Carol-Lynne (Laura Benanti), Billy (David Krumholtz), Nick (Eddie Cibrian), Maureen (Amber Heard), Alice (Leah Renee), Brenda (Naturi Naughton) and Max (Wes Ramsey) © 2011 NBC Universal

Amber Heard has certainly made her mark on the big screen in such successful movies as Zombieland, Pineapple Express and Friday Night Lights. She will soon be seen opposite Johnny Depp in The Rum Diary.

Now her attention has turned to conquering the small screen in NBC’s new series The Playboy Club. Set in the early sixties, a time that challenged the existing mores and transformed American culture forever, the series spotlights Hugh Hefner’s legendary Playboy Club in Chicago. Amber portrays Maureen, an innocent new Bunny at the club who accidentally kills the patriarch of the Bianchi crime family while he’s sexually assaulting her.

Nick Dalton (Eddie Cibrian), one of the city’s top attorneys who has ties to the mob, and who is a frequent visitor to the club, comes to her aid and together they cover up the murder.

I spoke with Amber at the TV Critics tour about her new role, and what it was like to wear that Bunny costume.

Were you able to talk to people who were around in the sixties, like Mr Hefner and some of the bunnies?

Maureen (Amber Heard) © 2011 NBC Universal

I have been blown away by the amount of trailblazers, trendsetters, people that weren’t afraid to go against the status quo, make changes in their lives for the better; challenge themselves to do something that wasn’t necessarily approved of.

They did something new and different, and that’s, personally speaking, something that I aspire to always challenge myself with.

To be true to myself, to keep challenging the norm, to keep challenging the expectations people set forth for me on my behalf, and do what I feel is right for me. And a lot of the people that I’ve met that were involved in the clubs were doing just that in the sixties.

Hugh Hefner was a perfect example. He decided to integrate his clubs in a time when it was virtually unheard of. He hired African American bunnies on the same basis as he did white women.

He also allowed African American key-holders, he allowed African American performers, he did not discriminate on any level in his clubs, and he did not allow management to discriminate for him.

That was at a time when it was virtually unheard of. That’s a perfect example of the kind of trendsetter that I met when I was doing research for this project.

Can you tell us a little about Maureen?

Maureen has got a lot of secrets; she’s got a lot of skeletons in her closet. She’s running from something at the same time as trying to find something. She has big things in her future and a very, very dark past.

Maureen in her young life has lived and been through enough, survived enough to have lived four lifetimes over. She’s an incredibly complex character, one that’s going to surprise us at every turn.

I think it’s worth mentioning not to underestimate Maureen and her intelligence, and the journey she’s going to take, by what you see in the pilot. I think that she allows herself to be helped when she needs it.

She by no means relies on any character, male or female, in this story, and never has. And we’ll see that journey, and that’s part of why I’m so excited to be involved in this project, and chose this project over others.

What is it like to wear those bunny costumes?

Maureen (Amber Heard) and Nick (Eddie Cibrian) © 2011 NBC Universal

They are built to be exact replicas of the suits that the actual bunnies wore in the sixties. When I put it on for the first time it took me back to this very specific moment in history when this existed, something that feels naughty yet nice. It feels edgy and cool and different, and it’s a lot of fun.

These clubs no longer exist the way that they existed then, and I think it’s special because these costumes are just as specific as the club is. They’re just as fantastic and imaginative and they exist nowhere now.

I think part of why I really liked this series is it takes place in the sixties, a time that lends itself to the truth of feminine form, and I was excited about the suit because I’m excited about the time and place that it takes place in, because it is a different silhouette for women.

This is pre-airbrushing, pre-digital enhancement, pre-plastic surgery, for the most part this is women in their natural curves. And I was excited that I could keep them.

Are curves coming back?

If I have to drive them back personally myself, by golly they will come back.

Are you aware of the protests against the show? There is one station I’m told won’t play the series at all, and there are hundreds and hundreds of emails being sent to other stations. Does that have any effect on you?

It wouldn’t have any effect on me even if they had seen the show, but they haven’t seen the show, so what does that matter to me?

Has your coming out as bisexual last year changed the way Hollywood perceives you?

It makes no difference to me personally. I’ve always been a private person and I’ve always valued my private life, and that being said a lot of the media attention surrounding my relationship has been frustrating simply because I’m a private person.

I think an important moment is happening in our society right now, and I have to do the right thing and at the end of the day I don’t label myself one way or another. I come from a place where I find it hard to identify with a label.

I’ve dated men in the past, now I’m dating a woman and I see it as ultimately no big deal.

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.