10 Things with Joanna Going
Your work has been seen on a variety of films and television shows. One that was memorable was your performance on AMC’s Mad Men, season six. What was your experience like working on a show that was so defining and popular at the time?
I was a great fan of Mad Men and had longed to be a part of it, so I was delighted to be cast as “Arlene”. I didn’t really know exactly what she would be when I got the part. I auditioned with dummy sides (script pages), but she turned out to be fabulous. The writing was so fine on MAD MEN and Matthew Weiner was so clear on his vision of the character, that it was pure acting pleasure to drop in for a few moments and fill that vision. And, it was delicious to be able to draw on my own soap opera days, when I was the newbie with more mature, experience stars offering me much needed advice – albeit without the predatory sexual advances!
You’ve played a variety of characters throughout your career. What types of characters are you drawn to?
I’m drawn to complex characters who struggle with the inner conflict of being human. I enjoy exploring the dark and the light that exists in every person, and feel happiest in roles in which I can immerse myself in research and learn something I didn’t know before. Most of all, there has to be something I viscerally connect to, some spark – big or small, that I can build on.
Currently, you’re in DirecTV’s Kingdom, which is in it’s third and final season. How were you initially introduced to the series and what made you decide to take this on?
I was introduced to Kingdom by way of the very ordinary, every-day audition process. My agents sent me the appointment and my initial reaction was “What in the world would I want to do with a show about Mixed Martial Arts?” Then, I read Byron Balasco’s script and my thoughts changed to “What do I have to do to be a part of this?” The relationships were so dynamic, and the exploration of this MMA sub-culture was so well-drawn and specific. My character only appeared very briefly in that first episode, but the rest of the characters were so rich, in particular the character of “Jay”, that by the time I got to the page where “Christina” is introduced as his mother, I wanted in. The audition was one of the least stressful I’ve ever done, probably because I had no expectations about where the character was going to go. The job turned out to be the most challenging and rewarding role I’ve ever had.
On the show, you play the role of Christina Kulina. What are the many facets that make up her personality and what do you enjoy most about playing her on screen?
Christina Kulina is an addict, and her actions and personality are always subject to that lens. She’s a survivor; she’s weathered a lot, lived high and low, but she’s still alive. She’s a hot mess of a mother, and she knows it, but she loves her sons fiercely, and her pride in them is the light in her. She is street-smart, but generous of spirit; she means well, but makes impulsive and misguided decisions.
Christina has a freedom from vanity that I really enjoyed playing, even when it was a challenge to my own vanity. She certainly enjoys getting dressed up, putting on makeup, a sexy dress and heels, but she is just as comfortable in the world wearing no makeup and ratty tee shirts. She can “package” herself for commerce when need be, but doesn’t feel the need to work hard to prove her own attractiveness. She’s comfortable in her skin and fully owns who she is and what her life has been; I admire that.
You’ve been on the show for 3 seasons and now that it’s coming to a close, what are some of the memories that you’ll take with you?
My strongest memories of Kingdom, the ones that will stay with me, will be of the dedication and support of the entire company, cast and crew, particularly the bond between the core company of actors and Byron Balasco. Byron was tremendously collaborative with the actors, and every one of us signed on out of passion for his words on the page.
What can fans of the show expect to see from Christina and the rest of the crew on this final season?
At the outset of this third, and final, season we’ve jumped about 18 months ahead to find most of the characters in some semblance of relative stability, at least in terms of the world we occupy. We are exploring the notion of family, blood family, and the families we build when that family fails us. We are wrestling with winning what you want, and the cost of maintaining that win. Christina has a home and a job and a purpose. Jay has a new family and a new lifestyle as a responsible breadwinner. Nate, while not totally out as gay, is happily in a relationship. Ryan is on top as the reigning King Beast Champion. Lisa is healthy and wheeling and dealing like the badass boss lady she is, and Alvey is looking around at his kingdom and contemplating getting back into the cage as a fighter again. Of course, every one of these people are fragile in their own way, and things start to unravel pretty quickly.
When you’re not working, what do you enjoy doing with your free time?
When I’m not working, I mostly enjoy being a mom to my daughter and two dogs, quietly puttering about the house and garden, reading, cooking, and binge-watching the very long list of amazing shows out there. I also like exploring new places, near and far. I’m basically a homebody who travels.
If you didn’t have a successful career in acting, what kind of work could you see yourself doing?
I started making my living solely by acting when I was 22. Before that, I’d had a lot of jobs in retail – art galleries, gift shops, clothing, that I quite enjoyed. My favorite job was in vintage clothes at a place called Love Saves the Day, in the East Village in NYC. I quit that job to go to work on a soap opera, but without acting, I think I could have continued happily in the world of vintage fashion.
When it comes to fashion, who are your favorite designers and styles that appeal to you?
My closet is very high/low and eclectic. I’ve got things from Helmut Lang, Dries Van Noten, and Comme de Garçons hanging next to Zara and Target. I love classics like Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino, Prada, Plein Sud, Lanvin, and Chanel, to name a few. Raquel Allegra and Aliona Kononova are two Los Angeles designers that I really like. I generally go for clean lines and minimalism, with a bit of edge. If there are five colors on a rack I reach for the black, but I can get excited about a great print too. I remain, as ever, exceedingly happy putting on vintage clothes. I am very lucky that my job involves playing dress-up. The wide variety of things I get to wear for work satisfy a lot of my fashion desires and fascinations.
We look forward to seeing how things will wrap up on DirecTV’s Kingdom. What’s next?
Summer vacation in my beautiful home town of Newport, Rhode Island!
Facebook: Actress Joanna Going
Photo: Courtesy of Benjo Arwas