The Black List: Adam Pally Can’t Stand Sarah McLachlan or Cats

As the smart-aleck couch potato Max on ABC’s hit relationship sitcom Happy Endings, Adam Pally says all the wrong things at all the right times. Here, the UCB veteran goes unscripted about what ticks him off, and poor Sarah McLachlan suffers the fatal blow.

1. Let’s knock out four things I hate right now: everyone in The Black Eyed Peas. Well, three things. I feel bad for that mute ninja guy because you know the other three Peas are making fun of him behind his back, and that’s a little “pot calling the kettle,” right?

2. I hate adult cats. I’m sorry, I know they need a home, and Sarah McLachlan’s head just exploded, but grown-ass sassy cats scare me.

3. I hate people who bitch about the iPhone when they don’t have one. It’s like a virgin telling you sex is overrated.

4. I hate clerks at guitar stores. I know just by walking in here you can shred some tasty licks, but let’s face it: You’re not scoring that much poon if you work at Guitar Center, so just pass me that middle-of-the-road acoustic and let me kill some time between auditions.

5. I hate the sound of my son crying. Kidding. My wife deals with that noise.

6. I hate all 9/11 movies except One for the Money.

7. I hate capri pants on either gender. Wear longer pants or pull your shoes up.

8. I hate boyfriend jeans. I don’t care what kind of “fat day” you think you’re having. Trust me, the boyfriend jeans are making it worse.

9. I hate when my dog licks herself to the point that an open sore forms. I mean, come on dog, you’re so dumb.

10. I hate adults who love Disney World. This is the clearest sign of pedophilia or serial killerphilia.

11. I hate two-door luxury coupes. Way to show your friends how rich you are and get out of giving them a ride home, dick.

12. I hate talking to people in the lobby of yoga class. It’s taking a lot for me to be here; I don’t need to hear about that yoga summit on the top of Mt. Healthylife. Now leave me alone so I can pretend to exercise.

Movie Madness: Reviews of March’s Cinematic Picks

Jeff, Who Lives at Home
This unexpected little comedy begins with the title character, played by a predictably schleppy Jason Segel, monologuing about his religious devotion to M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs, a movie that preaches that fate lies in coincidences. It’s a mantra that dictate’s Jeff ‘s daily routine: zone out in mom’s basement and wait for something cosmic to happen. That something turns out to be a phone call—a wrong number, no less— that sets Jeff on a quest for higher purpose. But before any catharsis can be had, Jeff runs into his blowhard brother (Ed Helms) at the local Hooters, and gets tangled up in his marital woes. (This, of course, is all meant to be.) Together, they embark on an odyssey of mutual self-discovery, while in a parallel story, their mother (Susan Sarandon) chases epiphanies of her own in what feels like a separate movie. Directors Mark and Jay Duplass (Cyrus), who once worked within the boundaries of nanobudget filmmaking, are now being bankrolled by Paramount, and they’ve got the dramatic and uplifting climax to justify it. Tears will be shed in the audience and on the screen, but in less than 90 minutes, they’re admirably earned.Ben Barna

The Deep Blue Sea
After a decade stuck in financial gridlock, Terence Davies, the embattled hero of British art cinema, returns with this adaptation of the 1952 Terence Rattigan play, a story of repressed passions in a postwar England where even kisses must be rationed. Rachel Weisz gives a luminous performance as Hester, a tortured housewife who leaves her paternalistic husband (played by the portly Simon Russell Beale) for a hot-headed RAF pilot (Tom Hiddleston) still struggling to re-enter a society that no longer needs him. But Hester needs him, and Davies artfully studies the complexities she faces, trading in a life of comfort for transcendent sex (and a tiny room in a boarding house). Nods to melodramas from the ’40s and ’50s adorn the film, as do Davies’ own signature touches: pub sing-alongs, lyrical tracking shots, and of course, that shockingly floral wallpaper. For the director who won admiration through authentic portrayals of postwar Liverpool, it’s a triumphant return to form. But while his earlier films were as personal—and structurally free—as a family album, the tale of doomed passion at the bottom of The Deep Blue Sea risks becoming a touch too hoary, even as self-conscious homage, to be fully satisfying.Josh Sperling

Casa de Mi Padre
They say you aren’t fluent in a foreign language until you can tell a joke in it, so you’ve got to admire Will Ferrell for having the guts to try. The concept behind Casa de mi Padre—and no, not just the title is in Spanish—has the potential for brilliance: export the actor’s trademark deadpan to a Mexico of rancheros, drug traffickers, and telenovela romance. Ferrell plays the dim-witted Armando Alvarez. When his brother Raul (Diego Luna) returns home with a curvy new fiancée (Genesis Rodriguez) and shady schemes to save the family hacienda, the brothers find themselves at war with a vicious kingpin (Gael García Bernal), and with each other, over a woman’s heart. Ferrell has made a career parachuting straight-faced into quotidian scenes and mopping up the laughs. But Casa mines its humor from a new and risky place: the world of the subtitle. There is a reason foreign films are so serious—jokes don’t translate to that sullen font on the bottom of the screen. It’s no surprise then that the best gags in the film rely purely on physical slapstick. What is surprising is how hilarious Bernal and Luna can be hamming it up as narcotraficantes in alligator boots. But when Ferrell tells a DEA agent, “not all Mexicans are drugtraffickers,” you realize that the only one who isn’t a drug trafficker is, well, a gringo.JS

