BAFTA NY (British Academy of Film and Television Arts, NY) sponsored a panel discussion April 22nd with Mad Men creator and producer Matthew Wiener and cast, and graciously invited NYWIFT Members to join them for the evening. The New York Times’ David Itzkhoff moderated the panel, which was followed by a reception at the Harvard Club NYC. (Note: this article containers spoiler alerts from last season.)
The mood at the panel was buoyant. Weiner discussed drawing on the real-life experiences of the cast, crew, and families for plot points; the real heroes of the night being some of the people who were not there…the writers. Jon Hamm (Don Draper) expressed amazement at what the writers manage to get into the characters, saying, “I can barely write an email.” John Slattery (Roger Sterling) concurred saying that just when you think you have a character pegged, the writers will do something unexpected, forcing you to rethink your suppositions. Weiner, in discussing Roger’s experiment with LSD, said “a lot of consultants came out of the woodwork, more people knew about that than they did about the 1960 election,” giving everyone a raucous laugh.
Jessica Pare who plays Don’s current wife, Megan, told a story that highlighted just how closely guarded a Mad Men plot development is — she didn’t find out she was to be engaged to Don until the wardrobe person said privately, “I don’t want to ruin the plotline, but I need to measure your ring size.”
Christina Hendricks (Joan Harris) said her ascension last season to the Board of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, achieved by sleeping with a client, was actually something that had been discussed as far back as Season 2. She says reactions to this plot twist have ranged from shock to “I would have done it too.” Weiner added that this plot development was based on real life events, saying far worse happened to working women in that era.
Vincent Kartheiser’s character Pete Campell, and Kartheiser himself, took a lot of heat for supporting that decision by Joan, but the actor says he’s not driven to try to make his character more “likable,” adding that in a television series, unlike movies, you are drawing on years of a character’s life; the character evolves and that’s what you draw upon. He and Weiner say Pete may have once wanted to be like Don but has grown to find his own path.
Mimi Spillane with Jon Hamm.
In another kind of growth, actress January Jones’ (Betty Draper) real-life pregnancy was hidden by prosthetic fat, a device she was all for working into her character’s arc. Jones wasn’t sure the extra weight would continue this season, but like all the actors, seemed happy to go along with whatever Weiner and the writers think up to move the series along. Her TV show daughter, Sally (played by 13-year-old Kiernan Shipka), added a sweet and surprising note at the panel when she explained that she had not actually seen the series, but looks forward to seeing it when she got older. Shipka added that her life is nothing like Sally’s life, as she is very happy in real life.
As to rumors of the series ending after next season, Weiner seemed open to the idea of continuing the series, joking that he was going to pass around a hat for funding. Hamm gave an emphatic, albeit tongue in cheek, “NO” to the thought of continuing but says he hasn’t really given the series ending serious thought because, “I don’t want to.” He seemed to be speak for everyone when he said, “We are all incredibly grateful, humble, and lucky” to be involved with Mad Men.
Thank you, NYWIFT and BAFTA NY, for a great invitation. I met Jon Hamm! A very cool start to the week. — MIMI SPILLANE