There are always meatless, dairy-free options on the menu at the Chicago set of "The Playboy Club," as several actors in the cast are vegan. Jenna Dewan-Tatum was vegetarian and went vegan about a year ago. "I feel like a different person. There's a big difference in my energy level, my skin cleared up, I could not believe the change," raves Dewan-Tatum, whose husband, actor Channing Tatum, has not followed suit, "but he'll do meatless Mondays with me. He's very open to it." She and fellow vegans Laura Benanti and Leah Renee, a big PETA supporter, have found some good vegan Windy City restaurants, reports Dewan-Tatum, who plays the free-spirited Janie in the '60s-set drama, which premieres on NBC Sept. 19.
Her busy movie career notwithstanding, Dewan-Tatum found the script "too good to pass up. Every season I was sent a bunch of pilots but none ever felt right until this came along," she says, noting that she was drawn to the script, milieu, character (who's dating the club bartender but won't commit), and the iconic costume, "We had like a dozen fittings. It's really fit to your body. You put it on and you immediately feel like you're back in another era," she says, but doesn't think it's that racy. "Compared to what some people are wearing on TV ours is quite conservative."
Dewan-Tatum has several films in the can, including "Setup," a heist drama with Bruce Willis and Ryan Phillippe, "Ten Year," a "dramedy about a ten-year high school reunion I attend with my boyfriend, and 'The Legend of Hell's Gate: An American Conspiracy,' a full-on spaghetti western. I play a thief. 'Slightly Single in L.A.' is basically 'Entourage' for females, about dating in L.A. I don't do well with down time," she says. Of course that means she and her husband have to travel to see each other, but "we've gotten used to it. If you want to make it work, you make it work. We're used to the gypsy life."
Leah Renee, another recent vegetarian-to-vegan convert, plays Alice, a married bunny keeping a secret — she's gay. She and her co-stars had two weeks of training with a former bunny who taught them the very specific stance, walk and the Bunny Dip, the behind-the-back method of serving drinks. Talking to retired bunnies about their experiences, she discovered "these women were working there because it was their choice. A lot of times people think using sexuality is a bad thing and I don't think it is."
"I've always recycled and I'm thinking about getting an eco-friendly car, maybe a Prius," says Renee's roommate Naturi Naughton, who plays "chocolate bunny" Brenda. "The more I grow I learn we have to take care of our environment, so things like that are starting to become more relevant and important."
She was drawn to her "strong, ambitious, very confident" character, who wants to become the first black "Playboy" centerfold. "The fact that she's a step ahead of the rest of the world is kind of cool," says Naughton. She loves the iconic costume and the '60s club setting, and researched the era by quizzing her parents and ex-bunnies, reading books and watching documentaries. A singer who starred in "Fame" and played Lil' Kim in "Notorious," she'll put her music ability to use on the show. "You feel like you're in this fantasy, and that's what it was," she says of the "The Playboy Club." "It's like Disney World for adults."
Amber Heard recycles and washes many of her clothes and all her dishes by hand. "I do my part to reduce my footprint as much as possible," says the actress, who plays Maureen, a newly hired bunny who accidentally kills a mob boss on her first night on the job. Nick Dalton (Eddie Cibrian) comes to her aid, and inevitably, sparks fly. "She allows herself to be helped when she needs it but she by no means relies on any character, male or female, and we'll see that journey," says Heard.
She draws a parallel between herself and her co-stars and the women they play. "We're independent, self-sufficient, intelligent women making a career for ourselves, and we're representing women who were doing the same in a time where options were completely different. These trailblazers weren't afraid to go against the status quo and make changes in their lives for the better, to do something new and different," she notes, relating to the concept. "I always aspire to challenge myself, to be true to myself, to keep challenging the norm and the expectations people set forth for me, take my own path and do what's right for me." She'll star opposite Johnny Depp and Aaron Eckhart in "The Rum Diary," due in theaters Oct. 28.
Photos: John Russo/NBC