Although they couldn't say much about the upcoming seventh season for fear that series creator and infamous spoilerphobe Matthew Weiner would activate the kill switch in their brains, the cast of Mad Men took the stage at PaleyFest on Friday to talk about their characters' journeys on the show, what it feels like to know the end is coming, and kind of maybe sort of where the the story might be headed. There was even a staring contest between Jon Hamm and moderator Michael Schneider after an audience member asked about about the series' poignant silences. Participating in the panel were the aforementioned Hamm, Vincent Kartheiser, Elisabeth Moss, Christina Hendricks, Robert Morse, Jessica Pare, and the coolest 14-year-old around, Kiernan Shipka.
On the end of the show:
AMC is splitting Mad Men's final season in two, with the first seven episodes scheduled to premiere on Sunday, April 13, and the second seven set to air sometime in 2015. This final-season setup is similar to that of Breaking Bad's, with one major difference: Breaking Bad filmed the two halves of its fifth season as if they were two separate runs (so as not to rush Vince Gilligan and the rest of the writers), but the cast and crew of Mad Men are not taking a lengthy break between part one and part two of their swan song. Production on the final seven episodes will begin Friday, March 28, according to Hamm, who said the cast has collectively been coming to terms with the realization that the end is approaching faster than they thought. He also noted that while some of the actors know where their characters are going to be at the end of the series, they don't know what the scope of the whole will be.
Elisabeth Moss is already sentimental... sort of... about losing her current coworkers: "It's definitely starting to sink in that we're going to have to say goodbye, not only to this work and our characters, but [to] this family," she said. "Because I don't plan on seeing any of these people again," she joked. Christina Hendricks admitted that she probably started getting emotional before the rest of the cast, but that it's a grieving process. "You try to prepare yourself, but you have no idea."
Robert Morse, who plays Bertram Cooper, said it's difficult to see Mad Men ending. "There's an empty feeling, because you're used to seven years of being together and doing the best you can, and all of sudden it's over and you sort of walk around the house and put the Celtics game on and you're not going to go to work next Tuesday."
Kiernan Shipka, the most self-possessed and mature teenager in the history of human life, pointed out that she's been on the show longer than she hasn't. "[It's] so weird to think about, but it's true... It's been the best experience to have. I've had so much fun. To have it ending and not know what Sally's going to be up to anymore is a little bit sad."
On what's next for Don:
When last we saw Don, he'd had a breakdown during a pitch meeting with Hershey, was subsequently forced to take a leave of absence from the office, and then decided to take his children to see the whorehouse where he grew up. When asked about where Don is in Season 7, Hamm noted that even though we've witnessed plenty of Don's struggles over the years, from the disintegration of his marriage to Betty or his rocky relationship with his children, he's always had work to fall back on, and now he doesn't. "Don is trying to process his life and his place in his job, his career, his family, everything," he said Without his work, life is going to be difficult for Don next season, but Hamm pointed out that there's one overriding principle behind Don: "He’s a survivor. He rises to the challenge."
On Megan and Don's relationship:
At the end of the season, Don's marriage to Megan was left up in the air, and although all of AMC's promotional materials for Season 7 (and Pare's presence on the PaleyFest panel) would suggest Megan will be back in Season 7, it's not a foregone conclusion. "It's a time where feminism is bubbling up in the culture and I think Megan takes it more for granted that she can have everything, that she can have a career and a family," Pare said.
On Peggy's arc over the course of the series:
Peggy has come a long way since Mad Men's pilot; in Season 6, she had an ill-fated affair with Ted, and then the finale ended with a shot of her sitting in Don's office. "I think her story is one of finding out who she is," Moss said. "Should she be Don? Should she be Joan? Should be someone's wife? Someone's mother? I don’t think she’s figured it out yet, but she’s finally asking the right question: Who am I?" As for the Ted thing, "I think Ted mis-led her... That’s the way it crumbles, cookie-wise."
On the fabulous Peggy and Joan relationship:
The world needs a Peggy and Joan spin-off to happen, and both Moss and Hendricks joked about the possibility of one, citing how much they love doing scenes together. "They're always some of my favorite scenes to do," Moss said. "It's true we don't get to do them that often, but I think that's what makes them special... [Peggy and Joan] are both very different women and they're both strong... They're never going to necessarily be friends. It's a different relationship, but it's a very strong and interesting one. I think it's very common for women in the workplace." Hendricks added that the two characters respect one another, and that in the beginning of the series, Joan was the person telling everyone what to do and Peggy was the first person to challenge that. They've taken different paths to get to where they are, but Peggy helped change Joan's strategy of getting there. "[Peggy's] become a sort of teacher in many ways," Hendricks said.
On Pete's downward spiral:
Noting that Pete never gets away with anything, Karthesier pointed out that all of the bad things that happened to Pete, Pete did to himself. And now he doesn't even have his wife. "The one thing that was always consistent was Trudy, and she's had enough; Pete doesn't have a lot of friends, or really any friends," Karthesier joked. "He thought he had a friend in Bob [laughs[, but I don't think his mother passing was as big of an isolating moment in his life as much as Tudy reaching her point of fed-up-edness."
On Joan and Roger:
Joan finally decided to let Roger in to their son's life at the end of Season 6. "I think, ultimately, Joan is a protector and a nurturer," Hendricks said. "So I think she's been trying to figure out the best way to take care of her son... Many of the decisions she's made have been to protect him."
On Bob Benson:
When discussing James Wolk's character, Hamm described Bob as "two coffees and a lot of words." I guess Hamm never saw Bob in those short shorts, because otherwise he'd know there was more to character than just caffeine and smalltalk.
AIRED ON 5/25/2014
Season 7 : Episode 7