Apr 012015

This is the final part of our write-up of the amazing Mad Men: The End of an Era panel discussion at Lincoln Center. Part 2 is here and Part 1 is here.

The set-up for the next scene was great. Chuck Klosterman teased us with, ‘You’ve probably forgotten this ever happened’. Both John Slattery and January Jones selected it, from Episode 1.07, Red in the Face: Roger hits on Betty in the Drapers’ kitchen.

Photo Credit: Carin Baer/AMC

Photo Credit: Carin Baer/AMC

They pointed out that Betty absolutely did feel flattered by the pass, smiling as she pushed Roger away. Matt discussed the moment when Don walks in and immediately knows. He’d wondered, should Don come in a moment earlier and actually see something? But he was sure that in real life, you just know. As a parent, he said, he knows when the TV has just been turned off, or some bad behavior has just stopped. And watching it, it’s clear how guilty Roger and Betty are behaving–and they’re silent. He doesn’t have them do that fast-awkward-talky thing. Matt also discussed, in an hilarious several minutes, the classic sitcom style of Don showing Roger out. He said some of the jokes were straight out of The Jeffersons.

January Jones talked about staying silent, keeping feelings to herself. When playing Betty, especially in the early seasons, she worked to keep nothing–or sadness, or anger–behind her eyes at all times. When it was pointed out that there were times that Betty did express anger (Klosterman mentioned breaking the chair). January pointed out that Betty was alone then, and alone when she shot the birds as well (and, we recalled later, when she ate the chicken out of the fridge). “That’s why you shouldn’t be alone with her,” she joked, and then Matt said the kids saw, and January quipped, without missing a beat, “Who cares about the kids?”

When January’s clip ended and the lights came up, Christina Hendricks was nowhere to be seen. Eventually she returned, with a glass of wine for herself and for January, which got a big laugh.

The next clip was from The Wheel (1.13): Betty encountering Glen in a parking lot.


A long conversation about hiring Matt’s son, Marten Weiner, who plays Glen, ensued. It wasn’t Matt’s idea, and he didn’t know how he could even judge whether his own son was good or not. Matt shared about Betty’s first uncomfortable encounter with Glen–his walking in on her in the bathroom–which was something Matt himself had done at age seven or so. He talked about the logic of being 7, and 10, (and even 49; heh)–how it doesn’t cross your mind that there isn’t some possibility this relationship could happen.

Matt also talked about not considering that he was exposing his child to the vitriol of the Internet; people saying Marten was ugly and so on. (Such talk is not allowed at Basket of Kisses.)

That scene from The Wheel was filmed in Pasadena, and the temperature was 105. Matt showed up, and became very worried about January Jones, in her heavy coat and gloves. He asked if she was okay, and she asked for an umbrella. It was only then Matt realized, “Oh my God, my son is in the car!” and went to check on him. Marten was boiling in his coat, hat, and mittens. “Dad? Can I take the snowpants off?” Poor little buddy! And of course he was dressed to that level of detail in a scene where his pants were never gonna show!


Christina Hendricks selected her very first scene, and in fact the show’s first scene ever filmed, from Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (1.01). She explained that she just wanted to go back and see where it all began, and also, this was her audition scene. Matt noted that the whole paper bag over your head thing, as well as the line about how they want a cross between a mother and a waitress, was straight out of Helen Gurley Brown. Christina talked about poring over every word of the script in an effort to understand who the character was, really trying to find a “self” in the dialogue. “Joan’s so rude!” she blurted about the way she speaks to Peggy.

Matt said that, between writing the script and filming it, The West Wing came on TV, and he became distrustful of the whole “walk & talk.” (He loves The West Wing, he quickly pointed out.) He slowed everyone down and made sure they looked at each other while talking, although it’s hard to walk around a set if you’re not looking where you’re going!

He considers Joan’s speech to Peggy as her introducing a protegé to “the world of the courtesan,” and David Carbona’s music in that scene is designed to emphasize this.

Klosterman asked Matt who on the show was a real smoker, and Matt said that was private and refused to answer. However, he revealed that he wouldn’t allow characters to smoke if the actor had never smoked in real life. They always look ridiculous. The exception is Aaron Staton, who plays Ken Cosgrove. As soon as Aaron lit up, Matt launched into his usual speech, “You’ve never smoked before, have you?” But Aaron’s reply was “I smoked for ten years.” “Like that?”

