Poised well beyond her years, Christina Ricci has worked constantly since she made her movie debut at the age of eight in Mermaids as Cher’s youngest daughter, going on to appear in The Addams Family, The Ice Storm, Speed Racer, Black Snake Moan, Sleepy Hollow and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Her television credits include Ally McBeal, Grey’s Anatomy and Saving Grace. She can now add Pan Am to that roster.
Set in 1963, Ricci portrays a rebellious bohemian, Maggie, who turns into a buttoned up professional stewardess for work in order to see the world.
Were you looking for a series?
I’d been looking to do TV for a while. I’ve done a couple of multi-episodes arc and I’ve always loved the experience. I feel like some of the best talent is on TV right now, between writing, acting and great directors. And I’ve been looking for a consistency of work and TV provides for you. I also thought it would be really interesting to be with a character for months, if not years.
What did you like about Maggie?
It’s difficult talk about a character when you’ve just done the pilot. You don’t really know who the character is. So I really fell in love with the idea of the show, and what the show would provide with further storylines.
I loved the fact of the misconceptions of who these women were, the misconception of ‘Coffee, tea and me.’ I’ve always considered myself somebody who believes very strongly in doing things that are good for women, not anything that would hurt or denigrate women. So I loved the idea of doing something that has that misconception about what stewardesses were.
And I loved the idea too that these girls were navigating through a blatantly misogynistic society. We live in a thinly veiled misogynistic society now, and so the whole idea that, yes, they had to go through girdle checks and make up checks in order to see the world and run their lives and be free, and they had to serve tea and coffee.
Do they make you wear the girdles for the series?
Yeah, we wear them on the show. My character refuses to very often and gets in trouble all the time. So I don’t wear them as much as the other girls do. But we have to wear them a lot on the show.
What do you do to keep healthy?
I work out, I watch my diet. I’m older than the rest of the girls, so I have to watch it a little bit more.
Is your character a bit of a troublemaker?
Yes, she’s a little bit of a troublemaker. They met me, and Jack (Orman, the show’s creator) spent some time with me, and all of sudden my character is a troublemaker!
How often do you fly commercial and can you share one of your memorable experiences with us?
I fly all the time. One time my sister and I were flying Business Class, and my dog broke free and went gunning for the first class flight attendant lounge. My sister leaned over and said, ‘I think that’s Karen running up the aisle.’ And I ran up and by the time I got there she had burst into it and they were like, ‘Ewww,’ and I heard something drop, and I had to rescue my dog.
What’s your reaction to playing a time when air travel was actually fun, cool and glamorous and not the giant pain in the ass that it is now.
It’s fun. I always remember in my performance, that this is something that is exciting. And every time we step on a plane, we are excited just like the passengers are. These stewardesses were looked at as really glamorous symbols. And it’s something that we have so much pride in welcoming these passengers onto the plane, and they have so much pride in travel.
It’s something that, definitely, I always remember when I’m playing a scene on the plane, to just imbue everything with that sense of excitement.
And I have to say also for the stewardesses, there was this sense of excitement and freedom. In reality, the job allowed these women to have a freedom that they weren’t really given in a regular role in life at that time.
Yes, they did have to pass through the girdle checks and grooming checks, but by going through those things and having met the education qualifications, they were then allowed to travel freely and see the world in a way that other people didn’t get to see it, and to be in charge of their own lives in a way that women at the time weren’t able to be.
In a way, it’s a misconception, which is something that really did attract me, personally, to this story. There’s that sense of excitement and freedom that goes with this sense of travel and everything being new. It’s all in there for us, I think, as a cast.
I think as soon as anybody sees five minutes or ten minutes of the show, those misconceptions about what this meant for women are going to be gone and they’ll realize that what this really sends is a message that these women were really free and in charge of their lives.
So it’s great for young girls and women.