It’s hard not to be a little intrigued by Christina Ricci. Getting her start as a child actor in the 1990 with The Addams Family and coming-of-age film Mermaids opposite Cher and Winona Ryder, she later transformed into a teen idol for rebels and outsiders with films like Buffalo ’66, The Opposite of Sex, and John Waters’ Pecker.

Indeed, it’s been nothing if not an unconventional career trajectory for the now-31-year-old actress, which is why I was curious to hear that she’d be starring in a series regular role on the new ABC show Pan Am, which follows the lives of a group of young stewardesses in the early 1960s.

And yet true to her image as one of the industry’s more thoughtful and articulate young actresses, the show clearly illuminates issues Ricci feels very strongly about.

“The show involves women navigating a blatantly misogynistic society,” said Ricci, who plays the role of Pan Am stewardess Maggie, when I stopped to speak with her at the network’s post-panel TCA party. “I am a woman navigating a thinly-veiled misogynistic society. So to be honest, there are just as many things that are misogynistic, and checkpoints and standards that I have to measure up to that aren’t necessarily written down, or rules that are spoken about.”

Nevertheless, while the female stewardesses of the time were forced to undergo a litany of horribly sexist “grooming inspections” and “girdle checks” prior to beginning a shift, Ricci insisted they were ultimately empowered by the jobs that they held.

“They were flying all around the world, on their own, with other women their age, learning to navigate in cultures, in worlds that most American men hadn’t seen,” she said. “And they were in the highest pay grade amongst women and men in America at that time. So in a way, they kind of were playing the system.”

Again, while a major broadcast network may seem like an odd home for a performer who has repeatedly demonstrated her tendency to go against the Hollywood grain, Maggie will ultimately serve to reflect Ricci’s own somewhat rebellious attitudes.

“Jack spent a lot of time with all of us girls on the pilot,” she said. “He would sit around and talk to us and listen to our stories. So I found that the episodes that were written subsequently reflected a lot of our personalities. The first episode I read I was like, ‘Uh-huh, she says things she shouldn’t, and she’s got an authority problem — wow. Got to know me kinda quickly!’”

Still, despite being the biggest-name actor in the cast and the series’ obvious linchpin, Ricci admitted she doesn’t exercise any real control over the show’s plotlines.

“I don’t really have that much [creative input],” she said. “I’m trying to just do what I do. I mean, it’s my first TV show, I’ve never done this before, and I kind of was just like, ‘I wanna learn what it means to be an actor on a TV show.’ So I’m just doing what everyone else does.”

With or without her input, Ricci seemed pleased with the show’s emphasis on showcasing healthy female relationships – a rarity when you consider the catty undercurrents of most female-centric TV series.

“One of the things that’s so powerful that [executive-producer] Nancy Hult Ganis said to us — she used to be a flight attendant at [that] time — she was saying it was so hard to become a Pan Am stewardess that once you became [one], you’d made it,” she said.

“There was no reason to be a rival with your fellow stewardess. There was no infighting over men — none of that craziness! It was just like women together traveling the world, looking out for each other, working together, and that’s something that’s so empowering, I think.”

Of course, given that the series begins in 1963 – the start of one of the most tumultuous time periods in American history – the show will also attempt to incorporate a broader view of the radical events that defined the decade.

“We’re gonna delve into quite a lot of historical things that happened, and I think that they’ll probably use each character to reflect a different point of view from the time,” said Ricci.

So does that mean we can expect a gay character in the show’s future?

“I think probably,” she told me. “I would imagine so. I think probably the first thing we’ll deal with is stuff having to do with the civil rights movement. I would imagine that would be the first kind of social issue that we deal with.”

That’s OK, Christina; we’re willing to be patient.