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Christina Ricci: 'Pan Am' may be campy, but it's also 'real escapism'

Bob D'amico / ABC

The stewardesses of "Pan Am" may seem to have it all: They're gorgeous, they get to travel the world and they get to help their government in super-duper-secret missions! Alas, what "Pan Am" doesn't have as of yet are stellar ratings. Last Sunday's episode brought in fewer than 6 million viewers.

That may be about to change with Sunday's newest episode, "One Coin in a Fountain." In it, both Maggie (Christina Ricci) and Kate (Kelli Garner) are going to get competitive about a mysterious Yugoslavian diplomat played by "ER's" Goran Visnjic, who apparently gets to wear a super hat and that super smile during his four-episode guest stint. The love triangle comes amidst espionage, race cars and Monte Carlo, but Maggie won't have to deal with serious trouble until next week: "We'll find out where she comes from and why she ultimately almost gets fired," said Ricci.

It may all sound a little soapy, but Ricci swears "Pan Am" is no immediate successor to "Desperate Housewives."

"There's a little of that in there, but it's a little less campy," said Ricci, who says the ABC series is still getting its sea legs and figuring out the right tone. "I think in some ways we haven't really found exactly how far we're going to go with the comedy and the drama. It's the first season, and a lot of shows go through that. But I think my character is probably the most campy."

And possibly the most accessible: As Maggie, Ricci plays the bohemian rebel of the group and stands in for the modern viewer who might look back on the 1960s with a certain level of incomprehension. "It's interesting to play somebody who has a thought process that's very modern, but in an age where it's completely unsuitable. You get nowhere when you have that voice in that misogynistic time," she said.

Yet Ricci herself "loves the idea" of being in the 1960s era. "It's real escapism," she said. "If you're not into sci-fi and fantasy, going into this kind of history is a real escape. I had no idea stewardesses on Pan Am had to be college-educated, speak multiple languages and that they could go on missions for the government."

That said, don't expect any "Mad Men" crossovers, despite the fact that Ricci is a fan and Maggie would probably have much to chat about with Peggy Olson. "I've been a fan since the first season," gushed Ricci. "But it's been five seasons over there. It would be kind of confusing if I ever showed up on 'Mad Men' now, don't you think?"

"Pan Am" airs Sunday, Oct. 23 at 10 p.m. on ABC.

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