(CNN) -- Christina Hendricks' decision to star in "Mad Men" was a risk that paid off.
When the 39-year-old actress first spotted the script for Matthew Weiner's '60s-era drama, her interest was piqued. But while she was all in to play Joan Holloway, the sharp and curvacious secretary who would rise to become an integral member of "Mad Men's" world, Hendricks' agency wasn't so sure.
"They said, 'It's a period piece, it's never going to go anywhere," the actress told U.K. paper The Guardian. "'We need you to make money and this isn't going to make money.'"
The agency, she continued, "ended up dropping me."
But to Hendricks, the promise of "Mad Men" outweighed the potential for failure.
"I had been on several shows that were meant to be the big ones, that would go on for ever, and they didn't," she pointed out. "So there was no sure bet and I'd already taken a chance on them and I felt, why not do the one you're in love with and take a chance on that?"
Taking that chance has led to a breakthrough role for the actress, who until "Mad Men" had done a few appearances on TV series "ER," "Beggars and Choosers" and "Angel." But after stepping into Joan's shoes, and earning five Emmy nominations along the way, Hendricks' popularity has soared.
The treatment she receives now from the public is a far cry from what she suffered in high school, where Hendricks said she was bullied.
"We had a locker bay, and every time I went down there to get books out of my locker people would sit on top and spit at me," Hendricks told The Guardian. "So I had to have my locker moved because I couldn't go in there ... I felt scared in high school. It was like 'Lord of the Flies.' There was always some kid getting pummeled and people cheering."
At this point, she could attend her high school reunion just to have the last laugh, but Hendricks said that she hasn't held on to any bitterness about those days.
"You know, I had so much anger about that time, that experience, for so long and I don't know what dissipated it, but now it's gone," Hendricks said. "I feel some sadness about it, about how cruel kids can be to each other, but that's it. ... I haven't gone to any reunions. I'm sure, if I did, they would have no idea I went there. No idea."