This week marks the start of many new shows on the NBC lineup, the first of which is The Playboy Club, which debuts on Monday, September 19 at 10 PM ET. So please welcome Eddie, Amber and Chad. And we now open it up for your questions. The series stars Amber Heard as Maureen, a waitress at the Chicago Playboy Club in 1963, and Eddie Cibrian as Nick Dalton, a powerful lawyer with connections all over the Windy City. Both Amber Heard and Eddie Cibrian held a conference call recently. along with executive producer Chad Hodge, to discuss The Playboy Club. Here's what they had to say below.
Amber, on the show and even in the posters we're seeing all around town it just looks like you're having so much fun even though obviously there's a serious plot going on for you. But is that because of Maureen or is that you as Amber just having a blast?
Amber Heard: Well the good thing about, you know, my job is that I get to have fun as both myself and the character I'm playing. And, you know, the wonderful thing about Maureen is I relate to her on a lot of different levels and important, you know, we share a lot of important qualities. But so I guess to answer your question we're both having fun. The show is all about fun. And it is a blast to work on. We've got music, we've got dancing, we've got performances, we've got, you know, spotlights and fishnets and lipstick and, you know, jazz and martinis and what more could you want? It's a lot of fun.
The dancing is great also. Did you learn a certain style to do that sort of 60s Bunny-type of dancing?
Amber Heard: Actually we did. We have this wonderful choreographer, a very accomplished choreographer work with us and our show. Her name is Fatima Robinson. And she is an unbelievable choreographer and she's taught us, you know, the specific kind of I guess modern, I mean, modern - I mean, 60s style dancing which is important because as bunnies, you know, they were in many ways trendsetters. And so what was new and trendsetting at the time in the 60s is obviously, you know, not the same as it is today. And so we have, you know, very specific dance numbers and we also have, you know, kind of more elaborate choreographed pieces and then we have, you know, more 60s freestyle dancing. So it keeps us busy.
So could you tell us - you've talked a little bit about how much fun you're having on this set. Can you tell us maybe what some of the challenges are working on the series?
Eddie Cibrian: Oh I was just going to say just in general, I mean, just because of the series, you know, it's a very ambitious series to shoot because of the time period obviously it's a period piece. But not only that, you know, there - like Amber was saying there's a lot of musical elements to the show too so we basically almost shoot a complete music video every episode along with a one-hour drama which that in itself is, you know, it's very time consuming. So there are a lot of things that have to come together and it's not always, you know, it's not always as easy as it, you know, as it would seem to other people. But I think that we're getting into a really good groove right now. And like Amber was saying, you know, we're all having fun and it's coming on the set and, you know, seeing that these extraordinary, you know, set pieces that our production designer built. And basically feeling transformed when you enter those scenes and you see all the, you know, the extras all dressed up in 60s attire and the Playboy Bunnies, and, you know, everyone has a cigarette in their hand and a cocktail. And then you have these performance pieces that, you know, that we're doing. And all that kind of you forget about time and you kind of get transformed into this world. And it makes it nice for us because you do have fun. You know, every time we go out on location as well we got to bring in the old cars, we've got to bring in, you know, all this stuff that's period-specific to that time. So it's a little different than just a normal procedural cop show that gets show in eight days as well.
Chad, could you just tell us has Hugh Hefner been involved, seen the show, given his blessing? What's his reaction to it?
Chad Hodge: Yeah, definitely. He's been involved since the beginning. He loves the show. He doesn't approve scripts or storylines or things like that, I mean, you know, when he gets involved it's sort of like oh it wouldn't have been like that it would have been like this. He corrects on historical accuracy sometimes and the history of Playboy, things like that. He absolutely loves the show; he tweets about it all the time. He sends more tweets probably than anyone on Twitter. But he's great. He's the narrator of the pilot so you hear his voice in the pilot and then we don't continue using him as a voiceover but Heff is always sort of omnipresent in the show; you see him from the back, you know, people talk about him. He's definitely part of the world but it's really the story of the Club.
I think part of what makes any character special is that you can like and dislike certain parts of them but still have an overall, you know, cohesive feeling about them. So with your characters what would you say, you know, you like least and best about them as characters?
