If you weren’t too distracted by Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner’s bright blue-plaid jacket during last night’s PaleyFest panel (or January Jone’s apparent absent-mindedness), you were treated to quite an enjoyable evening. Weiner, always eager to hear himself talk, was as charming as is possible for him, Hamm was as charming as ever and the entire cast radiated, well, charm.
While season 5 was not discussed at all, a lot of amusing anecdotes were shared from years past. For example, after John Slattery’s comment that he’s like a regular fan of the show and always tries to read the scripts as early as possible, one of Weiner’s running gags for the evening was that the writing staff gauges the quality of the scripts by how early Slattery reads them.
Jon Hamm might have slipped a dreaded spoiler when he misspoke that Don Draper is “married” when he really just got engaged in the season 4 finale. He tried to save the situation as best he could, but Weiner had the ultimate strategy to deflect by launching a long diatribe about the history of the wedding ring, thus giving an oblique answer to why Don doesn’t wear one. Which still didn’t answer simmering questions regarding Don’s marital status in the upcoming season, but he proved once again that he’s a smart guy. Other Weiner declamations included how we perceive history, and how well John Slattery reads lines.
Everyone seemed to agree that season 4 was a particularly harrowing season to work on as an actor, as all the characters went through considerable emotional turmoil. This made it difficult for the actors to remain psychologically sound. (Weiner’s joke at this point: “Actors don’t have the most difficult job in the world, of course. Writers do!”) But Hamm stressed how much fun it was to shoot “The Summer Man,” the episode in which Don starts writing a journal and verbalizes for the first time a lot of things he had been keeping bottled up before. Weiner added that the criticism of the episode’s use of voice over was mystifying to him. “Nobody ever told me that there is a rule against voice over on my show,” he said. True that.
Rich Sommer mused quite a bit on the question of when Harry became “such a douchebag” but ultimately came to the conclusion that his character really hasn’t changed that much over the course of the show. “People don’t change, situations do,” the actor offered, and added that all of Harry’s character traits now perceived as pathetic were already present in season one. The difference is that he finds himself now in different circumstances. Weiner added that Harry is stuck in an unhappy marriage and that this might account for his behavior.
Jared Harris turned out to be quite a fun panelist, poking jokes at Lane’s britishness and waxing philosophics about transatlantic differences and similarities. In the end, Weiner even offered some thoughts on the show’s future: “The plan is for seven seasons. I don’t want to overstay our welcome. But this is the first season we went into knowing there would be more seasons. Trying to think about plotting out three seasons at once makes me sick.” Not exactly much but why we know why he thinks writers have the hardest job.
(Image courtesy of Paley)