[03/13/12 - 11:52 PM]
Live at the Paley Festival: AMC's "Mad Men"
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

Please note: As a courtesy, please do not reproduce these comments to newsgroups, forums or other online places. Links only please.

7:00 PM - It's the penultimate night of Paleyfest as what feels like the largest crowd to date gets ready for "Mad Men." Our moderator tonight is NPR's Elvis Mitchell, who brings out the show's creator Matthew Weiner. He's brought with him the previous season's finale, "Tomorrowland," as talk of the new season - as has become custom with Weiner - will be very limited.

7:55 PM - After the screening, Elvis returns to introduce the panelists: Jay R. Ferguson (Stan Rizzo)! Rich Sommer (Harry Crane)! Aaron Staton (Ken Cosgrove)! Robert Morse (Bertram Cooper)! Jared Harris (Lane Pryce)! Vincent Kartheiser (Pete Campbell)! John Slattery (Roger Sterling)! Kiernan Shipka (Sally Draper)! January Jones (Betty Draper)! Jon Hamm (Don Draper)! And of course, Weiner. Christina Hendricks and Elisabeth Moss are unfortunately MIA tonight.

7:59 PM - Elvis solicits what everyone thought after reading the script to "Tomorrowland." "I thought when exactly did Harry become such a douchebag?" Rich quips. "I was glad I was in it," Jared likewise jokes. "I thought Harry Crane was a douchebag," Vincent piles on. It's not all jokes though. "It's always surprising, it's an amazing experience to see these things for the first time," Slattery says. January adds that "I was just very choked up when I realized that that was sort of, it really was the end for Don and Betty. I mean like a lot of fans I still kind of held out a little hope [for them]." Hamm notes that he wondered if the proposal was some kind of elaborate dupe, that Don would wake up the next day with Betty in the old house.

8:07 PM - Hamm adds, with regards to the proposal, "the show in general, it's very good at seeding clues throughout the season," pointing to early on in season four when a character remarks Don will be remarried within a year. "And sure as shit, that happened," he jokes before catching himself. "He got engaged, he didn't necessarily get married." This gets the audience particularly riled up. Elvis asks Weiner if Don will be wearing a wedding ring this season. "Men of that generation did not wear wedding rings," he says.

8:11 PM - "I just love the physical element of great actors," Weiner says about his cast. "It's hard on them, don't anyone think it's an easy job. It's not the hardest job in the world, it's not writing." Hamm adds that, "I think everyone here would agree with me that the challenging jobs are the most fun."

8:17 PM - Weiner asks the supernaturally wise-beyond-her-years Kiernan if she thinks Sally is more like Don or Betty. "I think she's kind of... she's her own person," she says, causing the crowd to applaud. Rich quips that if we applaud every time Kiernan says something smart we're going to be here all night.

8:21 PM - "He can do anything, he's a Ferrari," Weiner says about Slattery and the various things he's forced to do and say. The actor says he was particularly engaged by his speech to a Japanese businessman about WWII. "To have the closest people you've ever had in your life to you be killed in your presence and then to go on, to carry on like it never happened... and everybody's telling you you have to get over it."

8:27 PM - With the Harry's value to the agency rising with each passing year thanks to television, Elvis asks Rich if he expects his character to take over the show. "I think it will still be a show about Don Draper," Rich dryly quips. "Harry might have more important places to go when he leaves a scene."

8:30 PM - Jarred says he completely relates to Lane. "I came to America for similar reasons... I wanted to find out who I was... back [in England] it's quite rigid. Your family decides a lot of time what personality that the children are and I didn't like the one that I'd been given."

8:37 PM - Weiner suggests Ken Cosgrove is a unique breed on the show: "Could he be the rare person whose complete sense of himself and happiness is not derived from their job?" He points to the scene in the finale where Ken refuses to shake down his father-in-law for business like Pete does.

8:41 PM - "I thought the douche torch had been passed to Stan," Ferguson jokes about his character. "His arrogance and chauvinist ways were something that I was never really part of when I was younger." He later notes that he thinks Peggy "is more than a man than Stan is."

8:45 PM - Weiner recounts trying to explain to Morse why Bertram Cooper doesn't wear shoes. Every response was met with another "why?" by the actor. "I give you answers but you're not satisfied," Weiner says. Morse quips, "I don't understand English."

8:50 PM - Hamm says he has complete faith in Weiner's writing and telling Don's story. "He did it very well in the pilot and I figured, well, I'm sure he can do it 90 more times. What could go wrong?"

8:52 PM - "I think the plan is for seven years," Weiner says about the show's future. "That's a lot. And we just finished season five. That's the plan. My whole thing is like I don't want to overstay our welcome." He adds that, "I always feel like we owe it to the audience to tell whatever story we told that season to the very end. And I don't hold stuff back, I don't mean it to be cliffhangery - really, ever - except for the sense where you just say I enjoyed this experience, I want more." Furthermore, "I could sit here and try and map out three seasons. I don't even know what that is and I don't think my stomach could handle it anyway. So we just [say] let's just tell this story for this season: beginning, middle and end."

8:54 PM - Elvis opens the floor to questions. A fan asks about last season's episode, "The Summer Man." Weiner credits its origins to a friend's father, who himself kept a journal and was in a place of crisis like Don. "As a writer, which Don is - as you can tell from the amount of naps he takes in his office, this was a chance for him to get as close to therapy as Don's going to get at this point in the show." Weiner adds that he felt some pushback from the audience about the voiceover. "I don't know who made that rule."

8:57 PM - Weiner gives props to his writing staff who half-heartedly stand up to be recognized. "That's the last time I give you a shout out," he jokes.

9:01 PM - "I have never made a decision about someone being on the show based on money," Weiner says. "It's totally based on the fact that I'm tired and I don't like them." He does however confess to dialing back the number of speaking extras to come under budget.

9:03 PM - "People run away from me on the street all the time," Jones quips about her polarizing character. Weiner says while he doesn't see her as childish, firing Carla is the most childish thing she's done.

9:06 PM - Weiner says Slattery was the only cast member he had to sell on joining the show. "I remember having a call with you that I really didn't have with anybody else just to tell you I will take care of you... and [Roger's not going to be] just like the old guy who comes in and like says, 'What's everybody doing, who's having fun?'"

9:10 PM - Elvis asks Slattery about his infamous blackface scene. "You can't ride the girl in her underwear singing cowboy songs and say no to doing blackface," he quips.

9:15 PM - That's a wrap from tonight's panel. I'll be back tomorrow night for the closing night's panel, "Modern Family."

And for more PaleyFest coverage - past and present - visit our Paley Center topic page.

  [march 2012]  


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