Elaine Hendrix Interview
Elaine Hendrix plays Ava, Johnny Rock’s lover in FX’s Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll. We (along with some of our press colleagues) spoke with the actress about the show, working with Denis Leary and more. Below, an edited version of that conversation.
Can you tell us a little bit about how you got the part on the show?
Sure. It was a little bit of good old-fashioned auditioning. But it was also very different in that they were not seeing people in Los Angeles for my role, and I live in Los Angeles. So, I put myself on tape, and normally even if you put yourself on tape eventually you have to go into a room with some decision maker. That just didn’t happen in this process.
So, my tape got passed around, and then the next thing I know I booked the job, was shooting the pilot, and then the next thing I know we’re on the series, and then the next thing I know here I am talking to you all. So, it was a little old-fashioned and a little modern at the same time.
Talk to us a little bit about working with Denis Leary and Ava’s relationship with Johnny.
It’s a loaded question.
—complicated one. Well, first of all, Denis is a dream. I cannot stop raving about him enough. I keep saying I don’t know who I’m going to work with after him, because between him and FX it makes the perfect combination for an artist, for the actor side because we have a lot of freedom on this show to really bring ideas, and creativity, and our own unique stamp to the roles, and that just doesn’t always happen.
Denis also really starts to write towards us and towards our strengths, and as a woman who does comedy that is the ultimate dream, because, first of all, not everybody, it’s not that they don’t allow it. It just doesn’t really happen that much, and especially from a male perspective. Males don’t always write strong, funny women roles. But Denis does, and he champions strong, funny women. So, it’s really ideal for me.
And then their relationship, the Ava/Johnny relationship, I think is a very complex one because anything goes with them, and they love that. They thrive on that. It’s what’s kept them together so many years that they just completely accept one another. They could be screaming bloody murder at each other and then in the next second be making out. And so they just are who they are, they accept each other and love each other unconditionally. And as crazy as that can seem in particularly a rock and roll world, I don’t know, it’s kind of neat. It’s kind of special.
Is there anyone in particular that you modeled her after, or did Denis tell you anyone to look at or investigate when you were trying to get ready for it?
Not really. For the show, the general idea, he had guys he had gone to school with and modeled the rockers who didn’t make it. That was modeled after people. And I think for Ava it might have been a compilation of people. But there wasn’t any one particular person we pointed to. I did a lot of research on rock and roll, I did a lot of research on backup singers, I did a lot of research on drugs actually, and then just brought my own imagination to her, and certainly my own spin to her. I also knew Denis’ style of comedy. I knew she had to have some pace and pep to her.
Yes, so that’s the long answer to say no, there wasn’t one person in particular. It really was a building process.
Often in Hollywood people are defined by one word or one role. For you, any time your name is mentioned Parent Trap is also pegged to it, and it’s often at the top of the list despite being an actress in countless numbers of roles, a producer, a singer, a dancer, not to mention the activist work you do with the Pet Matchmaker. So, my question is, not to get too deep is, who is Elaine Hendrix?
Oh, wow. Wow. You know, I decided a long time ago I was not going to try to compartmentalize my life. I really think of myself as a creative person, and for me that creativity, it depends on which medium I funnel that creativity. So, for me it’s the same with my acting work, and then on the other spectrum with my advocacy work I use a lot of creativity in the way I handle my advocacy work. So, I guess Elaine Hendrix is a creative.
What inspired you to become a vegan?
Oh, yay. I’m always happy when people ask me about my advocacy work. Thank you. I’ve loved animals my whole life, and when I started getting invited to different charity events as an actress and as someone who was starting to become visible, I got invited to all these different charity events and I felt like I wasn’t really making an impact. I was just showing up. But I couldn’t really point to anything that I really felt like I could measure where I was really making a difference. And so I sat down literally at my computer one day and I said, “I’m going to figure out what my platform is so I can really focus on that.”
And in hindsight, it should have been obvious that it was animals, because I’ve loved animals my whole life. But it did take me finding an undercover fur video, and my reaction to that, it completely traumatized me, totally changed my life. And from that point forward I’ve done everything I could to help animals. And so becoming vegan was a little bit of a progression, as I kept learning about different animal issues I keep, and still to this day I still learn about things that are helping to animals and I try to weed out everything that hurts them. I try to weed any of that out of my life. So, it’s been a journey, and it’s a continuing journey.
You have such great chemistry with all the cast members on the show, do you have a favorite scene or a funny moment from this season?
Yes, thank you. I think we do, too, and it’s so funny because you’ve read about people who hate each other and still have great chemistry onscreen. But we all actually really love each other and like each other. We hang out when we’re not working together. We remain friends. We text each other all the time. We try to see each other whenever we can. So, I think that’s what makes a lot for our great chemistry.
And the favorite scenes, my favorite scenes are typically when I’m with Dennis in the bedroom, just because that’s where I feel like we really get to capture a lot of Ava and Johnny history. And Denis and I, we really just let the reins go and try to get it as real and raw as possible.
