The queen of quirky indie film roles comes to mainstream TV this season in ABC’s Pan Am, playing a spunky young woman in the 60s who longs to see the world. Ricci took some time between filming scenes on the show’s elaborate Brooklyn set to tell us why she might not have made the best flight attendant—and why this show isn’t just Mad Men at 35,000 feet.
DETAILS: Surely you’ve gotten plenty of other offers for TV gigs in the past. Why did you choose this one?
Christina Ricci: You get to see the world as it was in 1963 through these young women’s eyes. I always love when these period shows travel to different places, which we do every week. We go to Berlin, Rio, Rangoon, Monte Carlo. Then there’s the drama of these women’s lives and the things that they get into. It’s also really funny. I was looking to do TV for a really long time. This wasn’t like anything else I’d seen. And I watch a lot of television.
DETAILS: It’s hard to imagine you as a couch potato. What do you watch?
Christina Ricci: I love House and America’s Next Top Model. I like CSI and Deadliest Catch. I love everything on Bravo. My favorite thing on earth is to stay home and watch a marathon of something. I just caught this NCIS marathon and got hooked.
DETAILS: What’s the best part of playing your character?
Christina Ricci: I like that Maggie’s kind of the rebel of the bunch. She’s a part of that bohemian scene in Greenwich Village and likes Bob Dylan, which is definitely something I can identify with. I think if I’d been living in the ’60s, I’d probably be a bit like her. I’m so much like my mother, and she was probably just like Maggie.
DETAILS: Do you think you would have made a good Pan Am stewardess?
Christina Ricci: I don’t know that I would have been the best with the more ladylike job requirements. They had us take a class for things like proper napkin folding, and it wasn’t exactly my strong suit. Plus, technically, I would have been considered too short to be a Pan Am stewardess—they have to put me in heels so I look like I’m the same height as everyone else.
DETAILS: Will we see real historical figures show up in future episodes?
Christina Ricci: Definitely. I know there’s been talk of a Beatles episode since they flew on Pan Am when they came to The Ed Sullivan Show, so that’s really exciting.
DETAILS: Has this role changed how you view flying?
Christina Ricci: No, not really, because it’s such a different time. It’d be great if we could ignore what’s happened in the recent past, but we can’t. One of the things they used to say [during the era of the show] is, “You can arrive five minutes before you get on the plane.” Obviously that’s long gone. That’s why this show is so fun. It’s a time of such innocence.
DETAILS: Pan Am is already drawing the inevitable comparisons to Mad Men. How is it different?
Christina Ricci: That’s like comparing two doctor shows, really. The main characters are women, so that in and of itself is different. It’s all about travel and flying and exploration. And, of course, we don’t advertise anything.