Although she’s best known as Joan Holloway on the critically-acclaimed Mad Men, many genre fans remember Emmy nominee Christina Hendricks as con artist Saffron on Joss Whedon’s short-lived yet beloved sci-fi/western series Firefly.
“I’m telling you the Browncoats (the name for Firefly fans) are the most loyal fans,” said Hendricks, a native of Knoxville, TN, who splits her time between Los Angeles and New York.
She appeared on two episodes of FOX’s 2002 cult classic, starring a pre-Castle Nathan Fillion. Although it was canceled after 11 episodes (three episodes didn’t air), Firefly developed a loyal fanbase. Strong DVD sales and an impassioned fan campaign to bring it back eventually spawned 2005’s big-screen sequel Serenity. Today, Firefly lives on in comic books, currently published by BOOM! Studios. In fact, Saffron has appeared in a few comics, one of which revealed her background. Hendricks had to approve her likeness.
“(Firefly) was a real special thing I got to do,” she said. “It’s amazing – I feel like more and more people are watching that show now than ever, which is a testament to Joss and the fans. It’s pretty fun.”
Currently, Hendricks plays Beth Bolland on the NBC dramedy Good Girls, which is in its third season. Occurring in Metro Detroit, Good Girls chronicles the misadventures of Beth, her younger sister Annie Marks (Mae Whitman, Parenthood), and bestie Ruby (Retta, Parks and Recreation). All three women are suburban moms who run into money trouble and decide to rob a grocery store, amassing $500,000.
However, the money they stole in their successful heist belongs to local gangster Rio (Manny Montana, Graceland), who was using the grocery store as a money-laundering front. After spending a majority of their cut, the three must do jobs for Rio to pay off their debt. While grossly incompetent, they manage to pull off these jobs through sheer dumb luck – and often with hilarious results.
Rather than quit once they pay off Rio, who ends up having a sexual relationship with Beth, the three enjoy the criminal life – especially Beth, who’s the de facto leader. Despite Annie and Ruby’s misgivings, they go into the money-laundering business for themselves with Beth in command once again.
“From the very beginning, there’s this real sexual tension between (Beth and Rio), and there’s this cat and mouse game he plays with her,” said Hendricks.
At the end of the second season, Beth shoots Rio, believing she killed him. However, he’s saved by Agent Turner (James Lesure, Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce), who takes a special interest in busting the three, particularly Beth. Rio becomes his confidential informant. However, at the beginning of the third season, Rio betrays Turner, who’s killed.
Meanwhile, the three feel they’re safe now that Rio’s out of their lives and pursue their own criminal interests. However, Rio turns up alive and reveals himself to Beth. To save her own skin and buy some time, Beth tells him she’s pregnant with his baby. Dean (Matthew Lillard, Scream) – Beth’s husband who’s cheated on her but wants to make their marriage work after everything that’s happened between them throughout the series – is aware of her criminal activities. When he learns Rio’s alive, Dean buys a shotgun to protect Beth and their four kids.
“I adore (Lillard),” said Hendricks. “He is just a gentleman and such a beautiful actor. He’s so fun. He can do this extreme comedy that’s so broad and hilarious, and then he has these really deep tender moments as Dean. It’s hard to play an unlikeable guy and he makes him likable in these despicable circumstances; you really can’t hate Dean. You want to hate him, but you just can’t because (Lillard) brings this human quality to him.”
Hendricks also has high praise for Whitman and Retta. They’re friends off-screen as well as on-screen. All of them connected from the first day they met.
“Mae and Rhetta are fantabulous actresses and people. I’m madly in love with them. I cannot believe how lucky I am to go to work with these women every day. They inspire me as an actress and they’re my friends. I get to go to work with two of my best friends. They’ve been there for me on and off-screen,” said Hendricks.
Whitman shared Hendricks’ feelings.
“Every single day, I thank my lucky stars that I get to work with these ladies,” she said. “I can’t even explain how close we are. I was given a family in a wrapped-up package – it’s crazy. It extends all the way to the crew, too. Everybody who works on this show, we all love each other so much. There’s such a positive vibe. The day is filled with jokes. There’s no negativity. Everybody respects and trusts each other. It’s rare when that happens.”
Last year, Hendricks appeared in Toy Story 4, which won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, starring Oscar winner Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump) as Woody and Tim Allen (Last Man Standing) as Buzz Lightyear. Hendricks portrayed Gabby Gabby, a 1950s talking pull-string doll. A manufacturing defect left Gabby Gabby sounding terrifying, giving her motive to steal Woody’s voicebox when they cross paths.
“That was exciting! I guess I’m finally in an Oscar-winning movie, which is really fun,” she said, laughing. “It was such a beautiful film – I’m proud of it and proud to be a part of it in any way that I could. People continue to come up to me to tell me they’ve just seen it and how special it is to their family. I’m lucky that I get to feel proud of a lot of my work – I feel really lucky about that.”
Hendricks accepted the role without even knowing the character she was playing.
“(The creators) approached me and asked if I’d be in Toy Story 4. I said, ‘Hell yeah!’” she recalled, laughing.
Allen enjoyed working with Hendricks.
“What a gorgeous voice, what a presence that woman has. It’s startling, it really is,” said Allen. “I’ve seen Gabby Gabby in the movie, and I’m amazed at what Christina did (with this role) – it’s great!”
Other notable roles Hendricks has had include Kelly Kramer on 2000-01’s Beggars and Choosers, Nicolette Raye on 2004-05’s Kevin Hill, Celine (aka Chair) in 2015-16’s Another Period, Elizabeth Bradshaw on Tin Star from 2017-19, Olivia Rogers on a 2018 episode of The Romanoffs, et al. The former model has also won two Screen Actors Guild Awards.
“It’s funny, a lot of people ask, ‘Do you choose roles that are just strong women?’ I think a lot of the women I’ve played are very, very vulnerable and going through very hard times,” she explained. “I just think there’s a lot of strength in women. I approach those characters and those roles because usually the women I’m playing are fighting for something. Women can reach down and find the strength within them. That’s what I bring to the characters.”