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Christina Ricci

Darren Calabrese/CP

Christina Ricci took to the friendly skies for her first foray into series television.

The former child star is the biggest name in the new drama Pan Am, which follows the personal lives of several globetrotting stewardesses, circa 1963. Best known for her roles in the films The Addams Family, Buffalo 66 and The Ice Storm, Ricci's sparing appearances on TV in recent years have included guest turns on Saving Grace, The Simpsons and Grey's Anatomy (which earned her an Emmy nomination).

On Pan Am, she's the free-spirited Maggie, the unofficial team leader of a group of rookie fly girls. Ricci spoke to us from Los Angeles last week.

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You've revisited historical periods in several films. Does Pan Am feel like another period piece to you?

I love this particular period in history. The idea we could revisit certain really big historical moments of this era was really exciting to me. My character has such a strong voice and her journey is something I certainly relate to. It touches on the American dream in a lot of ways, of wanting so badly to be something and if you work hard enough you can turn yourself into it. At least that's what the American dream's supposed to be.

Did you undergo real stewardess training for the show?

We spent time with former Pan Am stewardess Nancy Hult Ganis, who provided us with tons of anecdotal research and information from the airline. You know, pamphlets they were given at the time, explaining what stewardesses were required to look like and act like. We were taught things that I'm hopeless at, like napkin folding and the proper way to serve food and greet people.

What's the worst part of the uniform?

Well, we have these undergarments that we wear: a girdle and a long-line bra. The girdle keeps you from being able to do anything boyish, like run or jump. The long line is like a bra attached to basically like a mini-corset so it basically makes you stand up really, really straight. You're immediately put into this mindset of I'm a lady. I sit a certain way. I walk a certain way.

Would you have made a good stewardess?

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I probably would have done a good job, but I probably would have gotten myself into trouble every once in a while and had some problems with authority.

It's inevitable Pan Am will cover The Beatles arriving in America on a Pan Am flight in 1964. Are you a fan?

Oh, yes. My sister discovered the Beatles when she was about 11 and I'm four years younger. So we had nothing but Beatles paraphernalia. Every night I fell asleep to a different Beatles album. Ringo was my favourite Beatle until I grew up and then changed. I made the switch over to George Harrison just in time to regain my cool.

Does Pan Am dispel any pre-existing misconceptions of stewardesses?

I think the misconception would be that whole idea of them being just sort of these pretty women. You know, that whole coffee, tea or me thing. The girls on Pan Am really had to be college-educated. They had to speak two languages. They had to be these intelligent, gracious hostesses who could be emissaries in foreign countries. I think a lot of people won't realize that until they watch the show.

Are you a fan of air travel yourself?

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I'm one of those people who loves to fly. I love the solitude of being on a plane and finally getting to read an entire book and being left alone. I don't have any bad stories.

Pan Am airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on ABC and CTV

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