The final "Mad Men" season premieres April 5, and it’s been a long and exciting road to get to where we are today. Weiner sat on the script for five years before it got any attention, and few could have predicted what it would become: A cultural sensation that would turn AMC into a cable juggernaut and launch the little-known cast of Jon Hamm, Christina Hendricks, January Jones, Vincent Kartheiser, Elisabeth Moss and John Slattery into Hollywood megastardom. The Hollywood Reporter has a great oral history with Weiner and the cast and crew up today -- it's worth checking out in full, but here are some of the most interesting tidbits:
Weiner’s agents told him not to go to AMC:
He remembers them saying something to the effect of “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."
They didn’t all audition for the parts they got:
January Jones read for Peggy twice before Matthew Weiner suggested her for Betty — even though there were no scenes written for the character yet, and it was unclear how the part would develop. Meanwhile, John Slattery originally read for Don. “Matt Weiner claims I was in a bad mood the whole [pilot]. I had a couple of scenes, but I wasn't as emotionally invested as some of the people because there wasn't that much of Roger in evidence yet. Being a selfish actor, I didn't necessarily see the full potential in the beginning.”
Spinoffs were discussed in the early days:
In early negotiations with AMC, the network asked for a spinoff, although Weiner wasn’t comfortable with committing to one. One idea was a contemporary spinoff, probably following Sally, another was a Peggy spinoff, while a third involved a character going off to L.A. (which, as you know, sort of ended up happening).
Betty wasn’t always going to be so involved:
Weiner received early pushback for his focus on Betty. As he put it: "They were really annoyed that I was paying attention to [Betty]. I wanted to branch the show out, and I felt that if Don was cheating on this woman, that was the story. They just wanted it to be a formula in the office.” (Jones, meanwhile, says she was shielded from all the “We don't care about Betty” stuff).
There was always a hefty Don Draper backstory:
After being asked to flesh out Don’s storyline, Weiner told AMC that he had an 85-page screenplay detailing Don’s backstory: “It was called 'The Horseshoe,' and I abandoned it five years before I wrote 'Mad Men.' The last scene is this character taking Don's name and leaving his [dead] body at a train station.”
Jessica Pare found out she was joining the cast in the most exciting way:
"When Megan and Don kiss for the first time, everybody on set was like, "Well, it's been great to have you around, Jessica. You'll be on your way out now." That's how things had been going. But Matt called me a few days before and told me Don was going to propose. I had a hint before that: Ellen, our props master, came into my dressing room and said, "You can’t ask me any questions about it, but I need to measure your ring finger.”
Weiner’s legendary attention to detail extends to the mixing bowls:
From Ellen Freund, the property master: “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.”
The final days on set were very emotional:
One of the producers made a yearbook separating everyone into freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors, complete with class photos and superlatives (Slattery claims he was “class flirt”). There were also regular champagne toasts — and on the last day, the cast TPd Weiner's car.