Delicacy
Despite its charms, French filmmakers David and Stéphane Foenkinos’ debut effort is undermined by a rote script, which relies too much on Audrey Tautou’s star power to prop it up. Adapted from David’s novel of the same name, Delicacy has bursts of whimsy in an otherwise familiar tale. Nathalie (Tatou) and François (Pio Marmaï) meet and fall irreversibly in love, until he is suddenly (but somehow not) rubbed out in a freak accident. The rest of the film traces Nathalie’s recovery efforts as it hops three years into the future, and we rediscover her as a grim careerist. Soon, she clumsily falls for a relatively unattractive Swede (François Damiens), who, let’s be honest, is a few leagues beneath her. (She’s damaged yes, but she’s also Audrey Tatou.) There’s a strange lack of passion for a movie about it, and its two leads never seem to fully connect. We hate to get down on a film with a core that is hopeful, sweet, and easy to swallow, but after digesting it, we’re still left feeling hungry.Hillary Weston

Being Flynn
Nick Flynn’s book Another Bullshit Night in Suck City was, as its title (sort of) implies, a gritty, honest look at homelessness and addiction in America, as seen through the eyes of the author and his father—eventually. They reconnect when the elder Flynn checks into the Boston shelter where his son is employed. Paul Weitz’s film adaptation has a sanitized title and is ultimately a sterile biopic, filled with a predicable story arc and done-to-death voiceover from both Nick and Jonathan Flynn (played by Paul Dano and Robert De Niro, respectively). Neither Nick nor Jonathan are portrayed as being completely moral or despicable, and their equal footing keeps the film from veering into sanctimonious territory. Being Flynn boasts an impressive supporting cast that includes Julianne Moore as Nick’s mother and Olivia Thirlby as his co-worker and girlfriend. Both shine as underused characters who serve primarily as feminine inspirations for Nick’s ultimate maturation. While the film doesn’t add much to the canon of movies chronicling troubled father-son relationships, it does feature a surprisingly lighthearted soundtrack by Badly Drawn Boy, who famously wrote music for Weitz’s About a Boy.Tyler Coates

Detachment
Tragic in tone and scattered in execution, Tony Kaye’s latest film feels more like you’re being emotionally gutted than mentally stimulated. With an ensemble cast of Hollywood vets, from Blythe Danner to James Caan, it’s the actors’ commitment to the work and their brief but dynamic performances that supersede the lackluster script. Detachment tells the story of Henry Barthes (brilliantly played by a weary-eyed Adrien Brody), a downtrodden substitute teacher who takes a temporary position at a failing high school. Barthes, a somber man plagued by flashbacks of his mother’s suicide, is an empathetic and gifted teacher, desperately trying to connect to his students while dealing with his dying grandfather and the teenage prostitute he’s taken in. Shot by Kaye himself, the film cuts between the narrative, interviews with Barthes, and morose animated blackboard drawings used to illustrate darker urges. Ultimately, the film doesn’t know whether to be a scathing critique of the public school system or the story of one man’s struggle to find meaning. Kaye has a lot to say but never fully realizes his point, creating a passionately bleak drama that throws it all in your face, one painful blow at a time.HW

The Raid
Not only does The Raid push the body count of Asian action cinema to new heights, but it also moves the genre south, leaving the skyscrapers of the usual tiger economies behind in favor of a rundown, crime-infested tenement deep in the Jakarta slums. With its main course of unadulterated violence, this is Die Hard for the gaming generation, with just enough of a premise—a SWAT mission gone awry, a fresh-faced rookie, brothers on opposite sides of the law—to take us from one scene of carnage to the next. And like any first-person shooter, the hero literally levels up from floor to floor, boss to boss, moving from guns to serrated knives to machetes, and finally, to some proper hand-to-hand combat. Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda provides an amped-up soundtrack, while the Welsh-born, Indonesia-based director Gareth Evans strikes a thrilling balance between masterful martial-arts choreography and the more helter-skelter rawness at the adrenalized heart of the film. And despite our hero’s assured survival, Evans builds a claustrophobic dread so powerful that when the tension suddenly snaps, it’s about as visceral as movies get.JS

