ABC's new '60s-era airline drama Pan Am takes its maiden flight on Sunday night, fueled by strong word of mouth (it made our list of must-see fall shows) and a cast that includes Kelli Garner, Mike Vogel and Christina Ricci, star of such films as The Opposite of Sex, Sleepy Hollow and, perhaps most memorably, both of the Addams Family movies, where she played the quintessential Goth daughter, Wednesday. In advance of the show's premiere, Ricci and the Pan Am creator Jack Orman spoke with the press about the show's direction, the mod fashions and a very special Beatles episode.
On what attracted her to the series:
Ricci: Well, I just thought the concept of the show was so different and something that, as an avid television watcher myself, I couldn't think of anything that it really reminded me of. It just seemed like something that would be totally different and new. I also love this particular period in history. I've always been fascinated by it and the idea that we could go back and revisit certain really big historical moments of this era was really exciting to me. And then, you know, I really, really love the character that Jack has written for me. She's great. She has such a strong voice -- and her kind of journey and story is something that I certainly relate to and I think a lot of people can relate to. It touches on the American dream in a lot of ways, of wanting so badly to be something and that if you really want something and try hard enough and work hard enough in this world that you can turn yourselves into it. At least that's what the American dream's supposed to be.
On their favorite bits of '60s pop culture:
Jack Orman: I do confess that I'm looking forward to writing the Beatles episode because that's very specific to Pan Am. They came over on a Pan Am airplane. If you see those pictures of them landing, Pan Am's everywhere, so it's great when you can actually tie a very specific cultural event to your franchise.
Ricci: I like that every once in a while we get little bits saying how Maggie's a huge Bob Dylan fan and I'm a huge Bob Dylan fan so we're kind of waiting to see where that leads. My favorite Dylan song is "Positively Fourth Street."
More on that planned Beatles episode:
Orman: I haven't written the episode yet. I have a big notion of what it should be in just sort of spirit and tone. Right now it's slated-in to be the end of our first order, so it would be coming around February sweeps, so hopefully we'll be steaming along at that time. And again, I haven't written it yet, but my concept at the moment is not to hire actors for the Beatles. You play in and around it [using] backs of heads and then something happens outside, so there's talk about somebody needing, you know, Ringo needing something in the galley, things like that.
Ricci: I can't wait for that episode. My sister and I shared a bedroom our entire lives and I believe she discovered the Beatles when she was about 11 and I'm four years younger. So from the age of 7 until 17 we had nothing but Beatles paraphernalia in our room, even those little stuffed Beatles that went on stands that are dressed as the Sgt. Pepper band. Every night I fell asleep to a different Beatles album. So I'm very familiar with the Beatles; Ringo was my favorite Beatle until I grew up and then changed. I made the switch over to George Harrison just in time to regain my cool.
On the kinds of stories the writers hope to tell going forward:
Orman: I'm a big fan of ensemble drama and multiple storylines and how multiple storylines can weave in and out and bounce off of each other. Really, one of the big litmus tests for me [about] whether stories belong together is whether they can impact each other. So, you know, I think that it's a craft, an art form that I really enjoy. I think that what people may be surprised at when they come to see the series is that there's a male element to the show. We have two pilot characters. They have conflict with each other and with the girls and with the external world. As you can see from the Cuba sequence [in the pilot], there is a dose of testosterone as well. Yeah, story drive is key and it's fun. The show is structured in such a way that we can tell stories on the ground and in the air and have a, you know, strong storyline.
On how the '60s ideal of beauty contrasts with the contemporary ideal:
Ricci: Well, I think I'm more familiar with the images of beauty [from the past] and with associating certain styles with ideas of beauty whereas someone who's more accustomed to modern ideals might look at some of the older looks and think "Ooh, that's weird looking." I am immediately comfortable with the older looks and the older kind of styles and I've always associated all of these looks with the ultimate kind of feminine beauty ideals. So for me it's just very natural and something that I'm very happy to embrace, so it's kind of great.
On how the era's stewardesses were misunderstood:
Ricci: I think the misconception [of these stewardesses] would be that whole idea of them being just sort of these pretty women that we just there to, you know, do that whole "coffee, tea or me thing" and really, with the girls on Pan Am, they had to be college-educated. They had to speak two languages for whatever long trip the head of Pan Am really needed from his stewardesses. They had to be these intelligent, gracious hostesses who could be these kind of emissaries in a way and I don't think I realized that and I think that a lot of people won't realize that until they watch the show.
How the uniform helps her performance:
Ricci: Well, we have these undergarments that we wear -- a girdle and a long-line bra -- and the girdle keeps you from being able to do anything boyish like run or jump. And the long line is like a bra attached to a mini-corset, so it basically makes you stand up really, really straight. I tried chasing our second AD once. We were racing somewhere and it was hilarious. There's just no way in hell you can do anything tomboyish or boyish; you have to walk like a lady at all times, so immediately you're just put into this mindset of "I'm a lady." I sit a certain way. I walk a certain way. They're maybe five different paces at which I can go and it really lends itself to all your movements from the second you have the bottom layer on. And then when you get the rest of the uniform on, you immediately become more professional in a way and then anytime you're off camera and you do something unprofessional or childlike or whatever, you see a reaction in people. They think it's like hilarious because it's so, you know, juxtaposed with the way you look. It's ridiculous, so it definitely lends you to being more elegant than you would naturally be or I would naturally be.
On her worst flying experience:
Ricci: I actually have always had really great experiences on planes. I don't have any really bad stories. I always fly with my dog, a little tiny dog and a couple of times she has escaped from her bag and there have been some hysterical moments with her running around the plane and me having to chase her before anyone wakes up on night trips. But nothing really terrible has ever happened: no disasters, layovers or missing flights or being treated poorly by flight attendants. Nothing like that. I've been really lucky and I'm one of those people who loves to fly. I love that solitude of being on a plane and finally getting to read like an entire book and be left alone and, you know, for that period of time when you're in the air, so I don't have any bad stories.
Is Pan Am really about our nostalgia for terror-free air travel? Find out in this video:
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