It became a running joke on set. Aaron (who, Matt adds, is the sweetest guy in the world) “smokes like a douchebag”.

Next up: The Gypsy and the Hobo (3.11), Betty confronts Don about his identity.


Here Matt talked about how very much the scene is about class, how Betty cannot allow this poor poseur to enter her class through marriage. Jon talked about having two identities so utterly separate that when he is forced to be both men at once he literally cannot speak.

Matt also talked about the difficulties of writing. Dialogue is easy, he said, what’s hard is figuring out that Don’s mistress Suzanne is outside in the car the whole time this confrontation is occurring. That’s where you need the writer’s room. And initially he’d had it as a much simpler confrontation–Don comes in, Betty’s in the kitchen handing him the Whitman’s Sampler Box. But it wasn’t enough. It was so human, so excruciating, so very very fascinating, to have it drawn out the way it was. And for the viewer the occasional “OMG Suzanne is in the car and this is still happening and what if she comes to the door” moment.

The final clip was from The Other Woman (5.11): Don visiting Joan and telling her Jaguar isn’t worth it. 2015-03-23_15-02-02 Klosterman talked about the way that the Internet exploded, with people saying “Joan wouldn’t do that!” (sleep with Herb) and asked Christina her response.

Interestingly, Matt had floated the idea to her two or three years earlier, but it hadn’t made it into a script. Of course, as an actress, Christina loved the ability to play something so juicy and complicated. And she loves that it’s controversial and causes people to talk. But ‘Joan wouldn’t do that?’ Christina was very clear that she discovers who Joan is only by reading what’s on the page.

“Joan is a creation of Matthew Weiner and I am trying to be the best storyteller of his story that I can be”.

Was there anything that Matt didn’t get to write, that he’d wished he had written? Roger, Matt said, was originally supposed to die in the middle of Season 1. In addition, he’d always had the idea of writing about someone who was fired, and feeling emasculated by that, and following it through multiple episodes–it was going to be Harry.

“The thing that I’m happy about is that we didn’t have to spin the story out of control to keep the audience interested.” He said he would never do the same story twice. He didn’t want to have to “top” Joan sleeping with a client by having Joan “sleep with five clients!”

He added that he had an idea the other day, and was about to write it down, when he realized, Oh, we’re done.


  10 Responses to “Mad Men at Lincoln Center Part 3: Why you should never be alone with Betty and which actor “smokes like a douchebag””

  1. That last sentence just hurts.

  2. “He added that he had an idea the other day, and was about to write it down, when he realized, Oh, we’re done.”

    One of the saddest things I’ve ever read…

  3. Betty was so different in season one, at least in outward demeanor. More soft-spoken, more stoic, more deferential to Don, more loving towards the kids (who of course were just tots).

  4. As always, thanks for sharing your experiences here – <3

  5. Quite enjoyed this and wish I had been there…. Marten is a fine looking boy. The internet haters should shut up!

  6. This sounds really stupid, but the Glen/Betty scene actually made me realize that my childhood is never coming back, ever.
    I was 38 when I first saw that scene and Betty blurts out, “Adults don’t know anything”.
    And I was thunderstruck. She was right. I’m no better than when I was a child, but had adulthood to look forward to.
    You don’t have a second childhood to look forward to as an adult, just decline, and death.
    No declaration has ever hit a nerve more than that one.
    Betty. Betty!!!!!??????? said it.

  7. “January Jones talked about staying silent, keeping feelings to herself. When playing Betty, especially in the early seasons, she worked to keep nothing–or sadness, or anger–behind her eyes.”

    I’m so glad JJ said this! Some critics have called her “wooden.” But that’s the point. Betty always wore a mask publicly in the first few seasons, and JJ got it down to the eyes. She obviously understood her character better than the critics.

    • I never understand anyone’s objections to Jones’ acting as Betty.

      To paraphrase Betty’s statement to young Glen Bishop:

      “Critics (mostly) don’t know anything!”

      Few of them are self-aware enough to make them hedge or qualify their statements.

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