LOS ANGELES – Christina Hendricks, Mae Whitman and Retta were working on their new series “Good Girls” months before actresses started speaking out about their treatment in Hollywood.
But, Hendricks says, “it’s very timely, sadly. We’ve been in Atlanta shooting this and watching our industry and our country going through this wild process.”
In the series, the three play friends who deal with overbearing men, underpaying jobs and a system that threatens to undercut all of them. When bills start mounting, the three decide to rob a grocery store. The three are recognized, however, and have to deal with the fallout that ensues.
“Whether it’s for good (is) something the audience sort of has to decide,” says Executive Producer Jenna Bans. “They’re definitely breaking rules – at least laws.”
The actresses say they don’t condone the behavior but have interesting discussions about it off the set. “It’s women taking their power back,” says Whitman. “That’s what this is about. A lot of women feel stuck in these situations…and you do something drastic.”
A child’s disease (which requires expensive medicine) pulls the reactionary trigger and thrusts the three into their new life. Because this isn’t a one-and-done series, Bans says they’ll deal with various forms of consequences.
Oddly, while shooting their robbery, the three discovered there was a real one going on in a nearby store. “We had to shut down,” Whitman says.
“It was a bizarre situation,” Hendricks adds.
That alone, the three say, pulled them closer together.
“Something just clicked with these women,” Hendricks, the Emmy-nominated star of “Mad Men,” says. “With some women, it’s been a slow friendship. But I met these two and I would literally talk about them non-stop. My husband was like, ‘Give it time.’ But I just knew. When I’m not around them, my heart hurts.”
All three say the series could be a game changer for viewers.
“It felt almost like a family show that you’ve already watched for years and … then it takes this crazy action turn,” Whitman says.
Adds Retta: “It was the first time I felt I got to play a person with love in her life who, outside of dealing with the problems of her sick child, is happy. And that’s nice.”
While all three have dealt with interesting television situations (Whitman was on “Parenthood”; Hendricks was on “Mad Men” and Retta was on “Parks and Recreation”), they haven’t been the leads of their series.
Now, Hendricks says, the work is exhausting. “We’re tired. But it’s a good tired.”
On “Mad Men,” she played an executive assistant who moved up the ranks of her advertising firm. Set in the 1960s, it captured a different time and showed how women dealt with a male-dominated world.
“I couldn’t have been more proud to have played her,” Hendricks says of Joan Holloway. “People really felt empowered by her. They still come up to me and say, ‘Thank you for the trail she blazed.’”
Now, Hendricks – who wasn’t looking for another series – is thrilled she can play a different type of woman.
Because “Good Girls” is produced by a woman and features a number of women in key positions, there’s a different vibe.
“A lot of people called it ‘Mad Women’ for a while,” Hendricks says with a laugh. “But the material is so entirely different and (‘Mad Men’) had powerful female characters, too.”
If there’s a real shift, it’s this: “We are laughing all the time on this set,” she says. “It’s super-professional, but between the scenes there’s lots of giggling and laughing and playfulness.”