Wearing a body-hugging dress and heels to our interview at an Irish pub in her adopted hometown of Los Angeles, Christina Hendricks is seriously channeling Joan Holloway, the take-no-prisoners office manager she plays on Mad Men. But as soon as she sits down and starts talking, the 35-year-old Tennessee-born actress transforms into the kind of fun-loving girlfriend you always have a ball with. Over a late-afternoon cup of chili, Christina-who recently wed actor Geoffrey Arend-talks about making workouts fun and the importance of keeping a "no regrets" attitude.
Q: You've lived all over the country-Tennessee, Idaho, Virginia, Georgia, New York. Which of these places sticks with you most today?
A: Idaho. I really do love being outdoors-I mean, you'd never think it in my high heels and pencil skirt! [Laughs.] But I really do miss the smell of hay and farms, and I like milking a cow. I'm quite good at it!
Q: Really? What's your strategy?
A: There's a trick! If you lean your head against the udder, it produces more milk, 'cause [your head] is like a calf. [Laughs.]
Q: Joan on Mad Men is sexy and tough. Are you like that in real life?
A: When I first started to play her, I would think, Oh my God, I would never want to hang out with this person. She would crush me like a bug! And then, I started to love her. I think Joan and I have a 'no excuses' kind of mentality-I'm going to stand by my decisions, no regrets, no apologies. But she is far more confident than I am. She's far more confident than most women are in the world! [Laughs.]
Q: Many women have said they consider your body one they admire or want the most. What do you think of all that body love?
A: Really? They don't say Jessica Alba? 'Cause that's what I say! [Laughs.] It's such a compliment, because of all those times I had agents who were like, 'You have to lose some weight,' and all of a sudden, people are celebrating it. It's like: 'Oh, thank you! Thank you for letting me be me.'
Q: When I Googled your name, the third most popular search that came up was 'Christina Hendricks's cup size.' How does it feel to know that people are actually discussing that?
A: It's weird, but it doesn't surprise me. I made the grave mistake after one awards show of reading comments online about what I wore, and I was like, [gasps] 'Oh my God, people are so mean!' I still remember all those negative comments, despite all the wonderful positivity. That's why we're all in therapy! [We remember] the 10 bad things that happen to us instead of the 100 nice ones.
Q: What is your best advice for reaching total body confidence? Do you have it?
A: I guess my mom raised me right. She was very celebratory of her body. I never heard her once say, 'I feel fat.' Back when I was modeling, the first time I went to Italy I was having cappuccinos every day, and I gained 15 pounds. And I felt gorgeous! I would take my clothes off in front of the mirror and be like, Oh, I look like a woman. And I felt beautiful, and I never tried to lose it, 'cause I loved it. [Laughs.]
Q: You gained it from living a good life.
A: It's like Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution-real, good foods. It's OK if I have avocado and olive oil and all these delicious things, you know? I don't feel guilty about that.
Q: Is there any healthy rule you believe in breaking?
A: I break every healthy rule! [Laughs.]
Q: Says the girl sitting in an Irish pub at 4 p.m. ...
A: With a glass of Pinot Grigio. I was a dancer until I was 19. I never had to worry about working out or what I ate. So I've really had to train myself to get down to the gym. But what surprised me was that my husband said [the other day], 'I'm going down to work out,' and I was like, 'Oh, I wish I was going.' And I was like, 'Ooh! I can't believe I just said that!' I'd had a busy week working 16-hour days, and I didn't get to work out, and I missed it. My friends will read this and be like, 'No you didn't.' [Laughs.] But it's true!
Q: Do you have any health regrets?
A: My parents didn't exercise, so it was not something I saw was good for you or fun. I wish I had grown up knowing to do that. And my mother-she'll admit it-hated vegetables, so when we had them, they were always canned or cooked within an inch of their lives.
Q: So what's your gym routine?
A: I get kind of bored on the treadmill, but I do it. And I do a little bit of weight training. I'm really into the BOSU ball. You have to balance on it, and I do weights and squats on it. I'm pretty good at it, I feel sort of like a Karate Kid.
Q: Any tricks for making workouts fun?
A: I read magazines, and I'll try [the exercises]. It's something different, and, often, you don't need equipment. If I get any private time in my trailer, all of a sudden I'm doing sit-ups and push-ups.
Q: Mad Men is all about having vices. Do you have any?
A: I like salty, creamy foods. I could sit down with a bag of chips and French onion dip and go to town! That would be on my last-supper list. But I discovered that dry French onion soup mix in nonfat yogurt tastes just as good. It really does!
Q: Any other healthy snacking secrets?
A: My husband and I started doing a Soup of the Week. We just make a big pot once a week that's healthy and in the fridge, so if we feel snacky, there's something really delicious in there. I've got lentil in the fridge right now.
Q: What is your favorite relaxation ritual?
A: I knit. I find that very soothing. I actually learned from Laurie Metcalf, you know that actress? She's very crafty.
Q: Your skin looks so healthy. What's your secret?
A: I moisturize all the time. I really like 3LAB and Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate. Also, I'll be cooking and so dry from washing my hands, I'll just take olive oil and be like, "Ahh!" [gestures bathing her arms and face in olive oil]. On Mad Men, we use so much powder-it was such a matte look in the '60s. And no one wore lip gloss either. Sometimes, they'll powder your lips-whoo! It's brutal. So in between shots I'm like [in scratchy voice] 'Can I just get some ChapStick please?'
Q: You're a newlywed. How has your relationship with your husband changed since getting married?
A: I feel even more nurturing toward him. Now I'm like, Oh, you're my baby! I gotta take care of you. You've gotta be safe and healthy, and I've got to be sure that you'll be there until the end, because I really love you! And when something starts to aggravate either of us, it's like, Wait a minute, this is not a person who does bad things intentionally.
Q: When and where do you feel the happiest?
A: I'm happiest with my husband and my best friend. Just hanging out at home or at my best friend's house. It's about having a kindred spirit. It reminds you that in all this chaos when everything can be so nuts and you never know what's genuine and what's not, that you know for sure this is.