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The Transformation Of Christina Hendricks From Childhood To Good Girls

Christina Hendricks has had an interesting career for a Hollywood starlet. Her big break, AMC's "Mad Men," was one of the first prestige basic cable shows. That it launched stars like Hendricks, Jon Hamm, and Elisabeth Moss was not always expected. What's more, Hendricks broke out at age 32 in an industry where women are scared to admit they're older than 25. Then she landed another series, in the lead role this time. In four seasons of "Good Girls," Hendricks has starred opposite comedy legends Retta and Mae Whitman.

Christina Hendricks has always succeeded by defying convention. She became a goth in high school, refused to change her look to get more modeling gigs, and took a job on a show no one thought would succeed. That show happened to be "Mad Men," so it's fair to say Hendricks has good instincts. Here is her transformation from childhood to leading "Good Girls."

Hendricks' teen years: Anne Shirley goes goth

Christina Hendricks was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1975. She began dying her naturally blonde hair red at age 10, inspired by Anne in "Anne of Green Gables." "I was obsessed with 'Anne Of Green Gables.' There was something about her that spoke to me – and I wanted to have her beautiful red hair. My mum said, 'Well, let's throw a rinse on it," Hendricks told the Daily Telegraph. "It went carrot red. And I was over the moon. I went to school the next day and felt like myself."

Hendricks went to high school in Fairfax, VA, where she didn't really fit in. "We had a locker bay, and every time I went down there to get books out of my locker people would sit on top and spit at me," she told the Guardian. "It was like Lord of the Flies. There was always some kid getting pummeled and people cheering." Rather than change herself to be more accepted, she leaned into the outcast thing and became a goth. She described her goth/punk mindset thusly: "'I don't want those people to be my friends. I'm never going to be friends with the people who beat up a kid while everyone is cheering them on. I hate them."

Her hands were famous before her face

Hendricks may be known best now for her Anne Shirley-inspired red hair and curvy figure, but her hands were the first thing that got major play in media. Hendricks became a model in her teen years, as recounted in the Guardian. She moved to London to model but didn't fit the body type that was booking best at the time. So she shifted focus to acting. Hendricks then moved to Los Angeles, where she continued doing some hand modeling work while also trying to break as an actress. And in 1999, Hendricks' hands became Oscarworthy. 

As revealed by Hendricks in an Instagram post, she is the hand model on the poster for 1999's "American Beauty." "[T]his is my hand and another model's stomach," she wrote. "American Beauty" was a film phenomenon, one of DreamWorks' first successful films. "The Men Who Would Be King" describes how that year's Oscar race was very contentious, with DreamWorks spending inordinate amounts of money on the Best Picture race after "Shakespeare in Love" beat "Saving Private Ryan" in 1998. And every time "American Beauty" won an award that night, Hendricks' hands came on screen. 

Early TV success

Christina Hendricks' first onscreen performance was on MTV's "Undressed," a role she called her biggest regret on "WWHL." She first started amassing fans, however, on "Firefly." The cult Fox series only lasted for one season but still has a devoted fan base. Hendricks guested in two episodes as a fan favorite con artist whose real name we never learn. 

When we first meet Hendricks' character, she's posing as a naive villager named Saffron from a very religious space colony. In "Our Mrs. Reynolds," the crew is led to believe that series lead Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion of "The Suicide Squad") accidentally married Saffron after saving her town from extortionists. Saffron stows away on Serenity and pretends to be a naive girl with no concept of the world around her. In reality, she is planning on disabling the ship and killing everyone on board, so that Serenity can be stolen and sold. Saffron is thwarted in that plan, but she returns in the episode "Trash," where she enlists the crew to help steal an antique laser pistol. It doesn't go great.

Mad Men's strongest character arc

Hendricks joined AMC's flagship drama, "Mad Men," in 2007. She played Joan Holloway, HBIC of the Sterling Cooper advertising agency. Joan is a veteran secretary and, when we meet her, she's focused on getting married and leaving work behind her. But when Joan does eventually marry, it is not what she'd hoped for. Her fiance assaults her at work, and she marries him anyway. He is threatened by her strong nature, and the two eventually separate.

Joan starts the show embodying traditional femininity but comes into her own power and business acumen as the show continues. She is contrasted by Betty Draper, who is consumed by traditional femininity as the '60s roll on.

AMC wasn't known as a home for prestige drama when "Mad Men" began, and no one thought the show would hit as hard as it did — especially not Hendricks' agency at the time. "They said, 'It's a period piece, it's never going to go anywhere," she told the Guardian. "We need you to make money and this isn't going to make money.' They ended up dropping me." Hendricks was nominated for six Emmys for her performance as Joan over the show's seven years.

Work with Nicolas Winding Refn

Two of Hendrick's most prominent film roles come courtesy of ultra-violent Danish provocateur director Nicolas Winding Refn. Refn is the recipient of equal amounts of praise and censure for his bloody films like "Drive" and the "Pusher" trilogy. His films are regularly booed at Cannes, per Bloody Disgusting, but still get praised in reviews.

Hendricks first worked with Refn while still a series regular on "Mad Men." In 2011, she played Blanche in "Drive." Blanche is one of many double-crossing thieves in the film, which follows an unnamed driver doing one last job to help his neighbor out of financial precarity. Refn told the AV Club that his wife recommended Hendricks for the film, as he had no idea who she was. "My wife had seen photos of her and said she was very beautiful, but I was actually casting porn stars for that role," he said. Ryan Gosling told the New York Times that when Hendricks died in the film, "the audience gave a standing ovation."

Hendricks next worked with Refn on 2016's "The Neon Demon." That film is, in part, about the aspiring model scene in LA — a territory Hendricks knows well. Hendricks played the head of a modeling agency. "The Neon Demon" received mixed reviews, with Rotten Tomatoes calling it "seductively stylish" but ultimately hollow, with "an underdeveloped plot and thinly written characters."

Becoming a Good Girl

In 2017, NBC ordered a series starring Mae Whitman and Retta. The two actresses had starred on two of the network's most recent hits, "Parenthood" and "Parks and Recreation." In the pilot of what would become the "Good Girls" we know and love, the role of Beth was played by Kathleen Rose Perkins, according to Entertainment Weekly. Hendricks took over the part when the show went to series.

"Good Girls" was described in Deadline as "a comedy-infused drama that mixes a little Thelma & Louise with a bit of Breaking Bad." Hendricks, Retta, and Whitman star as three mothers who rob a supermarket with toy guns. Each woman is in financial peril and turns to crime because the American suburban experience has failed them. "Good Girls" also starred "Scream" star and "Bosch" regular Matthew Lillard as Beth's philandering husband, as well as Manny Montana as gang lord Rio. Rio and Beth have a complicated relationship that only gets more complex over the show's four seasons.