EVEN though Christina Ricci is 31 and has been a Hollywood name for 20 years, she is still remembered as the intense goth girl in The Addams Family.

That will change tonight when she takes off in a glamorous new role as a sexy air hostess in the new period drama Pan Am, on BBC2.

Set in the Sixties, it offers a nostalgic look at the commercial jet age and the birth of the modern woman – and has been dubbed “Mad Men in the air” and “Sex and the Cockpit”.

Christina’s character Maggie Ryan has a rebellious streak and is even seen peeling off to her bra.

But the star admits she is prudish in real life.

She said: “It’s just your tastes, what you like to see, and I don’t particularly like to see full-on sex scenes and full frontal nudity.

“It’s not my thing.

“I feel like you can make shows without all the extras.”

And despite the amazing, stylish clothes the cast of Pan Am are seen in (some of which were copied from Christina’s own extensive collection of vintage wear), she admits that the series doesn’t go as far as Mad Men, acclaimed for tackling the social mores of the Sixties, including racism and homophobia.

This is more about the adventure of young girls seeing the world and standing on their own two feet without having to get married and be looked after by a husband.

Thus the air hostesses have to endure weigh-ins and wear girdles.

At one point, a matron slaps one girl on the bottom to make sure she has one on.

Much of the sexual tension is diluted by witty one-liners.

Maggie at one point gives someone the brush off with: “I am not included in the price of your ticket.”

Christina said: “I love Mad Men, it’s one of my favourite shows, but I think the only thing that would be really similar about it is the period.

“I mean we don’t deal with any of the same kind of storylines.

“It’s not an advertising firm.

“Our main characters are women, so we are not dealing with any of the same issues that they would be dealing with at all.

“But Mad Men is one of my favourite shows, so I would rather be compared to that than anything else.”

The show, her first television role as a lead, looks stunning, all gleaming chrome and beautifully manicured people, set in the new jet age.

It’s certainly a very different look for Christina, who at 5ft 1in has claimed she is “too short” to be an A list actress.

But in Pan Am, she looks all woman.

And it’s thanks to her own love of vintage clothes.

For our interview, she looks stunning in a one-piece with little capelet sleeves, a pencil skirt that shows off a narrow waist and a belt.

She said: “When you are a vintage shopper, you always have one period that’s kind of your go to, that always kind of looks the best, and the Sixties were always mine, so it’s kind of perfect.

“I brought in some of my clothes and they’ve copied them.”

Given she became a worldwide name aged 10 opposite Cher and Winona Ryder in Mermaids (making the film when she was nine), even appearing in the singer’s The Shoop Shoop Song video, Christina has spent more miles in the air than most.

She’s been flown around the world on junkets thanks to the success of films like The Addams Family, in which she played the morbidly precocious Wednesday, and Casper, where she is a teenager who befriends a ghost.

In her adult career, she has been in hit movies like Sleepy Hollow, as Johnny Depp’s love interest, and had a gritty role in Monster opposite Charlize Theron.

She said: “I actually love flying. I always have a great experience.

“I’ve never had a bad one, so I’m actually one of the few people who likes it.”

It seems incredible, given her 20-year career in Hollywood, that this is her first lead role in a television series.

She was a guest star for seven episodes in the last season of Ally McBeal in 2002 as Debbie ‘Liza’ Bump, a lawyer who works at Cage & Fish and marries Richard Fish in the last episode.

She was also nominated for an Emmy after her appearance as paramedic Hannah Davies in 2006 in Grey’s Anatomy.

It gave her a taste for TV, although it took four years for her to find the right role.

She said: “I liked the experience of Grey’s. Ally McBeal was my first television work, and I loved it so much. I had such a good time on that show.

“After that, I’d always kind of said, ‘Oh I’d one day love to do a television show’, so that was really the thing that made me want to do TV. This just came up and I liked the concept. It was something I hadn’t seen on TV before.

“I loved the fact that it was a period project, it seemed a little bit different than your normal TV fare, and I really liked the script.”

Although Christina, along with Margot Robbie, who plays newly trained stewardess Laura Cameron and Canadian actress stewardess Karine Vanasse, as the alluring French hostess Colette Valois, are the stars, the planes also grab the spotlight.

The producers built a replica to film the cabin scenes in. She said: “It’s just like the exact size the plane would have been, and it’s in this, they call it the hangar, I don’t really think it’s in an airplane hangar.

“But it’s just this big plane and they’ve managed to divide it into sections, they can pull the cockpit off, and go in that way and pull the tail off and go in that way, and it doesn’t have any wings on it, so the outside doesn’t look at all real, but the inside works for everything.”

The series is based on Pan American World Airways, commonly known as Pan Am.

It was America’s biggest international air carrier from 1927 until its 1991 collapse.

Many girls became stewardesses to escape becoming housewives unable to fulfil their dreams.

Taking to the air, quite literally, allowed them to escape and see the world.

Christina’s character is a rebel who clawed her way out of poverty and the actress sees parallels with her own life.

She said: “I tend to fight for something that I believe in. I absolutely will. I stand up for other people, I’m very protective of people around me. If I feel like somebody is getting a bad rap or being unfairly picked on, I will stand up for them, absolutely.”

That’s very much like the female characters in the series.