With the last leg of Mad Men’s final season fast approaching on April 5, the show’s mastermind Matthew Weiner sat down with CBS News host Anthony Mason Friday night to reflect on “the most expensive scrapbook ever made” of both the ‘60s and the last two decades of his life. Weiner spoke at the Museum of the Moving Image, which currently houses an in-depth exhibit on the creative process behind the show — from early scribbles in the ‘90s about a boy named Peter Whitman to a re-creation of the writers’ room where the finale was penned not too long ago. The show returns April 5, but in the meantime, here’s what we learned behind the scenes.
Weiner had nightmares someone other than Jon Hamm had gotten the part.
Weiner read 85 men for the part of Don Draper, but was set on Jon Hamm from his first reading: “He walked out of the room and I’m like, ‘That’s the guy.’” He used airline miles to fly Hamm out to New York to meet the executives — who thought he was neither sexy nor a good actor — basically telling AMC he wouldn’t do the show if Hamm wasn’t the star. He still had nightmares that they got someone else for the part throughout the first season.
He was worried parts of the set would be reused for Empire.
Watching the Drapers’ house wheeled out after season four was so painful for Weiner that he couldn’t watch the sets getting dismantled after filming wrapped. But he made sure the crew kept some sets together, like the Drapers’ original kitchen, now on display at the Museum. “That was my biggest fear, that I would see it next year on like — probably on Empire at this point. If you give it a layer of gold paint. That show has got style.”
He stood his ground on Peggy getting high.
Weiner enjoyed the constraints of ad-supported television, calling it a puzzle. But he did put up a fight when AMC was hesitant about showing Peggy smoking weed, pointing out their other major show was Breaking Bad.
One friend thought Mad Men had been done before.
Friends who read the initial script pointed out similarities with Far From Heaven, The West Wing, The Mind of the Married Man, and Good Night and Good Luck. A distraught friend even sent him a script and told him, “They made your show. I’m worried about this, I don’t think it’s going to happen now.” It was Desperate Housewives.
There was a reason why Bert had you take off your shoes.
Because of a limited budget, Bert Cooper and Roger Sterling’s offices shared the same set in season one. Taking off your shoes before seeing Bert wasn’t just part of his quirk, but also to help create the idea of a new space.
Revlon passed on designing Peggy’s Belle Jolie ad.
Yes, all of the extras in the pilot were very small.
Two giant studio movies on the ‘60s — Revolutionary Road and Across the Universe — were shooting at the time of the pilot, so the only rental costumes available for extras were in tiny sizes. Hamm looks like a giant in the pilot because he actually was the biggest human being.