Years before her breakout role as Joan Holloway, Christina Hendricks played Saffron, a con artist who tries to seduce Mal on Firefly. Despite only lasting fourteen episodes before being canceled, Firefly quickly became a cult phenomenon. The Joss Whedon (The Avengers) created series is a mix of sci-fi and Western and follows the crew of the Serenity spaceship, as they try to survive with odd jobs on the fringes of space.
The main concept was somewhat inspired by Whedon's time writing the script for Alien: Resurrection. That featured the mismatched crew of a pirate ship called The Betty, but Whedon essentially disowned the fourth Alien film because he felt the filmmakers mishandled his screenplay. He still felt the idea of a bunch of small-time criminals on a spaceship had potential, and fleshed it into a series. Despite being canceled, the acclaim that greeted the show eventually led to Universal greenlighting a modestly budgeted movie spinoff called Serenity. Sadly, the film proved to be a box-office letdown, though the story has continued in comics and other spinoffs.
Prior to her star-making role as Joan Holloway on Mad Men, Christina Hendricks had appeared in a number of guest roles on shows like ER and Cold Case. She also made an appearance on Angel, which later led to her being cast as Saffron on Firefly. Saffron is introduced in the episode "Our Mrs. Reynolds" as the woman Mal marries during a drunken night out. Saffron comes across as naive and eager to please her new husband, but she's eventually revealed to be a con artist who is trying to steal the Serenity.
Saffron's real name is never revealed, but the crew runs into her again during the events of "Trash." She's now going under the name Bridget and she works with the crew of the Serenity on a new heist to steal an antique from another former husband. After another attempted double cross on her part, the crew abandons Saffron for the Federal Marshalls to arrest.
Hendricks made a real impression with her two-episode arc on Firefly. Saffron was highly cunning and intelligent, and while there are hints of a soul, she ultimately only looks out for herself. Little is revealed about her backstory, though Inara believes she must have had Companion training at some point, considering her seduction skills. Saffron's origins are explored in greater detail in Boom! Studios comic Firefly: Bad Company.
If Firefly had lasted longer, Saffron no doubt would have returned in future episodes. It's a testament to both Hendricks' performance and the quality of the writing that the character still has a cult following so many years later.