Over just a few episodes of Mad Men’s fourth season, Megan (played by Jessica Paré) went from being a blink-and-you-missed-her receptionist to becoming the next Mrs. Draper. No one was more surprised than Paré, who fully expected Megan to meet the tragic end of Don’s previous secretary, Mrs. Blankenship. The statuesque Canadian sounded absolutely giddy as she spoke to us from Toronto, where she’s promoting the DVD release of the vampire comedy Suck.
At what point did you find out that Don was proposing to you?
It was when I got the script. They’re very secretive about that kind of information on set — and with good reason, because if I had found out that it was going to be in the script and then [Matthew Weiner] changed his mind, I would have been very upset. [Laughs.] Actually, you know what? Matt Weiner did call me a couple days before the script came out to tell me that was going to happen. And I still couldn’t really believe it. I was like, “You know what? When we shoot that scene, that’s when I’ll believe it!”
So how much did you know about Megan when you first got the role?
I didn’t know a thing. I honestly did not know a thing. Even from the first episode, I was sort of unclear as to what her job was — because she was a receptionist, but in the first episode I did, I was just helping with the Christmas party, so I didn’t even sit at the receptionist’s desk. It was an excellent exercise for me as an actor, because it’s so not the way I normally work. Certainly with features, and in anything where you have a character arc, you usually know what that arc is and are able to play every part of it. And in this, I had no idea! So it was an amazing exercise to play only what you’re given, and not try to add more or to make it into something else, to just wait to see how it develops.
I can’t imagine there are many circumstances where you’d be expected to work like that.
Honestly, it would have scared the crap out of me, but I’m in such capable hands on that show. So it was more exciting than anything else.
It’s been a rough year for secretaries on Mad Men. Were you afraid you were going to drop dead at some point?
That was actually my big joke on set; I was sure I was going to fall down the elevator shaft at any second. I was like, Megan’s gonna go somehow! Everybody was saying that I was doing good work on the show, and I was like, Uh-huh, sure, that elevator shaft hasn’t moved.
Did the part require a French-speaking actress, or was that something they added specifically for you?
I’m not sure, actually. I didn’t really ask. I think from the fourth episode where they did the focus group, and Megan says, “My mother’s of French extraction” — I don’t know if they decided to put that in because they thought that I looked French. But I’m glad that they did, because I do speak French, and I am from Montreal. And, of course, all of my friends and family are so excited because they feel like Montreal is being represented on Mad Men. They can’t get over it.
Some of the commenters on Vulture predicted your relationship with Don after the episode where Sally runs away. Did that feel like a turning point when you were shooting it?
Absolutely. That was the first episode where I actually had quite a lot to do, and it definitely felt like it was a turning point for Megan. But of course, I had no idea where it was going, and honestly, I still don’t know where it’s going. They’re not married yet. Anything could happen!
One thing that keeps getting mentioned online in relation to Megan is Sex and the Single Girl by Helen Gurley Brown. Do you think Megan was deliberately trying to hook Don from the start?
No, I don’t think so. Certainly the way I played it was that she’s honest, she’s earnest — as far as we know, what you see is what you get. I think one of the things that attracts Don to her is that she’s not complicated. She’s straightforward. She says when they first sleep together, “I’m not going to run crying out of here tomorrow.” And she doesn’t, and they’re able to continue their professional relationship without a hitch. When they go to California and he asks her if she thought about this, she says, “It was the first thing that crossed my mind.” She is pretty earnest. As far as I know, I don’t think it’s a calculated thing. But again, it could turn out to be something else, because we all know that the writers of this show like to switch things up on you.
I noticed that.
You did, did you?
The age gap between Megan and the other women on the show isn’t huge, but does she strike you as being from a different generation?
Yeah, absolutely. I think that she fully expects to have a career. She’s working as a secretary, which is the right place for her to be in New York at 25 years old. She’s from Montreal and she moves to New York, and she gets this job as a receptionist and then becomes a secretary. It’s kind of a natural evolution for her; it’s not like she’s planning on being a career secretary. She definitely sees a future for herself in the advertising industry. And that’s a little bit more progressive than someone who’s even a few years older than her.
I hate to ask you this question — especially because I know you’re going to hear it again and again — but the line about your teeth …
I did a movie called Lost and Delirious ten years ago, and in that movie there was a line about my teeth as well. And it’s weird, because I’m actually really self-conscious about them. But I never wanted to change my teeth because they’re mine, and I don’t know what I’d look like without them, and thinking about it makes me uncomfortable. But they’re not horrible. They do a job. But I am self-conscious, so Matt talked to me about it. He was like, I hope that this is okay. And I said, “No, absolutely, it’s perfect.” I mean, that line is so good: “I don’t even want to be an actress! Why is she picking on me?”
And finally: How tall are you?
Oh, God. I’m five-foot-eight! I’m completely average! I’m the same height as Christina. But there was this thing on set, they kept telling me it was hard to find a stand-in for me. And granted, the heels and the hair add a couple of inches. But everyone was like, you’re so tall! It gave me kind of a complex, until I saw episode four. And I was like, Oh my God, they’re right! I am a giant!
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