The Lady
Aung San Suu Kyi has given up her family and freedom to advocate on behalf of the people of Burma, who have languished under the rule of a military dictatorship for half a century. While under house arrest, Suu Kyi ignited a fervent democratic movement that may finally be producing meaningful reforms in the country, making this a perfect time for French filmmaker Luc Besson to unveil his powerful and moving biopic of the Nobel laureate. The Lady follows her from her childhood in Rangoon, which is rent by the murder of her highly respected father, to her life as a wife and mother of two boys in England, to her return to Burma in 1988, where she immediately becomes the brightest hope for a people who have known nothing but poverty, fear, and isolation under the junta. Filled with gorgeously shot scenes of the Rangoon skyline and the lilting palms and shimmering waters of her dilapidated lake house, the film is a deft take through Suu Kyi᾽s inspiring life. Michelle Yeoh’s remarkable embodiment of the opposition leader is uncanny, and the depiction of her relationship with her English husband Michael Aris (David Thewlis) is heartbreaking, as he suffers and dies of cancer while being denied a visa to visit his wife one last time. The Lady gives viewers a deep appreciation of a long, relentless, and agonizingly slow struggle that may well be on the brink of success. Its message is simple: If your cause is just, never, ever give up.Victor Ozols

Comeback Kids: March Goes Out Like a Lion With Some Fantastic New Albums

The Magnetic Fields, Love at the Bottom of the Sea (Merge)
The Magnetic Fields bandleader Stephin Merritt, one of the great living American songwriters, has returned to indie label Merge, picked up his synthesizers, and released his strongest album in years. No concepts or overarching themes this time out, just a collection of 15 short, crafty pop songs (all under three minutes) from a master of the form. The song titles alone will elicit giddy grins from fans (“God Wants Us to Wait,” “All She Cares About Is Mariachi”). Merritt covers a fair amount of ground: clever synth-pop, of course (“The Machine in Your Hand” is about wanting to be a crush’s mobile device); a spurned lover’s revenge fantasy (“Your Girlfriend’s Face,” which the song’s protagonist has hired a hitman to, um, remove); country (“Going Back to the Country”); and Gary Numan–style ’80s new wave (“Infatuation [With Your Gyration]”). Almost every track’s a keeper, and the (very) few that miss their marks are over before they wear out their welcome. It’s the band’s most consistently entertaining album since 69 Love Songs, and that’s quite an accomplishment.

The Ting Tings, Sounds from Nowheresville (Columbia)
Manchester pop duo and Apple darlings The Ting Tings follow up their ubiquitous international hits “That’s Not My Name” and “Shut Up and Let Me Go” with a confident, polished collection of smart, sassy modern pop. Highlights abound: The twin chant-a-longs “Hang It Up” and “Hit Me Down Sonny” could pass for M.I.A. at her catchiest, and “Soul Killing” is an admirable stab at a ska anthem. Elsewhere, the album effortlessly shifts from the ’90s heyday electronica of “One By One" to the deft radio-ready pop of “Day to Day.” The spare, haunting closing track “In Your Life” ends the album with hushed vocals, acoustic guitar, and viola—a well-deserved cooldown after a half hour of uptempo, spirited fun.

School of Seven Bells, Ghostory (Ghostly International)
The third album from NYC’s answer to M83 is another inspired mix of electronica and early-’90s dreampop.The band is now a duo after the departure of vocalist Alejandra Deheza’s twin sister, Claudia, but the vocals here soar as effectively as on prior releases. Ghostory is a concept album (thankfully without the minor-key dirges or goth trappings its title might imply), but while close attention reveals a story  and the group’s trademark lyrical wordplay amid Benjamin Curtis’ swirling guitar textures, the individual songs are strong enough to stand on their own without narrative context. The propulsive opening track “The Night” is as good a song as any the band has yet produced, and “White Wind” packs a heavy, Garbage-like punch. Only on the trance-inducing “Show Me Love” and the percussion-less “Reappear” does atmosphere overtake songcraft.

Miike Snow, Happy to You (Downtown Records/Universal Republic)
Proving this Swedish trio’s stellar eponymous debut was no fluke, the self-produced Happy to You gamely picks up where its predecessor left off, with 10 more tracks of  sonically tricked-out, expertly crafted songs that stylistically fall somewhere between The Postal Service and MGMT. While no single track reaches the dizzying pop heights of “Animal” (the first album’s finest moment and one of the best songs of 2009), some (“Paddling Out,” “Pretender,” and “Archipelago”) come awfully close. The album as a whole is packed with an arsenal of production tricks, sound effects, and marching band brass and drums that will hold your attention throughout.

Nite Jewel, One Second of Love (Secretly Canadian)
L.A. singer Ramona Gonzalez’s sophomore album of hip, lean, laptop disco retains the D.I.Y. charm of her earlier recordings, which have earned her a legitimate cult following. The main difference here is the expected studio polish and her improved songwriting chops. Half of the album consists of hooky pop confections like “Memory Man,” “Mind & Eyes,” and the album’s infectious title track and first single, all benefitting greatly from the cleaner, leaner sound. The remaining half is more stark, minimalist, and experimental, and should appeal to adventurous ears—the kind of music enthusiasts who prefer their pop in quotation marks.

