The Playboy Club, 1.01 - Clyde Hill and Amber Heard
Randy Steinmeyer (Clyde Hill) and Maureen (Amber Heard) © 2011 NBC Universal

From executive producers Chad Hodge and Ian Biederman, along with Academy Award-winning executive producer Brian Grazer, comes The Playboy Club, a provocative new drama about an era that changed American culture forever.

Set in Chicago in the early 1960s, the series spotlights the lives of the workers and patrons of the legendary Playboy Club, filled with $1.50 cocktails, music, glitter and of course, the beautiful Bunnies. The stories follow a group of girls who for many reasons are working at the club, some running away from their past, others striving for a life of glamor and success.

What was your first reaction to the Utah station deciding not to air the series?

The Playboy Club, 1.01 - Amber Heard and Clyde Hill
Maureen (Amber Heard) and Randy Steinmeyer (Clyde Hill) © 2011 NBC Universal

Chad Hodge: That is certainly their right to air or not air the show. We’re just excited that another network in Salt Lake City has picked it up the show.

Given that we have a station that’s not going to carry the show, how do you see the content of this series, comparing it to shows on other networks?

Ian Biederman: I would say that in terms of content and anything racy, it’s mild compared to a lot of stuff that’s on television. And the intent of this series is to show characters at a certain time and a certain place trying to become something.

It really has nothing to do, as I think anyone who has seen the pilot will tell you, with anything racy or trying to be exploitative. It’s just not the purpose of the show, not the spirit of the show. It’s a lot of fun.

There’s a ton of music in it, there’s a ton of energy. And that’s really what the show is. It’s a great ride for an hour.

How would you describe the series? Joel McHale of Community has called it Mad Men with boobs.

Ian: Well, the actresses do have boobs, that’s true.  But besides that, I think the comparison to Mad Men ends at the era of the ‘60s. This is a much different show with a much different energy. It’s got a musical component that’s great. So I don’t think beyond that it really has much to do with Mad Men. It’s its own show.

Is it hard to work the music into the episodes?

Chad: We have it in mind as we’re going along. The musical numbers thread through the story, and the themes of the songs correlate to what the theme of the story is in that particular episode.

We’re definitely in front of that as we write each episode and think about who we want to be performing the song, and what the song says about our characters in the show.

With the music, like American Dreams, are you relying on people who were real at the time?

The Playboy Club, 1.01 - Amber Heard and Laura Benanti
Maureen (Amber Heard) and Carol Lynne (Laura Benanti) © 2011 NBC Universal

Chad: Yeah. We’re going to have Sammy Davis Jr, Ray Charles, Sam Cook, Tina Turner, Frank Sinatra, anybody who has something to do with Playboy at the time. We are mining all of that fabulous music from the ‘60s. And that will be part of every episode.

How difficult is it to get everything accurate to the time period?

Chad: We spend a lot of time on that, actually. Our production designer, the brilliant Scott Murphy, is incredibly conscious of that. And everything is researched to the tee, both with the Playboy archives, which are still in Chicago, and also just everything that relates to the time period.

The bunny costumes, we build them exactly as they were, with the help of Playboy. But we’ve made a couple of invisible modifications to make sure they’re more comfortable for our actresses.

Regarding your portrayal of Hugh Hefner, will he continue to be a narrator of this? And we see him from the back in the pilot, will an actor ever play the role where we’ll see him from the front?

Chad: His voiceover is in the pilot, and he will return in the series, but from the back like that, and not as a narrator of the series going forward. But his presence is there because you can’t tell the story of the Playboy Club without the presence of Hugh Hefner.

Many people believe that the bunnies at the club were also centerfolds, do you go into that misconception?

Chad: Yes, that’s part of the storyline in the first episode, the difference between a centerfold and a Bunny, and a Playmate and a Bunny. Playmates and centerfolds are pretty much the same thing, and a Bunny is very different. Some bunnies became playmates and centerfolds, but it wasn’t related.

Ian: I think that’s the misconception a lot of people have in terms of whatever controversy happens to follow the show. The Playboy Club was the Playboy Club, and Playboy Magazine was the Playboy Magazine. They’re two very different things.

These were very highly sought-after jobs and not just by people who were troubled, but by any woman, people with college educations. Everybody wanted to have this because it was a fantastic opportunity and a fantastic avenue to pursue [their] dreams, and that’s what the show’s about.


Judy Sloane

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