Fans of “Mad Men” may find themselves doing a double-take this week when they spot a blonde, tight jeans-clad Christina Hendricks in a role that is in sharp contrast to the buttoned-up redhead she played on the landmark 2007-15 series.
In the film noir-ish late-1980s-set “Hap and Leonard,” a six-episode dark comedy series based on the Joe R. Lonsdale novels and premiering Wednesday (March 2), on Sundance Channel, Hendricks takes on the role of femme fatale as Trudy, an East Texas divorcee with a wiggle in her walk and a get-rich-quick scheme her ex can’t refuse.
And Hap (James Purefoy), a working class guy for whom life hasn’t exactly panned out, is vulnerable to her charms and the temptation for fast money. Soon the couple are planning and plotting with the help of his friend Leonard (Michael Kenneth Williams), a gay, black Vietnam vet with a hot temper.
But what starts out as a simple plan to find some stolen loot turns ugly as blood is shed and people die. And in the middle of it all are Hap and Trudy, whose relationship Hendricks calls “an unresolved, long, quite dangerous flirtation. I think she does know how to wrap him around her finger but I also think that there is a lot of love and respect there. I think that she can’t help herself. I think that she goes into dubious mode no matter what. But I do think that she really respects him and I think that she has a lot of love for him.”
Purefoy, a Brit from working-class environs who adopts a Texas drawl to play Hap, understood his character as soon as he read the script.
“I went, ‘Oh, I know these guys.’ I know these guys because when I was growing up in rural West Country England, our local pub was full of people like Hap and Leonard,” he tells Zap2it. “People who were in their mid-40s, life hadn’t really happened to them in the way they might have expected and they’re always trying to get scams or pyramid-selling schemes or get rich quick, some way of getting themselves out of the rut that they found themselves in.”
Purefoy was also attracted to a theme that has become all-too-universal in the wake of the Great Recession.
“A lot of people are told from a very early age that if you worked hard, if you pulled yourself up by your bootstraps, that you can achieve anything in America,” he says. “A lot of people are realizing, ‘Hey, I do work hard, I work long hours but now for less money, I’ve pulled myself up by my bootstraps, and yet I’m 48. When is this f… thing going to happen? When is this reward going to happen?’ …
“So I think a lot of people really will empathize with Hap and Leonard.”