Elisabeth Olson and Jon Hamm return for the seventh and final season of "Mad Men." Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC
The end of the "Mad Men" era is upon us, but don't expect series creator Matthew Weiner to let his guard down about spilling show now. With the first half of the seventh and final season of the critically acclaimed drama making its debut, Weiner is being as careful as ever. But he did offer us these tidbits.
How have you maintained the production's notorious level of secrecy?
It's been helped a lot by the fact that the critics realize that the audience doesn't want to hear it, and so there's not as much of a scoop. The hardest part is keeping the guest cast quiet. They get really excited and want to tell everyone they're going to be on the show, and you kind of say, "Wait, and I promise we'll help you when the show comes out." I threaten them, but not with violence. With the only leverage that I have, which is being replaced. The commercial value of the show is the secret nature of the storyline. There's nothing out there that really has this right now.
Have you thought about what happens to the characters after the final episode?
No, I think about where I'm going to leave them and where they'll be in people's minds when it's over. That's the permanent spot. That's the carbonite they're stuck in.
Do you have a sense of what you'll want to make next?
No, I don't. I think I'll know what's on my mind when it's over for a little bit. I haven't taken a vacation in a long time. I made a film in between two of the seasons, which is coming out this summer, after this block of episodes. In terms of future work, I will not know until I'm done. If the question is if I'm going to come back to TV, this is one of the best lives there is, and I don't expect this to happen again but I would love it.
How has the show changed your life?
There's no calculation. Creatively it's been challenging beyond my wildest dreams. I've gotten to direct, I've gotten to learn how to produce, learn how to deal with business. I've learned so much about America, learned so much about myself. Everything changed. I've written a lot about it in the show, I will tell you that. I've written a lot about the changes I've experienced in the show. It may be in the past, but it's a very thin smokescreen. Although I'm not Don. [Laughs]
Elisabeth Moss looks ahead: For six seasons, "Mad Men" has chronicled the career of Don Draper, but it's also followed the career of his assistant turned full-fledged Mad Woman Peggy Olson, played by Elisabeth Moss. Some viewers have even gone so far as to speculate that the whole arc of the series — which began on Peggy's first day on the job, after all — is actually more about Peggy than Don, especially considering the changing cultural landscape of the 1960s. Moss, for her part, is flattered by the idea, but she's not having it. "I think it's about Don Draper, he's the lead character of the show," she insists. "That would be a very long red herring story, very elaborate."
So, red herrings aside, what does Moss hope the conclusion of the series holds for Peggy? More than simply following in Don Draper's footsteps, that's for sure. "I hope that she finds her own place, you know? I think that she will find maybe a better, happier place, hopefully," she says. "I want her to be working and I want her to be successful at her work, but I think that's because I identify with her, so I kind of want what she wants. I hope that she gets that."
And Moss herself will be getting something, as the actress admits there's at least one prop from the show she'll be making off with once production wraps: "This ring that I always wear, that I've worn in every episode. I will be taking that ring," she says.
Jon Hamm bids adieu: With the premiere of "Mad Men" seven years ago, Jon Hamm's life changed forever, and no one is more aware of that than Hamm himself. With the last season of his run as Don Draper coming to an end, Hamm is taking a moment to reflect on the character that put him on the map. So what would he and Don talk about if he got a chance to sit down with the mysterious ad exec? "I think we'd talk about life," Hamm says. "I think we'd talk about families, we'd talk about experiences and I'd ask him to please shape up."
And when everything "Mad Men" is all said and done, what does Hamm have in mind? Perhaps he'll finally embody the famous "Mad Men" pose that helped make him famous. "I'll have a glass of scotch and I'll sit and stare out the window and someone will take a picture of me," he says with a laugh. "No, I don't know, honestly. I really don't. It's a long way down the road. I'm sure it will be incredibly difficult, but all good things come to an end. This is no exception."