The star of NBC’s new show The Playboy Club embraces her inner Bunny, drives fast, shoots straight, opens up about her personal life and talks about why it’s great for a woman to have some curves
PLAYBOY: You play Maureen, a Playboy Bunny, on the new NBC drama The Playboy Club. Now that you’ve spent time in the Bunny suit, you can tell us: Is it really that uncomfortable?
HEARD: It feels about an inch away from death. If it got any tighter, we wouldn’t be able to sit upright. I’m serious—it’s that intense. But it looks great when you’re wearing it. Actually, you know what I really love about the Playboy Bunny outfit? It’s all about a woman’s silhouette. Whatever happened to that? Back in the 1960s it was fine to have curves. Do you know how happy I am that I get to keep some of my curves? For once I don’t have to starve myself.
PLAYBOY: There’s a real Playboy Club at the Palms in Las Vegas. If this acting thing doesn’t work out, would you consider working there as a waitress?
HEARD: Oh please. [laughs] No, not so much, though I have nothing but respect for the women who did. Back then it was not an option for women to go out and earn money and support themselves. Marriage was the best and most practical option. What I like about The Playboy Club is that it’s about women who were being independent and earning as much as their fathers. It was their chance to live their own life, to do whatever they wanted on their own terms. The feminist movement is often clouded by Gloria Steinem’s perspective, but to deny women their sexuality is just as chauvinistic. The women who worked at the Playboy Clubs were using sexuality to their advantage.
PLAYBOY: You’ve been naked an awful lot in your movies. Do you have to psych yourself up for a nude scene, or is it no big deal?
HEARD: I approach all my movies with an open mind and a willingness to dive in and do what’s asked of me. But a lot of the nudity in my early movies was out of necessity. When I came to Hollywood, I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t have any connections. I did what a lot of people have to do in the real world and just worked from the bottom up. And that meant taking a lot of roles as the girl at the party who loses her shirt. But now I’m doing things I find artistically and emotionally fulfilling. I’m not opposed to nude scenes if they’re appropriate. I’m not against them morally, but I personally no longer find movie nudity to be worth my while. That may change in the future. I’m keeping an open mind, as always, because that’s what you have to do.
PLAYBOY: Even when you’re not naked in movies, you’re at least seminaked. Your Daisy Duke shorts in Drive Angry 3D, for instance, left little to the imagination. Is it true those shorts came from your own closet?
HEARD: Yes, that is true. Those were my shorts. I don’t know if I’m proud of that, but they were. I’ve had shorts like that for a very long time. I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t have them. I remember when my Daisy Dukes fit me in a different way. When I was younger and a little slimmer, they were baggy and not so revealing.
PLAYBOY: You’re co-starring with Johnny Depp in the upcoming film The Rum Diary, which is about, among other things, the dread of growing old before your time. Can you empathize? You’re only 25. Do you feel over-the-hill?
HEARD: Well, of course. Hollywood actresses age in dog years. I’m 25 to the rest of the world, but I’m about 48 in actress years. I’m just around the corner from my midlife crisis. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Hollywood can be a draining industry.
PLAYBOY: The Rum Diary is based on a novel by Hunter S. Thompson, who had a legendary appetite for drugs. To stay true to his spirit, did you partake in recreational drugs during filming?
HEARD: Not at all. Trying to film a movie on a diet is hard enough; I can’t imagine how it would be on drugs. I stayed true to his spirit in other ways. I kept his book in the pocket of my cast chair the entire time we were filming. That made me feel connected to the bigger picture, of our goal to do justice to a wonderful piece of literature and a legend.
PLAYBOY: You did most of your own stunts in Drive Angry, and you’ve admitted you’re kind of a reckless driver. Just how bad is your driving record?
HEARD: It’s pitiful. It’s not something I’m proud of, and I’m trying hard to learn how to drive better. I grew up driving old pickup trucks on the ranch with my dad, and I still find myself driving as if I’m out in an open field, except I’m in L.A., on La Cienega in the middle of rush-hour traffic. When I was preparing for Drive Angry the stunt coordinator took me out to the parking lot to show me how to spin out and fishtail and do all the things you’re not supposed to know how to do. After two seconds of being a passenger in my car, he realized it was an exercise in futility—because I had that shit down.
PLAYBOY: You were born and raised in Austin. How stereotypically Texan was your upbringing? Did your entire family wear cowboy hats and holsters and own at least one oil rig?
HEARD: I have successfully avoided being stereotyped into a specific category. I’ve worked hard at that, and I’m proud of not being easily lumped into anybody’s preconceived notions or expectations. Look at me: I’m pretty confusing. That said, I do have an oil rig in my backyard.
PLAYBOY: You’re kidding, obviously, but you do own a .357 Magnum, right?
HEARD:Well, I am my father’s daughter. Growing up it was not up to me. I was his hunting and fishing buddy, so I’ve been shooting my whole life. My dad used to take me and my younger sister, Whitney, to the firing range, and he’d stand behind us as we’d shoot. We were tiny girls—only about 10 years old at the time—so when we’d pull the trigger the recoil would send us flying backward. But he’d stand behind us and make sure we were safe. I’ve been around responsible gun ownership my whole life.
PLAYBOY: As an adult gun owner, how often do you get a chance to shoot? Do you go to a firing range or just keep it hidden next to your bed and hope somebody breaks in?
HEARD:I do not hope somebody breaks in. However, if they did, I pity them. I pity the fool that breaks into my house. Once in a while I’ll try to go to an indoor gun range here in L.A. Otherwise I make it out to Texas at least a few times a year to go hunting with my dad. I go to spend time with him and for the ride, because he hunts on horseback, and it’s the only time I get to ride horses in an open field. But I don’t shoot anything. I could never kill an animal. My dad does all the hunting, and he eats everything he kills.