Christina Hendricks: Back To School In Fist Fight

February 17, 2017
Christina Hendricks talks about leaving Mad Men, being bullied in high school, and creating her Francophile schoolteacher in the comedy, Fist Fight, which follows two warring educators played by Charlie Day and Ice Cube.

Tell us about your teacher, Miss Monet. “She’s French, and sort of demure. They wanted me to do it with an American accent. But my idea was that she fancies herself as this worldly woman who pretends that she’s a bit more French than she is. She’s just a girl from the Mid-West teaching French. I don’t think her real name is Miss Monet! She has a good relationship with the kids, but that turns very quickly when she suspects that there might be some bad behaviour going on. It goes a little crazy. She definitely has a dark side. I had no teachers like Miss Monet. She’s got a switchblade in her pocket, and she’s ready to use it at any moment. If I thought that I had a teacher that might pull a knife…well, I don’t think I would actually go to school! [Laughs] No, I didn’t have any teachers like Miss Monet. Not anyone with as much style, certainly.”

We’re used to seeing you in these delicious, dramatic roles. Was it fun for you to get involved in a comedy? “It has been! It’s been really refreshing, and something really different, and I’m learning a lot. It’s nice to not be crying all day long, you know? [Laughs] In comedy, the way that you do a scene is quite different. You really do need to play a joke. It’s much more about physicality. I find it more to be like doing theatre, because you have to have a bigger performance. It’s about the framing of the whole scene, and you have to be a bit more. But there’s not any big plan that I’ve set for myself. If I like it, and I feel like I can contribute something, and have a good time with it, then that’s how I’ve been choosing.”

Christina Hendricks in Fist Fight

What’s it like being back in a school environment? Does it bring back happy memories? “I hate it! I hate high school vibes. It gives me the heebie-jeebies! Now that I’ve been here on set a month, I’ve calmed down, but when I first walked in, I was like, ‘Ooh! Someone’s going to make fun of me! Someone’s going to say something mean, I just know it!’ It’s just a psychosomatic thing that happens immediately. No, I don’t like it! I was in the theatre department, so I was an open target! I was a goth kid. I looked different from the other kids, and my friends were eccentric, and that’s what kids do – they bully each other. So I was on the wrong end of the deal. [Laughs]”

What are your favourite high school movies? Pump Up The Volume was a big one! That was a big one for me! Heathers was a big one. Then there are the ‘80s movies that we all love, like Pretty In Pink and The Breakfast Club…you know, the classics.”

How bittersweet was it leaving Mad Men behind? “It’s really hard! I was very, very attached to it, and attached to the character, and the casting crew, and I had to give myself a pep talk and go ‘Oh wait! This could be really great and exciting!’ But at the time, it was just sad! It was a really extraordinary experience, but everything must come to an end. I’m glad that we ended when we did, because, I think we went out with a bang. But I do miss it every day. It was an amazing experience. When we were on, I noticed that people started dressing as Joan for Halloween, and then Saturday Night Live did a spoof on us! I grew up on SNL. I thought, ‘This is crazy! Someone just played me!’ That felt really crazy!”

Christina Hendricks in Mad Men

Would you like to do something for that long again? “I like both, but if I found something as magical as that, absolutely! There is something to be said for being home, and knowing where you’re going to work for nine years, and having a parking spot, and knowing your family, and some comfortability in this crazy gypsy world that we live in. That can be really nice, so if I found something that I thought was that special, I’d definitely do it again!”

Playing a French teacher, is there any opportunity to have a “Joan” style, and a cool wardrobe? “I cut my hair for the role, and I’ve got this buttoned-neck little collar, and a little black skirt. She’s a little Francophile. She probably saves up her pennies and tries to go to Paris every chance she gets, and pretends it’s normal. So it’s one look for the whole movie. I wanted it to be a very sort of strong look. I actually set up a Pinterest page of ideas, and sent it to the director, and the producers, and to the costumer, and hair and makeup. I wanted to see if everyone approved, and everyone was like, ‘Yeah! It looks great!’ So we went off this idea that I had.”

Do you do that a lot for your characters? “Well, I’m just learning Pinterest. This is my new favourite thing! But I often provide some inspirational looks for the director, ahead of time. So much of creating a character is in how you represent yourself. So I feel like a very strong look is a good way to start. And if you’re a person who presents herself this way, then you can fall into how she got to that place. It’s a fun way to begin, and often I’ll show up with a few costume ideas…just in case. [Laughs]”

Are there any genres that you still want to tackle that you haven’t had the chance to yet? “Ah, everything! I want to try everything. I’m looking into theatre a lot right now. That’s been a big focus. So, that might be something that you might see me doing soon. I’m enjoying the comedies right now! Like I said, I just go from project to project. I don’t really have a grand scheme.”

Fist Fight is released in cinemas on February 23.

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