Bright Moments, Natives (Luaka Bop)
Multi-instrumentalist Kelly Pratt, who has played brass and wind instruments for the likes of Beirut, Arcade Fire, and LCD Soundsystem, has released a solo album on David Byrne’s Luaka Bop label, and it’s a charmer. Natives is a home-studio recorded confection of odd samples, warm vocals, keyboards, and Pratt’s trademark trumpet flourishes. The Kentucky native’s everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to recording fills out the album with all manner of nifty sonic details without making it sound cluttered, and the songs themselves are tuneful and melodic (Careful: You’ll have the melody of “Travelers” stuck in your head for days.) A promising debut.

Plants and Animals, The End of That (Secret City Records)
The Montreal trio’s third folk-infused, guitar-centric indie rock record has a raw, intimate, in-session sound, with Warren Spicer’s vocals way up front in the mix, suiting the material just fine. While the lovely harmonies that sweetened their Polaris-nominated debut album, Parc Avenue, are missed, understated acoustic moments like opening track “Before,” and the midway interlude “HC” nicely offset Crazy Horse–style rave-ups like “Crisis!” (featuring the priceless chorus “We’re somewhere between a crisis and a pretty good time”). The End of That manages the neat trick of sounding contemporary, even as it harkens back to loose, ’70s-style guitar rock, ragged in all the right ways.

Exclusive Video of Our March Cover Girl Christina Hendricks

Mad Men beauty Christina Hendricks covers our Spring Fashion Issue this month, revealing how playing saucy office manager Joan Holloway for five seasons has shaped her own personal life. Hendricks posed for a gorgeous photo shoot in L.A., and now we have an exclusive video that features Hendricks in all her glory. Check it out after the jump!

Adam Scott Interviews His ‘Friends With Kids’ Co-Star & Director Jennifer Westfeldt

We’ll forgive you for assuming that Friends With Kids is a pseudo-sequel to Bridesmaids. Four alumni from last summer’s zeitgeist-destroying smash appear in writer and first-time director Jennifer Westfeldt’s heartfelt story about phase two of marital promise—parenthood. Chris O’Dowd and Maya Rudolph play a couple who notice the romantic sparks fading as their parental duties increase, and Kristen Wiig turns up in the surprisingly somber role of a woman whose marriage to the moody Jon Hamm isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. But Westfeldt, who is best known for starring in and co-writing the indie sleeper Kissing Jessica Stein—and for dating Mr. Hamm—wasn’t trying to capitalize on Bridesmaids’ runaway success. She was just trying to make the grueling process of moviemaking a touch easier by casting her unusually talented friends.

Westfeldt, who also stars in the film, saved the crucial role of her onscreen love interest for one of her closest pals, Parks and Recreation’s Adam Scott. Westfeldt and Scott play best friends who, upon the realization that their chances of getting married and having children are slipping away with age, strike up an arrangement to have a kid together by splitting the responsibilities without worrying about how the strain of parenthood will affect their friendship. They learn, of course, that they’re not immune to the emotional complications their married friends display so openly, especially when the pair heads back into the dating pool in search of their own respective mates (played by Ed Burns and Megan Fox).

“Adam was on board from moment one, and was willing to keep putting this somewhere in his schedule as we tried to make it come together,” Westfeldt says. “It would never have been the same without him.” It seemed a natural fit, then, to ask Adam Scott to chat with his costar and director about the stress of directing her first feature, romantic comedies, and finding her inspiration from her best friends. He happily obliged.

Adam Scott: So, Jennifer, I’m going to interview you!
Jennifer Westfeldt:
I like it!

AS: It’s been a year since we filmed Friends With Kids. We were fully into shooting by now, right?
JW:
I feel like it was about a year and a week ago that we started. We were in the thick of it at this point last year.

AS: You made it look easy, but I would imagine that directing and starring in a movie is insane.
JW:
Yeah, I learned as the process went on that it was just a terrible idea. The only way for us to keep our cast was for me to step in and do it.

AS: You know this material better than anyone, don’t you think?
JW:
Thank you! I hope that’s how it turns out. At the time it felt so intense. To do any independent film—as an actor, a writer, or as a producer—it’s such an uphill battle.

AS: I don’t remember you sleeping while we were making this movie.
JW:
Yeah. We had to go about it day-to-day. There was no way to follow a master plan. The weather would thwart us, or we’d lose a location, or an actor’s schedule would change. Besides you and me, everyone else was sort of in and out within eight days. I think we got Kristen on all of her days off.