And then the other time, in the complete opposite way, when we’re all together is also some of my favorite scenes because of the chemistry we do have. And I love when we’re all just sort of piling over each other, and it gets messy, and we’re interrupting, and fighting, and loving, so it’s fun. It makes for a great adrenaline rush, really.
I know you’ve done a lot of dancing and you did singing before and wrote some songs, but I read an interview where you said you were more into southern rock and rap. Has being a heavy metal backup singer influenced you more now as far as liking more heavy rock and roll?
No, because I love rock. I think at heart I’m a rock chick, and for me the country rock, even bluegrass, they all generate from the blues. And so I do love it all. And I’ve grown up listening to all kinds of music. I love Bach, as much as I love Pink, as much as I love Dolly Parton. So, I’m a big music fan.
And it’s so funny, I’m taking this call right now from Tennessee, I’m home visiting my family, and my dad’s in the other room, I don’t even know if he can hear me, but two of his favorite guys growing up, rockers, was Jerry Lee Lewis and George Thorogood. So, I grew up listening to that. And I’m just happy to be a part of a rock and roll show. Yes, my roots run southern because I am Tennessee, but I’ll take any of it.
Did you have any input into your look on the show, rock chick, druggie type of thing?
Our costumer, Jeriana San Juan, is a genius. And she has dressed so many iconic people and worked on so many iconic shows and tours and whatnot, so we really didn’t have to do a lot. She showed up with all kinds of pieces and ideas, and then I certainly had input as we went along. And it’s funny, especially when you work on a series, you do get the luxury of building and refining her as you go along, and there would literally be moments I would try something on and we’d go, “Nope, it’s not Ava. It’s just not her.” And so you start to get into a groove. You start to get into a rhythm of what really works for the character and what doesn’t.
In a recent interview I saw that you said that you liked to take daring roles, like The Parent Trap and the one you have right now, because they’re so not like how you would be in real life. But is there anything from Elaine that you relate to, though?
Oh, for sure. And you’re being very kind with the daring roles. I think very specifically we’re talking about b**ch roles. So, I don’t know, as an actress I think you have to bring some of you to each role that you do. You just can’t. Otherwise, I don’t know, you would be, I don’t know, you have to, on me I can only create to a certain extent, and that’s also part of what makes, I think, for good acting is that you do bring something that’s truly authentic that you can relate to on some level.
So, yes, I think these women, certainly from The Parent Trap, played out an alter ego of mine where I do get to be the hoity-toity unlikeable one and not care. And with Ava I get to be the fun chick who doesn’t care. And sure, there’s definitely parts of me who can identify with that. In taking these two examples, in The Parent Trap I don’t go around typically being as mean and sort of conniving as she was, and with Ava I don’t tend to be quite as wild as she is, and maybe as free as she is.
You guys have awesome chemistry. Have you guys worked together before?
No. We figured out Denis and I had done a movie years ago together that I think got renamed. It started out Dog, and then we think it became Bad Boy. And we had a few scenes together where I played an ex-girlfriend, but that was so long ago. That was like oh, wow, and we figured that out after the fact. But, no, I had met John Corbett through our mutual friend, Robin Tunney, and everybody else, yes, I had not known until I walked into the table reading when we first started with the pilot.
You guys seem to have so much fun it’s like you’ve known each other forever.
I think so, yes. It certainly feels that way. And I feel lucky, because we work hard. We work long, hard hours, and it’s not only while we’re shooting, but it’s recording the music as well, so sometimes we’re working on the weekends, and then doing all the press for it, and traveling together. So, if we didn’t like each other that would really suck.
There’s lots of great TV on nowadays, are there any that you particularly like to watch?
Yes. Well, let me tell you something, I not too long ago finally finished watching all of the episodes of Sons of Anarchy. I watched every single frame of every single episode of every single season of that show. I was obsessed, so obsessed. So, to be on the same network is just an absolute thrill, because I love Sons of Anarchy.
Also, people were bagging on the second season of True Detective, but I liked it. By the third episode it got me. So, I liked that. I’m really hot for The Brink right now. The Americans, I think is genius. I was lucky enough to do an episode of Transparent, which I think has really revolutionized not just viewing but cultures, ideas, so being a part of that was really special. So, I agree, it’s another Golden Age of television right now.
You’ve had many roles through the years, is there a particular role that you’re proud of that maybe never fully got a chance by the audience, or critics, or even fans that you wish now that you’re more in the spotlight again they could go back and check out?
Oh, gosh the first thing that came to mind was a little movie that I did called Good Intentions. And I say little just because it was independent. It didn’t have any big studio backing or anything. And I was a co-producer on that. It was myself, Leeann Rimes, Luke Perry, and a whole bunch of other really tremendous actors. And it’s just a sweet, fun, feel-good, Southern movie. It was I think maybe one of the only times that I really got to play Southern. And so that was a lot of fun. I’m very, very proud of that movie.