Reading an interview with Matthew Weiner about a ‘Mad Men’ season that hasn’t aired yet is an exercise in frustration; he gives away nothing. Reading an interview with Matthew Weiner about a ‘Mad Men’ season that’s already over is, by contrast, fascinating. Deadline.com posted a good one today, with Weiner, executive producer/writer Maria Jacquemetton, and some of the cast members; well worth a read, as we endure the endless wait until next season. Some highlights:
On how actors learn their character’s fate:
“With Jared, I delayed the conversation about Lane until the last possible moment out of cowardice”, quips Weiner, who also held out on telling Elisabeth Moss that her character, Peggy Olsen, was leaving Sterling Cooper. “I don’t want the actors to ‘play the end,’ it would tinge their moments if they knew. Jared had a defiant courage throughout the entire season, and it made perfect sense to tell him when I did. I never told Jessica Pare (Megan Draper) that she would wind up as Don’s wife ultimately-her heart would have been racing through every scene. They’re all super-gifted actors, and on some level, it wouldn’t effect their performance, however, there are huge things not worth risking”.
On the season’s biggest writing challenge:
“I am always interested in a socially conscious, realistic depiction of human behavior, which may lean toward the ugly, but has an element of redemption because it’s familiar”, Weiner explains. “I love people being forced into real-life drama, which are the decisions we make: Sometimes because everybody is doing it, sometime because it’s required of us to get what we want, and sometimes because we don’t know any better”.
Count Megan Draper as one of those victims of circumstance. The most challenging scene for the writing staff wasn’t Lane’s death, but the moment when Megan tells Don that she wants to leave the agency and become an actress. By rejecting an advertising career, Megan, in turn, was rejecting Don.
Nailing the intricacies of the couple’s dialogue was key, as it marked “the emotional turning point in the season for Don’s character”, explains executive producer Maria Jacquemetton, who runs the writers’ room with her husband, Andre, when Weiner is absent. “We had to make this happen without Megan looking petty, childish, or ridiculous. It was difficult. There were many weeks of Matt having us try it different ways”.
On Jon Hamm’s unique influence:
Such macro themes and inspirations are front-and-center discussions in the writers’ room, but Hamm, who was bestowed with a producer credit this season, is the only actor Weiner bounces larger ideas off of at the beginning of a season. Before he even speaks to the writers, Weiner meets Hamm for three hours at L.A.’s iconic Pacific Dining Car to mull over Don and the show.
“Even though the pilot script existed before Jon, I entered into this idea that Jon would be my partner for the life of the show. He’s a smart person beyond acting, and whatever I write, I want to run by him”, says Weiner, whose p.o.v. on the Season 3 finale shifted after a discussion with Hamm. “Jon went on in a great way about how Don feels about what he has given Betty. I always thought Don felt guilty about lying to her. Don’s lines (to Betty) when he comes in drunk and after he discovers Henry Francis: ‘I wasn’t good enough for you, but I gave you everything’-that’s threaded throughout the whole season. I didn’t see that. I felt guilty for Don lying to her and bad for Betty living with him. Jon told me, ‘It doesn’t matter what Don did. In the end, he and Betty made this life together.’ “
And, a movie tie-in:
Don and Megan’s complex relationship was largely inspired by Jean Cocteau’s 1946 film Beauty and the Beast: Don is the beast and Megan the imprisoned princess in his penthouse who contends with his duality, according to executive producer André Jacquemetton.
“Overall, our influence comes back to cinema, both American and international”, adds Maria Jacquemetton. “We approach each episode like it’s a separate little movie”.
My favorite moment of the season — what was yours? (Photo courtesy of AMC)