I’m going to try live-blogging the NY Times Mad Men webcast. I’ve never done this before, so we’ll see how it goes.
Updates to this post begin around 8pm.
Music and bland graphics have started. I’ve got 8:01 though, and no Jon Hamm. We’re here for you, Jon!
Stage with empty chairs and full audience…
It’s about to start!
So here’s who we’ve got: Janet Maslin, NY Times book critic, formerly film critic, advertising journalist Stuart Elliot, Matt Weiner, and the whole damn cast.
OMG there they ARE! Audience she claps so loud and happy!
Jon Hamm has hardcore sexy beard growth. I’m full of desire. January has casual, relaxed hair in the front, bun in the back, nice to see her looking not so 1960. Slattery has black sport coat, white shirt, no tie. Vincent K. has fuzzy beard not nearly as sexy as Hamm’s. Elisabeth Moss is a completely different person when not in Peggy drag.
Matt Weiner: Finding 1960 in NY [as his setting] was a sub/unconscious process. But in 1960 NYC was the cultural and economic center of the world. “Selling is what I’m interested in” and this era was the apex.
Maslin: When did you realize this would work so well?
Weiner: I wrote this 7 years ago, but I knew it would happen.
We get clips.
Maslin is asking about Jack Daniels as sponsor. They did a “product integration.” Writer’s Guild gave the producers the right to say yes or no to product placement/integration. Roberta loves the advertising integration. She must be dyin’ here.
Elliot: Are brands telling stories about characters? Weiner: “I want the perfect things. I’m a fetishist.” He actually had APPLES changed? Because we have bigger ones now.
Maslin: What’s it like to act with something in your hands all the time? Hamm: It’s easier. “My father smoked right up until he died. As most people who smoke…do.” (Jon? People who don’t smoke also die. Just sayin’.)
Weiner points out that the props are written into the script; they’re not actors’ crutches.
Hamm talks about his first day of shooting, how it got difficult to change a shirt, take alka seltzer, light a cig, etc. [all in rapid succession, with dialogue, in a scene]
January read for the role of Peggy; Slattery read for Don. Hmm!
Hey! January doesn’t have a babydoll voice! She does say that her character was the least set in stone, prior to casting, of any of them.
Weiner is talking kind of vaguely about writing for actors. He then says he saw so many bad auditions for Pete, but Vincent was very different.
Vincent thinks none of the characters are cemented; television moves along [characters develop over time. Then he adds] “I really felt at one point like Pete Campbell was really happening, really real, more than any other character I’ve played.”
“I don’t know anything [that’s going to happen] until five days before shooting” (and Elisabeth interjects, “not even”).
Hamm talks about how the cast gets the script and reads it first because they just want to see what happens. [Slattery says the same thing later; they can’t wait to see what happens next.]
Matt W: He discussed the pregnancy with Elisabeth before writing it.
“I knew she wouldn’t let me do it [the pregnancy] because she let me put the bangs on her.” (everyone laughs)
Maslin: “Where did you get that haircut? That does not exist in nature!”
Weiner wanted the pregnancy to at first appear like a woman hiding herself behind weight and managing stress and harassment via weight gain.
“The show is based on denial, and what better denial…?”
(Asked about makeup, and Moss says, yeah all padding and prosthetic chins & stuff) [And they shot out of order to accomodate Slattery’s schedule, so she’d be bigger smaller bigger smaller.]
Slattery was wondering if she was gaining weight and then someone told him, “Don’t you know…?”
Weiner: People were commenting about her weight before he wrote it into the script; having the Sterling Cooper guys saying it, but he’d always planned on having the guys say that.
Slattery was dying on another show while having a heart attack on this one. “Thank God I lived on one show.”
Moss: You have so little advance notice on the script that you’re kind of thrown into it, so you feel like it’s really happening.
Then one of the interviewers shows her an ad for a real relaxiciser and they all laugh and have fun.
I just lost feed and didn’t hear the question, but what the hell, they keep talking about writing and Mad Men, so whatever.
Now he’s talking about costumes, making sure people have closets with finite amount of clothing. Betty has a dress that is special; she wore it to the first shrink appointment and to the photo shoot, so that says that’s the dress she wears when she wants to look good. Weiner: “The 1960 Cadillac…it may be the most beautiful car ever made.” [But Don shouldn’t have the beautiful car, just a beautiful car, otherwise it’s unrealistic.] And overall, it’s about the props creating a reality.
The smoking will be a problem next year and it’s already starting (coughing).
Maslin: What’s wrong between the Drapers?
January: What do you mean?
Hamm: Everything’s fine.
And now Hamm’s talking about Don constantly reinventing himself and having no core honesty at all. We all lie to ourselves and if you do it too much you don’t know who you are.
“Betty is the perfect representative of connubial bliss and yet it’s not doing it…it’s part of what the journey…of the next chapter of figuring out…this guy.”
Weiner: Ad men are rock stars of the era from the outside, can do whatever they want, but from the inside, there’s self-hatred and doubt like any other human.
Maslin: Asking about research on the era, since all are too young to have experienced it. Weiner says he did a chronology of the year so he knew what was happening. Moss did no research because she wanted Peggy’s naivete to be authentic.
