The new ABC series "Pan Am" may be set in 1963, but its environmental efforts are very 21st century. "We have no bottled water on set, we use paper cups and paper plates, no Styrofoam. We have recycle bins. We're all very conscious of that," says executive producer Nancy Hult Ganis. As for scripts and updates, "everything is sent digitally. Everyone walks around with an iPad."
Ganis worked for the defunct titular airline in the late '60s to mid-'70s, and always thought her experiences would lend themselves to a TV series. She talked to other former Pan Am flight attendants, some of whom lent uniforms and memorabilia that were copied for verisimilitude. The only change was slightly altering the color of the stewardess uniform because the original appeared washed out on camera.
The series follows four women — a smart Bohemian (Christina Ricci), a French girl who finds out her lover is married (Karine Vanasse), a runaway bride (Margot Robbie) and a secret spy (Kelli Garner) — who take to the skies for adventure in a bygone time when flying was glamorous and fun. "It was before private jets, so we handled the White House press corps, we took presidents and kings and queens as well as Muslim pilgrims," notes Ganis about the global airline.
Ricci, who'd had good experiences playing guest parts on shows like "Grey's Anatomy" and "Ally McBeal," had been interested in doing a TV series for a while and was intrigued by the premise and the societal context. "There was this sense of excitement and freedom. The job allowed these women to have a freedom that they weren't really given in life at that time. They could travel freely and see the world and be in charge of their own lives in a way that women at the time weren't," she says. "Yes, they had to go through girdle and makeup checks in order to serve tea and coffee. But there's this misconception of 'coffee, tea or me?'" says Ricci, emphasizing that she'd never be a part of something that denigrated women.
Research and wearing tight undergarments helped her get into the period milieu, but she's glad her character is the rebellious type who gets demerits for leaving her girdles at home. "I don't wear them as much as the other girls," she says. "My character's a troublemaker."
"Pan Am" premieres Sept. 25 on ABC.