‘Mad Men’ creator talks Don Draper -- not much about the fifth season


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There exists a “Mad Men” fan who has not missed Don Draper in all his flawed (and nicely tailored) glory. His name is Matt Weiner.

“That’s only because I had to see him in May, when we started shooting — our time apart wasn’t long,” the show’s creator told the L.A. Times before a panel for the show Tuesday night at PaleyFest. “But I’m glad to see that the world misses him.”


An overstatement for sure, but “Mad Men” fever is certainly in the air. The show makes its fifth season return March 25 after a 17-month break. Do you know how many lines Roger Sterling could have dictated into his tape recorder in that time? A lot. And Weiner and his cast of actors have been stingy with hints about the season so that our hearts remain all the more fonder from the absence — attendees didn’t even get a glimpse at the premiere, instead they sat through the fourth season finale.

Video: ‘Mad Men’ Season 5 trailer

When asked before the panel which character’s journey he enjoyed following this season, Weiner, like the loving show parent that he is, couldn’t pick.

“You know what, I don’t even think of it that way,” he said. “It’s been a great experience to work on this season. We have great writers on this show and we all sort of wrote about what we found interesting. I think thematically the idea this season of ‘when is everything going to get normal’ has been something that we were, literally, every day, saying ‘oh my god, this is exactly like the show we know.’”

He also chose his words carefully when discussing Jon Hamm’s directorial debut on the show (he takes the helm of the third episode this season, titled ‘Tea Party’). Hamm follows in the steps of co-star John Slattery, who directed an episode last season, as well as for the upcoming season.

Video: ‘Mad Men’ Season 5 trailer


“Jon was pretty good,” Weiner said. “He wanted to do it and we were glad to oblige them. If he wants to do it again, we’d let him.’

So what happened during the actual panel? Not a lot of discussion about the forthcoming season -- as expected. But here’s a few things we found interesting:

-- Rich Sommer (Harry Crane), Jay R. Ferguson (Stan Rizzo) and John Slattery (Roger Sterling) like to drink Heineken. Or at least they’d rather drink Heineken over water when appearing on a panel.

-- Everyone involved with the show has kept a tight lid on the upcoming season. But Hamm can only hold up for so long. In what appeared to be a premature slip, Hamm told the audience: “He got engaged; he didn’t necessarily get married.” The possible reveal got the audience giddy. But was he simply playing with their minds? We know, but won’t spoil it.

-- January Jones invokes fear in people. It seems folks can’t separate the new mom from her polarizing character. She says her fictional alter-ego has made her less approachable: “People run away from me on the street,” she said. Jokingly adding that she has to assure them that “Betty is all right. She’s working through it.”

-- Hamm, who has perfected the role of a “man who only likes beginnings,” was just as surprised by the marriage proposal as viewers. ‘Is this some weird fake out? Is this a dream sequence? Am I in bed the whole time with Betty,’ he recalled thinking.


-- Weiner said the origins for ‘The Summer Man’ came from a friend’s father, who himself kept a journal in 1965 and was in a similar state of mind as Don. ‘This was a chance for [Don] to get as close to therapy as Don’s going to get at this point in the show.’ Weiner adds the final result was a melding of stuff from Weiner’s own journal as well as pieces from the journal of his friend’s father.

-- The scene in the finale in which Don reveals to Betty that he’s engaged was a particularly tough scene to shoot for all involved. “We delayed [shooting] the scene,” Weiner said. “No one wanted to go in and shoot it.”

-- Weiner said Slattery was the only cast member that he really had to sell into doing the show. Addressing Slattery: ‘I remember having a call with you that I really didn’t have with anybody else just to tell you I will take care of you ... and [Roger’s not going to be] just like the old guy who comes in and like says, ‘What’s everybody doing, who’s having fun?’’


Video: ‘Mad Men’ Season 5 trailer

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VIDEO: John Slattery toasts new business, ‘Mad Men’ season 5

--Yvonne Villarreal

Top photo: Jon Hamm, a cast member in the television series ‘Mad Men,’ at the PaleyFest 2012 panel discussion about the show Tuesday in Beverly Hills. The new season of ‘Mad Men’ begins Sunday, March 25. Credit: Chris Pizzello / Associated Press. Bottom photo: Don Draper pops the question in the season four finale. Credit: AMC