AS: Yeah, she was actually doing SNL at the same time.
JW:
And she had to go to L.A. a few times to look at cuts for Bridesmaids. It was a crazy time for her. I remember looking at the schedule and thinking, Well, Chris needs to be back here, and Maya’s pregnant. It was tough to get the people we wanted all together at one time.

jennifer westfeldt 2

AS: Do you have a favorite memory of the shoot, or was it too crazy to even have that moment?
JW: I think on the first day of production, you look around at just the number of bodies who are all working for the same goal, and you just think, Oh my God, all of these people are assembled for this one purpose! The fact that everyone showed up was so surprising and sort of took my breath away a little bit. We had this horrible day when we had been shooting a moment with Kristen and Jon. It was freezing—rain and sleet. And there were these crew guys with rubber boots up past their knees with plastic wrap and tarps. They would just yell back at me and say, We’re doing great, we’re both fine! That people are willing to endure such inconveniences for your small project, I mean, they’re certainly not doing it to get rich.

AS: It really was all for one, one for all.
JW:
The moment where I was the most excited was watching you and Jon and everybody at that dinner table scene. It was exciting to end with that big group dynamic. It was the only time the eight of us were together.

AS: Well, I was very drunk the whole time.
JW:
You do your best work drunk, Adam, that’s the thing about you.

AS: It seems to me that the film does not adhere to any romantic comedy rules. Is that just your taste?
JW:
I don’t know if it’s conscious or not, but I’m definitely drawn to those mixed tones in terms of the romantic comedies I respond to, going as far back as the The Apartment, where you have this Hey, buddy boy! kind of energy, but at the same time, you have this woman who’s trying to kill herself. I think of As Good As It Gets or Rushmore as movies that are sort of romantic comedies but have their own tone. Not to say that I’ve created anything in the same league as these films, but it’s something I aspire to do. The third act of this is definitely more dramatic, which is by design. The tone in the movie reflects the premise of these selfish singles who think they’ve got it all figured it out, who think they can game the system.

AS: One of the things that I was moved by the first time I read this script was the understanding you have of how kids affect the lives of their parents. Did you get that from observing your friends who had kids, or from how you feel around kids?
JW:
A little of both. There’ve been a lot of moments where I’ve been close to kids and have seen these lives forming and developing before me, and how you and your wife have navigated as parents, which is so impressive and challenging. I remember having a dinner or coffee with your wife, Naomi, early on. Naomi is the most organized, talented, capable, and confident person I know. I remember her saying, “This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” I appreciated her candor in that moment.

AS: Our two characters make declarations at the beginning of the movie about how they’re going to do it “the right way.” I don’t want to spoil anything in this interview, but when they come out on the other side, the things that they were going to put up a good fight against are the things that they ultimately choose to embrace, because it fulfills them in ways they didn’t expect.
JW:
I think that is a threat I’ve seen all of my friends who have had kids make at some point. Whatever they thought it was going to be, they all say, no matter how hard it gets or how many sleepless nights or how many challenging moments, that they didn’t experience love until they experienced this kind of love. That’s such a powerful declaration. Jon and I can only imagine how that is because of the crazy, over-the-top love we have for our dogs.

AS: Well, we should also make it clear that this movie is not only for parents.
JW:
I hope not! It’s for Megan Fox fans, for one thing.

AS: By the way, you wrote me a scene in which I get to make out with Megan Fox.
JW: You’re welcome for that.

AS: And you wrote a scene where you make out with Ed Burns.
JW: Yep. You’re welcome, to me.

jennifer westfeldt 3

Lynn Collins is Ready to Blast-Off in the Epic ‘John Carter’

All it took for Lynn Collins to give up her two-pack-a-day smoking habit was six weeks of acupuncture and a man named Kerry Gaynor. “He’s amazing,” says Collins of the certified hypnotist, who’s talked the likes of Matt Damon, Aaron Eckhart, and Charlize Theron into butting out once and for all. Collins got Gaynor’s phone number from her friend Rashida Jones, who got it from Paul Rudd. Three sessions later, she was nicotine-free. “I haven’t had a cigarette since,” says Collins, “and that was three years ago.” Yet for all the credit due to the Gaynor method, Collins herself was well-prepared for the battle against cigarettes, having recently cast a much fiercer demon from her life.

In the winter of 2008, Collins was shooting the Marvel spin-off X-Men Origins: Wolverine in Australia opposite Hugh Jackman. Every morning, she came to set hungover after a night of heavy partying and binge drinking. “It was just a party everywhere because I met a lot of Australians and they’re so much fun,” says Collins, who is sitting in the lobby of the Bowery Hotel in Manhatttan, cradling a glass of sparkling water in her right hand. I ask how her punishing nightlife routine affected her demanding role as Kayla Silverfox, the telepathic mutant and love interest to Jackman’s Wolverine. “When you’re a functioning alcoholic, you can hide it,” she says. “And I was young enough that it didn’t show in my face. But it got to a point where somebody was like, it’s not cute anymore, and I was like, Oh God.”

Lynn Collins is not yet a household name, but that might change when Disney’s gargantuan sci-fi tentpole John Carter, in which Collins plays a martian princess, is released on March 9. For now, her struggles with alcoholism remain generally undocumented by the press. She is, however, remarkably candid for an actor whose last check was signed by The House That Mickey Built. “If I picked up one drink right now it would mean I’d be gone by the end of the night,” says Collins, who’s been sober for almost four years. “I never understood people who can have just one. I’m like, Don’t you want to get bombed?”