Eddie Cibrian: For my character, I mean, I really relate - this guy has a good heart. And he actually wants to be good. And he's done some very bad things and he kind of wants to make right and he kind of wants to help people do the right thing from now on. So, I mean, I could relate to that. But, you know, one thing that I don't like about my character, you know, unfortunately because I don't smoke he smokes all the time; he loves it. So it sucks for me. But my character really enjoys so I've got to do it.
Amber Heard: I would have to say I like the strength of Maureen. Maureen is a strong individual and I, you know, could not, you know, value a quality more in a person. So I certainly have to say that's her best quality is her strength and bravery. But with that strength comes the alienation that accompanies - often accompanies strength and bravery. I guess people with those qualities find themselves alone in one respect or another. And I think that Maureen is slightly alienated because of that. And because of that strength and bravery she winds up in a lot of trouble perhaps undeserved. But trouble certainly finds her so I have to say that would probably be it.
What has been the most interesting thing that each of you have discovered about The Playboy Club and the 60s through your research and preparation?
Amber Heard: Part of why I wanted to do this project was the incredibly textured and rich backdrop that the Club, that the Club visionary, the era that it took place in all of these elements serve as a wonderful backdrop for our show. And that's part of why I wanted to do this project it's just such a rich stage to tell any story on. And when I was doing research on this project I kept being surprised by the things that I learned about the Club, the Club ethics, and also the man who started the Club. Frankly I kept finding myself surprised whether it was about his workplace integration or the integrity in which he solved disputes between the Clubs and how they dealt with that issue in the early 60s in terms of racial discrimination. I continue to be impressed with him as he fought, you know, numerous political measures that tried to stop him from printing what he wanted to print and saying what he wanted to say. I was impressed by the articles and the journalists that he decided to work with in the early career of the magazine. I was impressed by I guess the integrity of the journalism in the magazine and the fight that he often had to get into to protect that from being taken away from him. I continue to be impressed by him.
How about you, Chad? I don't want to leave you out.
Chad Hodge: Yeah, I have to say when I first came into this project, over a year ago now, I had initial reservations. Playboy, what's a scripted show about Playboy going to be? And then when I dove into the research and spoke to former bunnies and spoke to Heff of course and then, you know, the first place I went was his scrapbook archive in the Playboy mansion in LA which he still employs five people full time to archive his life. And he has, you know, over 2000 - 2500, I don't know, I can get you the exact number - volumes of scrapbooks starting with Number 1 from when he was 15 years old all the way to now and he still archives everything from his life. It was unbelievably fascinating and really inspired the show and the direction and the tone and the characters really. And so, you know, diving into that, you know, it's not like going to a library and reading a book about Playboy or even really interviewing people, which of course I did both. But the diving into those scrapbooks was I think the most fascinating thing really, you know, I have ever seen in terms of researching history. And I've done a lot of historical fiction in the past. And this was really amazing.
I heard when you're in this Bunny outfit and you are a Bunny and representing them there's certain ways you have to do things. Amber and Chad, did you have to research the certain rules? And could you name your favorite and then your most ridiculous?
Amber Heard: Well, I mean, the Bunny suit requires a whole number of things. It requires a small team to get you in and out of them. It requires, you know, a modification of how you do certain things. You have to relearn how to do certain things and just carrying yourself is something that can be a challenge more or less carrying a tray completely full of drinks.
Eddie Cibrian: Well you guys had to learn - what did you guys have to learn the Bunny Dip and certain...
Chad Hodge: There's four different poses that are part of the manual. Yeah, you know, there's the Bunny Dip, the Bunny Perch, the Bunny Stance. And we're all very good at it now. But that costume, you know, the costume from everyone's point of view watching the show, you know, is the exact same costume as it was then within, you know, centimeters. You know, it looks exactly the same, it's made to the exact specifications. Our costume designer, Isis Mussenden, makes them in cooperation with Playboy. But we have modified them in some of the materials on the inside to make it more comfortable for the actresses to wear because, you know, if they were exactly exactly the same as they were back then, I mean, there was actually boning in them and all of that and it would not be as comfortable as it could be.
Amber Heard: Doing a lot of things is a challenge. But, you know, it's no different from when you want to go out with your friends, you want to go out on a date or when you want to say go to a premiere you have to as a woman, decide at some point what line you'll draw your comfort level to look a certain way. I think we all do that probably.
Amber, how do you think the real Playboy Clubs of the 60s were necessary in order to bring about change for women at the time?