Hamm was “a voracious reader as a kid.” He grew up in St. Louis, MO and his father was in business and 27 years old in 1960, so his father was part of the St. Louis version of the Mad Men world. Hamm had the family photos and family history, but he’d also read old magazines as a kid [so the images were familiar].
He’s seriously very sexy. Dear gods he’s sexy. Yum.
Vincent: Pete Campbell wants to live up to his parents. Weiner: And to do it on his own. Now Weiner continues that he knew families like Pete’s, who were disgusted by a son going into advertising, like he’d joined the circus or something.
Weiner’s most important quote, he says: “This is not one of those movies. This is not The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit. This is about the people who watch those movies.”
Maslin refer’s the show’s “Hitchcockian restraint,” which is a nice turn of phrase.
Weiner says the unproduced pilot was “legendary” and got him his job on the Sopranos. Everyone read it and thought it was brilliant and it would never be produced.
The theme of Episode 2 was “It’s not polite to talk about yourself.” Hence crying in the Ladies Room.
Now audience questions. What do you like/dislike about your own character?
Hamm: Don’s “preternatural confidence” (damn, nice vocab) at work, contrarily, his lack of confidence at home.
Jones: Admires Betty’s inner strength and intelligence (even though she doesn’t show it). Dislikes the smoking.
Slattery: Dislikes the tight pants! Likes how moving Pete is, stuck in his family/social jam.
Vincent: That too! “I like that Pete is not accepted at his job but very vital.” That’s fun to play; I see it in everyone. Maslin: People really respond to Pete; Vincent: “Yes, well, there’s a lot of assholes in the world.” “Everything I don’t like [about Pete] I kind of love about Pete.” Then talks about being afraid.
Moss: “Capacity to believe in something completely and wholeheartedly.” Dislikes the stupid low heels, she prefers higher heels. Also the bangs.
Next question: How does it feel to be treated like that as a woman, and how does it feel to be a man treating women that way, and was it really that bad?
Weiner: Of people who were there in that era, 65-70% of the men say I got it right, 100% of the women say I got it right.
Jones: The pregnant smoking and drinking is troublesome, but it doesn’t feel unnatural other than that.
Weiner: A lot of what you hear on the show [sexism”said to your face], “Guys are saying behind your back” nowadays.
Weiner talks about growing up in a WASPy neighborhood; his family were the only Jews, only Democrats, very aware of being the minority, and really experienced all that anti-Semitism first hand.
Someone has a specific question about Babylon and has watched it many times. But she hasn’t quite asked about Babylon yet, her questions are about writing process.
“I wanted to do something about Israel because I…wanted to say [the phrase] “America has a love affair with Israel”…I wanted to talk about assimilation…but what I really had was that I wanted to do something about exile…Don is an exile, Joan is in a relationship that can’t go anywhere…and Don in the club…thinking about Rachel while the song is playing…his mistress [Midge] is not giving him what he wants from Rachel and his wife is not giving it to him…and I had this image of the two of them [Joan and Roger] separate outside the hotel…and I wrote backwards from that image…finally…montage at the end of the show…we see Rachel pick a tie out for [Don]…and we see Betty putting lipstick on [Sally] [after the whole Belle Jolie lipstick thing].”
Slattery on the scene with Joan: Roger shows more humanity than he’d ever shown before.
Question about Betty & shrink. Surprised that shrink was cold and that he called Don. Yes, Weiner says, he did research and in fact a shrink that he knew of would do exactly that, talk to husband about wife’s therapy.
Question about Betty & Glen; January: Betty longs for a friend. She doesn’t think it’s creepy even though when she first read it she asked Matt about it. She feels like a little girl inside and connects to him that way.
Weiner was surprised that people thought it was creepy.
“I was in love with my babysitter. I did NOT get a lock of her hair, I wish I would’ve thought of it.” He goes on to point out how honest Betty and Glen are with each other; each is part a child. And the actor who plays Glen is Weiner’s son. [And the kid said, “Dad, he is creepy.”]
Jones: The costumes force you to walk and hold yourself a certain way.
Moss: When she finally got used to the period costume, she had to get used to the increased weight each episode.
The costume designer likes everyone in tight clothes. Everyone has their own color palette. Pete is dressed as a younger person. He only has 3 suits.
A physician asks: Do January and Jon think the Draper marriage can be saved. January “It has every possibility to survive.”
Jon: “Surviving and thriving are 2 different things…this marriage could go on like this for 35 years…which would be sad…but it could change.”
Weiner: “I personally do not believe in…ad libbing.”
Slattery just quoted the “take over Europe” line as one of his favorites. Hah!
Okay, someone asked if Weiner felt restrained after HBO, and he starts talking about it, and meanwhile the guys are whispering and whispering and finally one of them (Hamm?) says “Fuck!”
Last question: How did the two types of women [earnest and sexy] get set there for contrast (Joan and Peggy)?
Weiner: “The most exciting idea when I was in college was feminism…it wore off on me…I didn’t want these people to be symbols, but…the show is about underdogs…I don’t want them to be symbols, I want them to be real people…I just hate unfairness.”
And now it’s over, big applause, they leave.