In 2008, Collins married the actor Steven Strait after a four-year relationship. Strait, who stars on the upcoming Starz series Magic City, was with her during her darkest hours, although in the beginning they were just a young couple having fun. “Until I took it all to hell,” says Collins, with surprising nonchalance. “Steven is incredibly smart and incredibly powerful, and he knows what he wants. Whatever I was doing, he was the rock, and now there’s two rocks. It’s a more equal relationship, but it wasn’t always like that.”

lynn collins

In person, Collins is bubbly and effervescent (In a moment of keen self-awareness, she tells me, “I don’t need bubbles to be effervescent”). She speaks as though she’s constantly sharing a secret, leaning in close across the table, and often lowers her voice to a whisper like she’s confessing to her best friend. She describes her newfound clarity as addictive and calls herself a workaholic. Between her two blockbusters, Collins shot the independent dramas Angels Crest, Unconditional, and Ten Year, but she seems frustrated that none had seen a theatrical release yet. Just before we meet, she was glued to her iPad, tweeting obsessively about her new business, a webzine devoted to spirituality and fashion called InnerChic.org. Collins, who is launching the site with a close friend, is a hardcore fanatic of all things New Age.

She studies numerology, the I Ching, and tarot. When she left AA, she supplemented it with transcendental meditation, which she still practices twice a day. On the set of John Carter, a movie she calls “mind-expanding,” Collins gave her costar Taylor Kitsch an astrology reading. “My mom told me astrology came from the devil,” she says, explaining the origins of her fascination with the Zodiac. “And I was like, Really? You think this is from the devil? That is so interesting! I think there’s a part of my mother that will always wonder if I’m going to hell.”

Collins was born in Texas to Christian parents, but spent much of her childhood in Singapore after her father, an employee at Exxon, was transferred there. Her eclectic, international upbringing set her up for serious culture shock when she returned to the U.S. at the age of 10. “I had been around all these different faces, different styles of worship, dress, and eating. Then I get back to Texas, which is all Dooney & Bourke bags,” she says. At 17, Collins moved to New York City and enrolled in the prestigious Julliard drama school, where she devised a list of career goals. The first was to perform at the Public Theater, which she accomplished in 2000 after being cast as Ophelia in a production of Hamlet, starring Liev Schrieber. In 2005, she ticked off another goal: becoming the lead in a Shakespeare in the Park production, gracing the Delacorte stage as Rosalind in As You Like It. Her break in Hollywood came when she guest–starred on HBO’s True Blood as the vampy (but not vampiric) waitress Dawn Green. After the character was killed off during the show’s first season, Collins turned her attention to movies, landing a part in the underrated thriller Uncertainty, opposite Joseph Gordon-Levitt. But it was her role in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which grossed $373 million worldwide, that gave Collins the clout to audition for John Carter.

Adapted from the Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom serial, John Carter marks Pixar genius Andrew Stanton’s live–action debut—and one of the largest gambles in Disney’s history. If the story of a former Confederate captain (played by Kitsch) who gets transported to Mars and involved in the planet’s civil war does not connect with audiences, it won’t come close to recouping its reported $250 million budget. Collins is confident the film will find a large audience, not because of its special effects (of which there are many) but because Stanton set out to make a movie with a poignant message. “Anything Andrew Stanton does is just so big,” Collins says. “Look at Wall-E. I don’t want to speak for him, but from witnessing his work and witnessing him as a person, he truly cares about human life, the planet, and our existence.”

For her role as the extraterrestrial warrior Dejah Thoris, the head of Science and Letters in the martian city of Helium, the five hours a day she spent getting bronzer and fake tribal prints applied to her body was the least rigorous part of Collins’ physical transformation. The actor endured weeks of sword training and brutal workout routines—because Burroughs’ martians have a famous aversion to clothes. “The costumes for John Carter were like blue booty shorts that go up my ass,” says Collins. “At one point I had to wear this chainmail belt and it was horrible. But I don’t see Dejah as someone who cares if her body is exposed, because she doesn’t see herself as an object.” But Collins gained more from her training than abs of steel. “Working out gave me a great high,” she says. “And I’m a connoisseur of highs.”

lynn collins

Christina Hendricks on ‘Mad Men’, Sexual Confidence, and Her Early Goth Days

On a bright January afternoon, I meet Christina Hendricks at Dusty’s, a rustic French-American bistro in Silver Lake. It’s one of her favorite spots to eat in Los Angeles, and not far from her home. The 36-year-old actor, dressed in a fetching black dress that clings to her famous curves, strides confidently to the table, seeming supremely comfortable in her body. It’s a body that, thanks to an assembly line of red carpet appearances, provocative magazine spreads, and her standout role as sumptuous secretary Joan Holloway on AMC’s flagship drama, Mad Men, has become a national obsession. It drives men to helpless, testosterone-fueled fantasies, and women to reevaluate traditional Hollywood notions of beauty—maybe the spotlight isn’t only for the thin and waifish after all? But today, Hendricks, whose trademark crimson hair is partially concealed under a snug, black-and-white knit cap, blends in with the rest of the diners, almost. In the dim lighting, her alabaster skin is almost translucent, and as a lighter version of that familiar, breathy voice rolls across the table at me like wisps of smoke, hints of Joan Holloway creep through.

