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Matthew Weiner and Kiernan Shipka on Mad Men’s Final Season

Photo: Rommel Demano/Getty Images

Mad Men was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame last night, adding yet another accolade to the show’s long list of awards. Creator Matthew Weiner and actress Kiernan Shipka (who grew up before our very eyes as Sally Draper) were on hand at the Waldorf-Astoria. Vulture caught up with the pair to ask about Mad Men’s final days.

Was there anything that you were dying to do in your character that you didn’t get to do as Sally? 
Kiernan Shipka: No. I try not to think about what I want my character to do because I know it’s going to be something totally different, and I’m always going to be surprised. But not really, I mean, honestly, the writing is so amazing that I don’t even wish for anything more.

Matthew Weiner: We’re done, and she said that. She’s either the best actress ever, or she really means it. But you really are the best actress.

KS: Oh, thank you.

You’ve said that you knew how the show was going to end all along. But going into filming the last episodes, was the cast surprised by how it turned out? Did you prep them?
MW: Let’s put it this way: I never like to tell them too much ahead of time because I don’t want them to play the result, as they say. I hope they were surprised, but you know, the show is always — I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t want to talk too much about it. [To Kiernan] It’s up to you. You can say whatever you want.

KS: [Laughs.] No.

MW: [To Kiernan] I did tell you eventually.

KS: M-hmm. Totally.

Did you feel that that affected your acting or your perception of where Sally was going to go?  
KS: Well, again, knowing things ahead of time is definitely not good for your character when they don’t even know about them.

MW: It’s a weird thing, because part of it is naïve on my part, because they shoot scenes out of order. Sometimes they’ll shoot the last scene of an episode, like, the first thing Monday morning, at like 5:30 in the morning, and you’re like, well I didn’t want it that way. How did they do it? And they can totally do that. They can totally bring their circumstances wherever they are. That’s their job. But, in terms of the larger arc, I really wanted them — honestly, with the writers, in the writers’ room, our idea was to utilize as much of the real emotion that was going on, of feeling like our world was ending and our job was ending, and just harness that to get the deepest performances we could. The way the story works on the show, I can tell you what’s going to happen in like three sentences. They can know what’s going to happen, it’s all about how it happens, how long it takes for it to happen, what happens after that thing happens.

Are there lots of arcs in store for Sally? 
KS: I mean, we’re totally sworn to secrecy.

MW: Sally is in it. Sally is in it. Kiernan being on the world’s radar as an actress is very satisfying to me because she’s so deserving of it. I’ve watched her. She’s always been good, but I’ve watched people sort of feel comfortable in saying that, “Oh my God, I think that she’s an actress. That’s not just some trained kid.” And now, to get through to the end of the show, I think you’ll see that she has the best work she’s done in the last seven episodes. I can say that because I’ve seen it.

KS: Yeah, you can say that. [Laughs.]

What did you guys purchase from the Mad Men set?  
KS: The necklace. My character always wears a necklace.

MW: It was a necklace that Jon gave her.

MW: I took a bunch of stuff. I have too much stuff. I have Roger’s bar in my office. Some happy things. I have the little roulette-wheel cigarette holder that was in Don’s office forever. It’s a weird thing, because I was interested in this period because I loved the items from this period. Then, at a certain point, I was like, I can’t live in a Mad Men museum the rest of my life.

Is the bar stocked?  
MW: The bar is stocked now, with real alcohol, not water, and —

KS: Onion water [laughs].

MW: [Laughs.] Onion water. Yeah. They can’t drink that and act. I don’t want to ruin the show for you. I mean. they can [drink alcohol]. I’m not saying that no one’s ever done a scene drunk on Mad Men. I will not say that, but most of the time, what you’re looking at, what we provide for them, is water.

The last season ended on a very historical moment, the moon landing. Is there another historical moment that we might see? Are you playing into those kinds of reactions? 
MW: To me, we never want to deny that history is passing in the lives of the characters, but the show is not a history lesson. What I liked about doing the moon landing is that it was a great moment of optimism for these people in the midst of something rather bleak. I like the ironic quality to it, and I know that, to this day, it’s still one of the most life-changing ideas, anyway. But at the same time, in the New York Times the day afterwards, there’s a quote from Pablo Picasso, saying, “I don’t care about it. I don’t care about it. I don’t care that it happened. I don’t really want to hear about it anymore.” That’s what I like to do, is that part of it. In terms of what’s actually in the show and what time period it is, I can’t tell you. I can’t even tell you when it’s on. I hope somebody announces that soon.

Next year.  
MW: That I know. I think sometime in the spring.

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