Note from Marvelous Geeks’ Team: This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the [series/movie/etc] being covered here wouldn’t exist. We stand with and for them.
No matter which role a viewer first watches her in, Margot Robbie has been a star since day one—she dazzles the screen brilliantly. And while we’re on the heels of Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, a film that’s undoubtedly going to be the summer hit, it’s crucial that we look back on a role many people might not know about. Before she was Naomi Lapaglia (Wolf of Wall Street), Harley Quinn (Suicide Squad/Birds of Prey), Tonya Harding (I, Tonya), Queen Elizabeth I (Mary Queen of Scots), Sharon Tate (Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood), or Mattel’s most-famous doll, Margot Robbie was charting the skies as stewardess Laura Cameron in ABC’s Pan Am.
The brilliant short-lived series was a gem in every way a show could be, featuring familiar faces like Christina Ricci, David Harbour, and more. And from the very first episode to the unexpected last, Margot Robbie steals the show, proving that she’s someone who’s going places. When viewers first meet the character in the series, she leaves her wedding, joining her sister as a Pan Am stewardess to find herself. In the short time we have with the characters, the series gives us an astounding showcase of friendship and a celebration of all types of female characters.
As a performer, Margot Robbie consistently proves that there’s nothing and no role she can’t take on. While many of her characters have similarities, it’s the subtly different ways she brings them to life that matter in showcasing her chops as an actress. And Laura Cameron is a compelling, thoroughly layered character with much to show for. Coming from an upper-class family, Laura wants more than to settle in a marriage that would primarily please her parents. Her sister is the rebellious one, working while disappointing their family—why couldn’t and shouldn’t she do the same? And so, she takes the risk, follows her sister, and learns to understand what it’s like to be on her own.
Stories like what the Cameron sisters face aren’t rare. They aren’t always riveting either, but so much of the wonder and heart in Laura is entirely because of the performances Margot Robbie brings to the role, allowing her to be someone who’s invariably trying to make herself better. When she needs to be vulnerable, Robbie brings everything she has to exhibit authentic sadness that feels honest and transparent. When it’s time to be brave and bold, she dives headfirst to exhibiting the childlike wonder that someone who’s yet to see the world like Laura would have.
Laura’s entrance into Pan Am and how she shapes her time there by exploring her curiosities gorgeously shows women that how we express ourselves matters tremendously, so long as we do the things that are true to us. As Barbie trailers propose, Laura Cameron’s journey also centers around self-discovery and uncovering one’s agency. In some regards, the series can feel dated, but Robbie brings Laura’s naivete to life with intricate curiosities that show what happens when people stay in one place too long. As the series explores different upbringings through each woman, it allows the actresses ample room to showcase their skills while layering the characters.
Margot Robbie is the type of actress who will continue to grow and challenge herself. Whatever role she takes on will undoubtedly give her room to do something different, even when similarities burst through. After Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, Robbie will indeed have new fans wanting to rediscover her filmography and familiarize themselves with her work. A short one-season treasure like Pan Am is the perfect place to start to see how far the star has come.
Pan Am is available for digital purchase.