When Mad Men first premiered in 2007, it surprised everybody. HBO passed on the drama that centered around an advertising agency in 1960s Manhattan, laying bare the sexism, homophobia, and racism of the era. The show eventually found a home on upstart network AMC, and turned its relatively unknown cast, including Hendricks, into overnight stars. “Everyone seems the same, which is nice,” says Hendricks of her costars, which include Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss. “If there was a difference from Season 1, it’s that everyone’s on their cell phones a lot more because our managers and publicists are always calling.”

For those who have yet to plunge into Mad Men‘s martini-drenched universe, Joan Holloway is a brassy office manager and den mother to all the other women at Madison Avenue advertising agency Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, and a pro at hypnotizing ad men with a glance of those cerulean eyes or a swivel of those hourglass hips. Over the course of four seasons, we’ve watched as she batted away constant harassment using her own sexuality as ammo, carried on a torrid affair with one of the company’s founders, and finally managed to land a doctor husband, though not before he sexually assaults her in her workplace. (They still managed to make their dinner reservation.) When we last saw her, Holloway had transformed into a homemaker, though a danger-fueled liaison left her pregnant with the child of her former boss.

“The amazing thing about Joan is how confident she is,” Hendricks says, between sips of Sancerre and nibbles on french fries. “I was never that confident. When we shot the pilot I was like, Who is this woman? I’m not friends with people like that.” But today, her self-confidence is brimming. Starring on a hit show might do that to a girl, but Hendricks admits that Joan’s sass was contagious. “She’s living in the ’60s, but she uses sexual innuendo, which is taboo. Because of that—and a very tight green dress—she became a sexual character. She was very openly saying, I have sex, and I don’t care if you judge me. I’m not going to apologize for who I am. Those qualities resonated with people, and have given me confidence.”

She’s a character that, like Hendricks herself, has experienced some of womanhood’s watershed moments in the five years we’ve known her. “Just as I have changed, and as significant things have happened in my life, like getting married and moving into a new home, Joan has gotten married and gotten pregnant,” Hendricks says. All of this has added up to a softer Joan Holloway, who once teased a white colleague for seeing a black woman. “She was a lot bitchier than she is now. She’s mellowed out and wised up. With the more responsibility that she’s gotten at work and in her life, she can’t be as flip as she was. There’s a lot more on her shoulders these days. ”

Growing up in Knoxville, Tennessee, Hendricks had no inkling of the Tinseltown success that awaited her. With her mother, a psychologist, and her British father, whose job working for the US Forest Service caused them to move often, Hendricks dotted the country throughout her childhood, spending swathes of her youth in places like Twin Falls, Idaho, and Fairfax, Virginia. In her teens, she acted in community theater and did ballet, experiences that ignited a passion for performance. “I studied pretty much everyday,” says Hendricks of her stint as a dancer. “Then, when I was 15, I realized I wasn’t going to be a professional dancer and I sort of had to readjust. I already knew that performance was something that made me happy,” she says.

Before she discovered acting, Hendricks expressed herself through fashion. “When I was in junior high, I was sewing my own clothes,” she says. “I had these looks. Sometimes they were very tragic. I wore a pair of green, silk, MC Hammer–style pants with the low crotch, Birkenstocks, and my hair in a turban. What that look was, I don’t know, but it was kind of amazing.” In high school, she embraced goth culture, and the black fishnets and makeup that came with it. “I wasn’t one of those sloppy, dirty goths. I thought it was very beautiful and I went out of my way to do it right, in a very high-fashion kind of way.” (Of Mad Men’s influence on her current style, she says, “I now have a section in my closet devoted to pencil skirts.”)

When Hendricks eventually moved with her mother to Los Angeles after her parents split up, she had an epiphany that a career in show business was possible. After considering a job at a record label—she had some friends in the music industry—she began booking modeling gigs, which led to commercial work. “It all happened naturally,” she says. She was surviving off guest spots on shows like ER and Joss Whedon’s sci-fi soap, Firefly, when the script for Mad Men gave her the opportunity to play a new type of character. “I was surprised to get the role of Joan, since I’d always played these socially awkward, quirky, best friend characters,” she says. “I’d audition for cop and lawyer characters, and everyone would say that I was too soft.”

