draper’s bohemian mistress played by Rosemarie DeWitt) and Joan.

“I THOUGHT JOAN WAS SUCH A BITCH”
In the series’ early days, Hendricks found the role a bit of challenge. “I thought Joan was such a bitch, and I struggled sometimes trying to make her as real as possible because I thought, who would be so mean?” she says, recalling how surprised she was that viewers found Joan to be empowered rather than cruel.

JOHN SLATTERY: "I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT I WAS GETTING INTO UNTIL I SAW HER"
“People want to think because of how stunning she is that she’s just this torpedo, but she’s way more complicated than that,” costar John Slattery says of Hendricks, whom he recalls marveling at during his first day on set half a decade earlier. “My first scene was walking in with Don Draper at the end of a scene in which she’s telling Peggy to, ‘Go home, take a paper bag, tear out two eye holes and put it over your head.’ I didn’t know what I was getting myself into until I saw her. It was that scene that kind of woke me up to the potential for this whole thing.”

HENDRICKS’ DREAM PAIRINGS: WOODY ALLEN, WES ANDERSON AND TIM BURTON
“I’d love to do a Woody Allen movie,” she says, as she starts ticking off other items on her wish list, including quirky Wes Anderson and Tim Burton films, a Western, a musical and a great corset drama.

Read the full THR cover story in full here >>

Also in THR's Mad Men cover section:

MATTHEW WEINER ON JOAN'S EVOLUTION
"She was not at all what I expected to cast," Weiner explains. "I thought Joan would be more like an Eve Arden type, that she would just be Peggy’s friend. [...] Christina brought all of this power, sexuality and confidence, and I recognized this dynamic between her and Peggy. I thought, this is going to be interesting to see how this office works, especially since I had been so influenced by the books Sex and the Single Girl and The Feminine Mystique."

Read the story in full here >>

7 WATER-COOLER MOMENTS FOR TV WOMEN
From Mary Tyler Moore to Roseanne Barr, author MG Lord revisits the reluctant icons of female independence -- and the scripted moments that changed feminist history. 

Read the story in full here >>

MY FANTASY NIGHT WITH JOAN
The Walking Dead executive producer Gail Anne Hurd, Margaret Cho, and Don't Trust the B---- in Apt 23 executive producer Nahnatchka Khan were among the Hollywood women who penned personal essays  on Mad Men's breakout bombshell.

Read the story in full here >>

THE 5 BEST JOAN MOMENTS OF SEASON 5
THR Chief TV Critic Tim Goodman picks his favorite moments from a season in that saw Joan become company partner.

Read the story in full here >>

comments powered by Disqus