The Hollywood Reporter has published an oral history of sorts on the phenomenon that is Mad Men as we approach the final seven (THAT'S IT?) episodes of the series. "The Uncensored, Epic, Never-Told Story Behind 'Mad Men'" follows the show from conception through its growth as arguably one of the best shows on television.
Our story begins with creator Matthew Weiner slaving away at CBS writing for some sitcom named Becker, before landing an upgrade writing for The Sopranos. Weiner had been working on the script that would become Mad Men for three years when AMC, some bum-ass network that nobody respected, stepped in to finance the what would be their first scripted series.
Weiner [My agents] were like, "You're going to be coming off The Sopranos. I know you love this project, but don't go [to AMC]. It's really low status, no money, and even if they do it, they've never made a show before, and you don't want to be their first one."
AND THE REST IS HISTORY. Sort of.
As you might remember, Mad Men wasn't exactly an easy sell—a period show about a bunch of chain-smoking assholes working at an advertising agency doesn't exactly make advertisers jump.
AMC self-financed the pilot for $3.3 million and when casting began in 2006, Weiner got AMC to agree to hiring all unknown actors.
Wayne Matt sent us two actors: Jon Hamm and Mariska Hargitay's husband, Peter Hermann. The quality of the [video] that we were using sucked, and you couldn't see how good-looking Jon Hamm was. We were like, "Really, this is who you think?" And Matt said, "Absolutely." He'd been in the room, and he felt something with Jon. We had him come in again. We had to be sold, so we flew Jon to New York and took him for a drink at the Gansevoort hotel. He was nervous, but I knew that he had star potential. I whispered in his ear before he left, "You got the job."
Elizabeth Moss was the first actress to audition for Peggy, which clearly worked out for her.
We've heard before that Betty Draper was basically an afterthought, which really does explain a lot about Betty the character, particularly during season one.
January Jones (Betty Draper) I came in for Peggy twice. Matt said, "Well, there's another role, but I don't really know what's going to happen with her." He didn't have any scenes for me, so he quickly wrote a couple.
The casting of Mad Men's best worst character, Pete Campbell, and Trudy the goddess is about as adorable as they were for the first two seasons.
Vincent Kartheiser (Pete Campbell) I only auditioned for Pete. My agents aren't delusional enough to think that I'm a Don Draper.
Alison Brie (Trudy Campbell) I looked up a picture of Vincent Kartheiser and was like, "Oh my God. We kind of look like brother and sister. I could totally be his 1960s wife." Couples kind of looked alike then.
Weiner Alison Brie was a big lesson because we couldn't afford to make her a series regular. And we gambled [Community] wouldn't happen. We were wrong.
Weiner had written an "85-page screenplay that was Don Draper's backstory" which he used to pitch AMC executives on the meat of the show—the struggle between Don Draper and Dick Whitman.
One of the cornerstones of the show has been Weiner's commitment to historical accuracy from the events of the time right down to the minute details
Ellen Freund (property master) Matthew is so specific and cares so much about every tiny element, starting with the insides of drawers and wallets. You never, ever went to Matt with a mixing bowl and said, "Here's the mixing bowl." You'd go to him with a mixing bowl and the proof that it was made in the year previous to the year we were shooting in. Sometimes he'd say something like, "Get me the mixing bowls with the clear bottom." And I'd go, "Nuh-uh … not until 1972."
Matthew Weiner's anal retentiveness turns out to be a strength and Mad Men premieres on July 19, 2007 as a certifiable hit.
Mad Men and Jon Hamm win the Golden Globe for its first season and the show eventually wins big at the Emmys.
Josh Sapan (CEO, AMC Networks) When I found out that a guy I know named his dog Don Draper, I said to myself, "I think we've arrived."
In 2010, disagreements between Weiner and the network arise as his contract expires. AMC sent Weiner a lowball offer and presented a list of demands including adding more commercials and cutting cast members. AMC also, weirdly, wanted Weiner to develop a contemporary spinoff. (The idea of a spinoff makes sense, but making it contemporary seems odd and completely against the essence of Mad Men.) These disagreements would keep Mad Men off the air for more than a year.
Weiner and AMC finally reach an agreement and in 2012 Weiner starts planning for the end.
The decision for Don to marry Megan surprised all the entire cast who also thought that Faye was obviously the better choice. Perhaps no one was more surprised than Jessica Paré who was ecstatic to keep her job on one of the most prestigious shows on television.
[Sandra Stern (COO, Lionsgate TV)] Stern Matt and I were sitting at the table read for the last episode of season four. Don Draper had started dating a psychologist named Faye, an equal. Then, in the last episode, he runs off and he marries his young secretary. I was a little surprised, and I said to Matt, "I'm sad — I thought Don had finally pulled it together." And Matt said, "Yeah, me too. I really thought he could do it this time, but he couldn't."
BECAUSE DON IS A GIANT MAN-BABY WITH DEBILITATING MOMMY ISSUES.
Mad Men wraps in July 2014 and they made the obnoxious decision to split the last season into two parts, making the audience wait almost an entire year between the premiere of part one of season seven and the second half.
Hamm Everyone went through the stages of grief: anger, frustration, sadness and then, finally, you get to acceptance. And nobody knew how it ended, so there was a lot of anxiety about that, too.
You can read the entire "uncensored" history, here. The final season of Mad Men premieres on AMC on April 5th.
Image via Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC.
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