UPDATE: Joy responds to cancellation of ‘The Playboy Club’Written by Jeff McGinnis | | email@example.com
An attractive woman puts her aching feet into a bucket of ice water. She wears a red version of the famous Playboy Bunny costume, trademark ears atop her blond hair. She reaches her hand out and pleads, “Someone please bring me a cigarette … ”
This is how millions of viewers were first introduced to Mildred, a recurring character on NBC’s new Monday night drama “The Playboy Club.” But it’s also how those same viewers were introduced to Olmsted Falls, Ohio, native Jessica Joy, a Bowling Green State University alumna now living in Chicago, where “Club” is filmed.
“I auditioned at a casting office, got called back to audition on the set in front of all the bigwigs, then got put on the dreaded ‘hold,’ which is another way of saying you almost got it when you don’t end up getting it,” Joy said in an interview with Toledo Free Press Star. “They have you on hold and they have maybe one other girl out there that you don’t know on hold, and one of you is the first choice and one is the backup and you don’t know which.
“So you just sit and stress, because once you’re on hold, they have to call you and tell you yes or no. They called me at the last minute, which also always happens, to tell me the part was mine.”
Stepping into the famous high heels and ears was just the latest stop in a career that has begun to bloom. Since she first found an agent in 2006, Joy has auditioned for numerous commercials and film projects, including the Larry the Cable Guy vehicle “Witless Protection.” Joy has also worked for years with The Second City in Chicago and is currently a writer/cast member of the critically lauded show “The Sky’s the Limit (Weather Permitting)” on its e.t.c. stage.
Joy said she was very positive about “Playboy Club” even before she began to work on it.
“The ’60s are cool like Marilyn Monroe is cool — because so much time has passed that you don’t remember all the bad stuff. So now we just remember it as a glossy, swingin’ time, which is what ‘The Playboy Club’ is. I cringe when women get all feministy, so I liked the idea of a show where women were allowed to be about sex for once. Nothing wrong with that,” she said.
She also had no qualms about wearing the famously racy “Bunny” attire.
“Not at all. To be wearing such an iconic outfit was thrilling. And those outfits suck you in hard, so everyone looked amazing. It was hard not to stare,” Joy said.
For someone who comes primarily from a comedic background to transition to a world of beautiful young ingenues seems like an odd fit, but Joy insisted working with the “Club” cast was a (no pun intended) joy.
“Coming from Second City, where everyone is razzing on everyone else and doing smart bits at breakneck speed, I thought the Playboy girls were going to be terrifyingly haughty and stuck-up and that they’d hate a comedy nerd like me. But every single one of them was just as fun as my Second City cast, and it wasn’t long before we were doing bits too,” she said.
Joy said the show’s star, Laura Benanti, “has come to see my Second City show twice now, and fits right in with the comedy folks. She even played our improv set! She’s the best thing on that show, and we’re all just going to sit back and watch her slowly become a huge star.”
As far as her own impact on the viewing public, Joy said the biggest thrill connected with the project remains the moment she got the role, rather than seeing herself on-screen.
“First, because there was an entire scene for the audition where I was the lead, talking about medical school, which got cut before I even showed up on set, and second, because I looked weird on TV. My face looks like a puppy,” she joked.
Now that the show has made the airwaves, Joy said she is enjoying the fruits of their labor.
“‘Playboy Club’ is kind of my perfect show — it’s a soap opera, but set in a time and place that’s interesting, and involves big bands and flashy costumes,” she said.
UPDATE: On Oct. 4 — as this story was going to press — it was announced that NBC would cancel “The Playboy Club” after only three episodes.
It’s safe to say the developments added to what was already a tumultuous day for Jessica Joy — October 4 is also her birthday.
“Oh, it’s all the same to me. I’m so used to ups and downs, but it was nice to have a couple ups to balance out a down,” Joy said in a follow-up interview with Toledo Free Press Star. “More of a down for the show and not me personally, anyway. I’ve only shot one other episode at this point.”
Those left behind with “Club”‘s demise are left to ask why the axe fell so fast. Joy noted that the show probably wasn’t given a fair chance to find its audience (“but network TV doesn’t have time for that,” she noted), but dismissed the idea that the protests of parents’ groups had any impact.
“No, not at all. That was free press, if anything. The show had nothing to do with porn, or Playboy magazine, and was actually pretty conservative,” Joy stated.
As for the future, Joy said that show star Laura Benanti would have no trouble landing on her feet: “She’s amazing — they’re probably banging down her door now that she’s free!,” Joy declared.
And Jessica herself has plenty on her plate, as well. “Just waiting for the next 1960′s drama to come film in Chicago!,” she joked. “No, just back to Second City at night, auditions by day. I’m auditioning for my first Broadway musical on Friday — ‘Anything Goes!’ (The name of the musical, and my general life philosophy.)”
And what did Joy gain most from her whole experience in the famous bunny ears and tail? “Footage for my reel and a new appreciation for dieting,” she said wryly.