Elaine Hendrix Talks ‘Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll,’ Music, and Denis Leary

Elaine Hendrix Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll Interview
Denis Leary as Johnny and Elaine Hendrix as Ava in ‘Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll’ (Photo by Patrick Harbron / FX)

Elaine Hendrix’s background as a singer and dancer made tackling the role of back-up singer Ava in FX’s Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll a natural fit for the gorgeous actress. Hendrix began her career in entertainment appearing in music videos before transitioning to acting, with her resume now including roles in feature films and on TV as well as writing and producing credits.

Hendrix’s ‘Ava’ in Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll is smart, sexy, and talented, and completely devoted to a mess of an aging rock and roll singer/songwriter named Johnny Rock (played by the series’ writer/creator Denis Leary). During a conference call to discuss the FX series currently airing on Thursday nights at 10pm ET/PT, Hendrix talked about getting into the character, collaborating with Leary, and relating to Ava.

How did you get involved with the series?

Elaine Hendrix: “It was a little bit of good old-fashioned auditioning, but it was also very different in that they were not seeing people in Los Angeles for my role, and I live in Los Angeles. So, I put myself on tape, and normally even if you put yourself on tape eventually you have to go into a room with some decision-maker. That just didn’t happen in this process. My tape got passed around and then the next thing I know I booked the job, was shooting the pilot, and then the next thing I know we’re on the series, and then the next thing I know here I am talking to you all. So, it was a little old-fashioned and a little modern at the same time.”

Can you talk about working with Denis Leary?

Elaine Hendrix: “Well, first of all, Denis is a dream. I cannot stop raving about him enough. I keep saying I don’t know who I’m going to work with after him, because between him and FX it makes the perfect combination for an artist, for the actor side because we have a lot of freedom on this show to really bring ideas, and creativity, and our own unique stamp to the roles, and that just doesn’t always happen. Denis also really starts to write towards us and towards our strengths, and as a woman who does comedy that is the ultimate dream, because, first of all, not everybody – it’s not that they don’t allow it, it just doesn’t really happen that much, and especially from a male perspective. Males don’t always write strong, funny women roles. But Denis does and he champions strong, funny women. So, it’s really ideal for me.”

How would you describe Ava and Johnny’s relationship?

Elaine Hendrix: “The Ava/Johnny relationship, I think is a very complex one because anything goes with them and they love that. They thrive on that. It’s what’s kept them together so many years, that they just completely accept one another. They could be screaming bloody murder at each other and then in the next second be making out. And so they just are who they are, they accept each other and love each other unconditionally. As crazy as that can seem in particularly a rock and roll world, I don’t know, it’s kind of neat. It’s kind of special.”

Is there anyone you modeled Ava after? Did Denis tell you anyone to look at someone in particular when you were preparing for the role?

Elaine Hendrix: “Not really. For the show, the general idea, he had guys he had gone to school with and modeled after the rockers who didn’t make it. That was modeled after people. I think for Ava it might have been a compilation of people, but there wasn’t any one particular person we pointed to. I did a lot of research on rock and roll; I did a lot of research on backup singers. I did a lot of research on drugs, actually, and then just brought my own imagination to her and certainly my own spin to her. I also knew Denis’ style of comedy. I knew she had to have some pace and pep to her.

Yes, so that’s the long answer to say no, there wasn’t one person in particular. It really was a building process.”

You have such great chemistry with all the cast members on the show, do you have a favorite scene or a funny moment from this season?

Elaine Hendrix: “I think we do, too, and it’s so funny because you’ve read about people who hate each other and still have great chemistry onscreen. But we all actually really love each other and like each other. We hang out when we’re not working together. We remain friends. We text each other all the time. We try to see each other whenever we can. So, I think that’s what makes a lot for our great chemistry.

And the favorite scenes, my favorite scenes are typically when I’m with Dennis in the bedroom just because that’s where I feel like we really get to capture a lot of Ava and Johnny history. Denis and I, we really just let the reins go and try to get it as real and raw as possible.

And then the other time, in the complete opposite way, when we’re all together is also some of my favorite scenes because of the chemistry we do have. I love when we’re all just sort of piling over each other and it gets messy, and we’re interrupting, and fighting, and loving, so it’s fun. It makes for a great adrenaline rush, really.”

Elaine Hendrix Photo in Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll

Has being a heavy metal backup singer influenced you as far as liking more heavy rock and roll in real life?

Elaine Hendrix: “No, because I love rock. I think at heart I’m a rock chick, and for me the Country rock, even Bluegrass, they all generate from the Blues. And so I do love it all. I’ve grown up listening to all kinds of music. I love Bach as much as I love Pink, as much as I love Dolly Parton. So, I’m a big music fan.

It’s so funny, I’m taking this call right now from Tennessee. I’m home visiting my family and my dad’s in the other room – I don’t even know if he can hear me – but two of his favorite guys growing up, rockers, were Jerry Lee Lewis and George Thorogood. So, I grew up listening to that, and I’m just happy to be a part of a rock and roll show. Yes, my roots run Southern because I am [from] Tennessee, but I’ll take any of it.”

Did you have any input into Ava’s look on the show?

Elaine Hendrix: “Our costumer, Jeriana San Juan, is a genius. She has dressed so many iconic people and worked on so many iconic shows and tours and whatnot, so we really didn’t have to do a lot. She showed up with all kinds of pieces and ideas, and then I certainly had input as we went along. It’s funny, especially when you work on a series, you do get the luxury of building and refining her as you go along. There would literally be moments I would try something on and we’d go, ‘Nope, it’s not Ava. It’s just not her.’ And so you start to get into a groove. You start to get into a rhythm of what really works for the character and what doesn’t.”

You’ve had many roles over the years, is there a particular role you’re proud of that maybe never fully got a chance to catch on with audiences or critics or even fans that you wish now they could go back and check out?

Elaine Hendrix: “Oh, gosh the first thing that came to mind was a little movie that I did called Good Intentions. And I say ‘little’ just because it was independent. It didn’t have any big studio backing or anything, and I was a co-producer on that. It was myself, Leeann Rimes, Luke Perry, and a whole bunch of other really tremendous actors. It’s just a sweet, fun, feel-good, Southern movie. It was I think maybe one of the only times that I really got to play Southern and so that was a lot of fun. I’m very, very proud of that movie.”

What inspired you to become a vegan?

Elaine Hendrix: “I’m always happy when people ask me about my advocacy work. I’ve loved animals my whole life and when I started getting invited to different charity events as an actress and as someone who was starting to become visible, I got invited to all these different charity events and I felt like I wasn’t really making an impact. I was just showing up. But I couldn’t really point to anything that I really felt like I could measure where I was really making a difference. And so I sat down literally at my computer one day and I said, ‘I’m going to figure out what my platform is so I can really focus on that.’

In hindsight it should have been obvious that it was animals, because I’ve loved animals my whole life. But it did take me finding an undercover fur video and my reaction to that, it completely traumatized me, totally changed my life. From that point forward I’ve done everything I could to help animals. And so becoming vegan was a little bit of a progression, as I kept learning about different animal issues I keep, and still to this day I still learn about things that are helping to animals and I try to weed out everything that hurts them. I try to weed any of that out of my life. So, it’s been a journey and it’s a continuing journey.”

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