Amber Heard: Well I have no idea as to their necessity. They were certainly an important part of the era. This is the early 60s was on the eve of women's lib and on the cusp of the sexual social revolution that we know in retrospect about. The thing I like about The Playboy Club is they hearken back to this time, this elusive Club, this very exclusive lifestyle created almost as a fantasy getaway. It existed in a certain time, in a certain place that was more or less where it's perfect for that time and perfect for the social changes that were happening around it. And I feel like the Club could have only existed in that way at that time. And that's what's so special about our show and the fact that it takes place in the early 60s. And being that it took place on the cusp of all of these changes and revolutions and women's lib and the Civil Rights revolution and, you know, because it takes place at that time we have an unbelievable platform on which we can tell our story. I think women stepping out and deciding for themselves what they wanted - how they wanted to earn their money, if they wanted to earn money I think that's an important part of what we know now to be women's lib. And I think that women deciding for themselves how they wanted to conduct their lives and how they wanted to express their sexuality is nothing but those women's choices. And I think it's important that they, you know, were brave enough to step out and say this is what I want to do with my life for right now and I'm going to challenge the status quo and challenge the social norms and do it my way. And I think we saw that that's exactly what these women did. And many of them went on to become CEOs and entrepreneurs and, you know, we've met and talked to so many Bunnies - ex-Bunnies that are - talk so fondly about their experiences as Bunnies and are happy to have been a part of this process and happy to be trendsetters and happy to have pushed the envelope and done something that they felt benefited them in the long run and in the short run as well.
Eddie, now that you've spent time as Nick how do you think men of today are different than those of the 60s?
Eddie Cibrian: For some reason like in the 60s you felt - there was more of a swagger back then; you felt like gentlemen were gentlemen. They took pride in what they wore. You know, they had a lot more accessories which I think is pretty cool. Especially during that time in the early 60s, you know, like Amber was saying you were coming off that sort of 50s decade and you were coming into this kind of social revolution, a new expression for people. And, you know, they kind of showed it what they - the way they carried themselves and what they wore. I particularly loved the 60s in general just because of the style and not only the style of clothing but the style of architecture, the style of how the cars were being designed at that time. You don't, you know, I don't think we're going to look back on our present time in 20 years and say, oh can you remember, you know, 2011; wasn't that a great period, you know, for style and for clothing and for architecture?
Could you talk a little bit about what Naturi Naughton brings to the show and sort of where you see her character evolving?
Chad Hodge: Yeah, Naturi Naughton is amazing. She has incredible energy and she's an incredibly talented actress. She brings humor, she brings heart. Her character, Brenda, is one of the first - they called them Chocolate Bunnies. And, you know, Heff was hiring African American women as waitresses, as Bunnies and allowing anyone of any color, any race, to come to the Club when not everybody else was doing that. And he wasn't doing it so much to make a statement he just always did what he felt was right for him. And at the time, you know, not everyone felt that was right and he did. The Playboy Club became a franchise. And there was a Club in New Orleans under the franchise. And they would not allow African American patrons or Bunnies. And Heff closed that franchise within six weeks, you know, six or eight weeks and bought it back from the franchisees and reopened it himself with his own rules. So he really wouldn't stand for anything that was, you know, that went against his code of ethics. And so Naturi, you know, who plays one of these, you know, Chocolate Bunnies who is part of this world and isn't viewed differently from any of the other characters in the show, any of the other Bunnies. You know, it's not about her being the Chocolate Bunny really for very long because that would be treating her differently than the others and, you know, she has her own storylines about, you know, she's an entrepreneur, she has family who lives in Chicago who may not feel particularly happy that she's a Playboy Bunny. All these issues that we're, you know, talking about in regards to the show the Bunnies talk about themselves and deal with in their storylines. And then is The Playboy Club a good thing? What is it like being a Bunny? What do other people think of Bunnies? You know, that's very much inherent to the drama of the series.
And where do you see her character evolving to?
Chad Hodge: Well part of her storyline is that she becomes an entrepreneur. She use her money - the tips that she gets at the Club and the money that she makes to advance a big dream of hers. And I don't want to spoil exactly what that is but... Well I'll give you a hint. The first thing she does is, you know, she wants to buy a building and become a real estate entrepreneur. And that's something that she starts, you know, she uses her tips to do that on the sly, you know, without letting anybody know at first and that's part of her storyline.
The Playboy Club premieres on Monday, September 19 at 10 PM ET on NBC.