Joan was controversial from the start. When Hendricks got the pilot script, she was immediately attracted to the character. Her agents were appalled. Hendricks had worked her way up from model to occasional TV parts to a breakout part on Joss Whedon’s Firefly. They urged her to take a role in a more mainstream show that, Hendricks admits, “flat-out paid more. They scolded me: ‘Are you serious? Honey, it’s AMC!’ ” Hendricks took the role; her agents dropped her.
What do agents know? The actress and Joan have exploded. Hendricks just wrapped a lead role opposite Emily Mortimer in the upcoming film Leonie. Online, you can download Joan paper dolls; obsessively debate her clothing, makeup, and hair choices; or read an unauthorized blog called What Would Joan Holloway Do? (Advice: “Men like it when you smoke their brand.”) It all adds up to a larger-than-life glamour that can prove overwhelming off-camera. “I’m a lot more girly than Joan. When I’m her, the register of my voice drops significantly,” says Hendricks, who adds that fans are surprised when they meet her. “They say, ‘But you’re so sweet!’ or ‘You don’t intimidate me at all!’ or ‘You’re not that tall!’ ” More bewildering is the attention paid to Hendricks’s curves. “I’ve been on TV shows for years and no one said a word about it. All of a sudden everyone says, ‘Oh, it must be so great to be on a show from the sixties, because now you can be on TV.’ It’s strange how astounded people are that I have breasts.”