Hendricks wrapped filming on Mad Men’s fifth season a few days before we meet—“It went by in a blink,” she says—and while I press her for plot details, she has by now mastered the art of revealing everything and nothing at the same time. “A lot happens this year,” she says with a coy smile. “Last year was building up to what was going to happen with Don and Betty, and although there’s that, so much happens with each character this season that we were all like, Whoa.” When I ask about Joan specifically, she demurely shakes her head. “All I can say is a lot happens to Joan.”

Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner knows how lucky he is to have discovered Christina Hendricks. “Christina turned what I conceived to be a businesslike and glib gal pal into a substantial, ambitious woman filled with sexual confidence,” he says. There’s no denying that the character of a 1960s secretary could have been something trite, but with Hendricks breathing life into her, she became a force from which even other characters were able to draw strength—in particular, uptight and ambitious female ad exec Peggy Olson, played by Moss. “That’s one of the reasons I got to continue on the show. Matthew Weiner saw that they complement each other so much… they’re sort of the yin and yang,” Hendricks says.

It’s hard to imagine anyone but Hendricks embodying Joan Holloway, but for all the praise her performance attracts—she’s been nominated for two Emmys for Outstanding Performance by a Supporting Actress—talk invariably turns back to that bodacious, unavoidable figure. It’s not something that Hendricks, who sees herself as an actress, not a sex symbol, is thrilled about. “My husband makes me feel sexy, and I’ve always been really comfortable in my skin, but I’m really just a girl who would prefer talking about my acting rather than my body,” she says. “But,” she adds, “I’m a very comfortable naked person. Not in front of other people, but at home and in front of my husband, I feel good not wearing clothes.”

Hendricks’ husband is Geoffrey Arend, a gangly actor best known for his roles in Super Troopers and 500 Days of Summer. Thanks to his glamorous bride, he’s been blinded by more flashbulbs in the last three years than most people see in a lifetime. (He’s also been texting her sweet nothings all morning, she says.) When they married after a brief courtship in 2009, People magazine gave Arend the “Luckiest S.O.B.” award, but it’s Hendricks who considers herself the fortunate one. She says she fell in love with Arend so instantaneously that it freaked him out a little, though, as she tells it, it didn’t take long to put a spell on him. Today, they enjoy a solid relationship—an endangered species in Hollywood—which Hendricks credits to just working on it. “People don’t want to work at marriage anymore,” she says. “Even a really great friendship is a lot of work, but sometimes people stay together forever and they’re miserable. There has to be a middle ground.”

With Mad Men renewed for at least another season, Hendricks isn’t leaving mid-century Manhattan just yet. The savvy actor is already balancing out her filmography with supporting parts in mainstream attractions like the treacly Sarah Jessica Parker workplace comedy I Don’t Know How She Does It, plus surprising appearances in edgier art-house experiments like Tony Kaye’s education system takedown Detachment. After seeing the ultraviolent prison saga Bronson, she decided she had to work with its director, the Danish provocateur Nicolas Windig Refn. “Whatever that guy does, I knew I wanted to work with him, and then Drive came up,” she says, referring to his pulsating, neo-noir thriller about a stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway driver. Hendricks had her eye on the role of a deceitful rogue named Blanche, opposite Ryan Gosling, and while the gritty part was a detour from the glamour audiences have come to expect from her, Hendricks approached Refn anyway, asking to meet. He revealed he’d been interviewing strippers for the role and, to his surprise, discovered none of them could act. (“That’s because they’re not actresses, they’re strippers,” she told him, sagely.) Drive became a cult smash, and audiences were shocked by Blanche’s gruesome fate. (Spoiler alert: A shotgun blows Hendricks’ head to fleshy smithereens.) “I wasn’t making a point of doing the opposite of Mad Men,” she says. “I just wanted to work with this guy, but now he’s a fan of the show.” Such a fan that Refn publicly vowed to bring the DC Comics character Wonder Woman to the screen, with Hendricks wielding the Amazonian goddess’ golden lasso.

Besides the prospect of her very own superhero franchise, Hendricks is keeping busy with more terrestrial projects. Thanks to a contract dispute between AMC and Weiner, there was an unusual year-long break between the shooting of Mad Men’s fourth and fifth seasons, and Hendricks isn’t standing idly by waiting for season six to commence production. Instead, she’ll fly to London shortly to begin work on Bomb, yet another ’60s drama where she’ll play mother to Elle Fanning in a family of radicals. Hendricks also recently wrapped Struck by Lightning, a coming-of-age tale written by Glee’s Chris Colfer. But she’s most excited about the possibility of working on Neil LaBute’s Seconds of Pleasure, a movie about the interconnected lives of people traveling on the same airplane.

Hendricks knows that eventually Matthew Weiner will write his grand finale, the set of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce will be broken down for good, and she will have to move on. She takes none of it for granted. “The idea that we have two seasons left is a bit daunting. It’s been nice to have security. A lot of us have been around for a while. We know how cyclical this stuff is and how fleeting it can be, so the idea that the show will end is certainly bubbling inside of me, but I’ve never had a plan.”

Photography by Kurt Iswarienko. Styling by Christopher Campbell.