PaleyFest, an annual TV fan festival in Los Angeles, brings show runners and cast members together before a live audience—this year at the Dolby Theater, home of the Oscars—to talk about shows, and sometimes, spoilers.
AMC’s drama, Mad Men , begins its seventh and final season on April 13, and the show’s cast was at PaleyFest on Friday night to talk about … season six.
As was expected, cast members Jon Hamm (Don Draper), Vincent Kartheiser (Pete Campbell), Elizabeth Moss (Peggy Olson), Christina Hendricks (Joan Harris), Robert Morse (Bertram Cooper), Jessica Paré (Megan Draper) and Kiernan Shipka (Sally Draper) were tight-lipped about the final episodes, but the audience was still able to glean a little insight on the actors and the characters they play.
Moderator and TV Guide’s L.A. Bureau Chief, Michael Schneider, introduced show creator Matthew Weiner, who did not sit on the panel, but rather introduced the evening’s “clip,” which turned out to be the season six finale, “In Care Of.” We, like many other audience members, were hoping for a sneak peek at episode season 7, besides the hilariously vague trailers, but the finale is so good that all grumbling quickly subsided.
Here are 10 of our favorite moments/lines/insights from the Mad Men panel:
Jon Hamm. Hands down. He wore a three-piece grey suit and a red-checkered pocket square that looked like it could have been lifted right out of Don Draper’s closet.
Long before he was Bertram Cooper, Robert Morse was a song and dance man on Broadway. The Paley Center folks dug into their TV archives to find a clip of Morse singing his signature song, “I Believe in You,” from How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and screened it at the top of the program.
At 14, Kiernan Shipka, who plays Don’s daughter Sally, has spent half her life on Mad Men. “I’ve been on the show longer than I haven’t,” she said, adding that she’s sad not knowing what Sally’s going to be up to next.
Schneider got a huge crowd reaction when he acknowledged the Joan and Peggy “shippers” out there, and asked about the characters’ sometimes up-and-down office relationship. “They’re two very different women … but very strong and powerful,” said Moss, who recalled Weiner describing the relationship this way: “They were never going to be Laverne and Shirley.”
1968 was a rough year for Don Draper (battling alcoholism, a failing marriage, and a suspension from work), and Schneider asked Hamm to comment on his character’s arc. “He no longer has work, which was his one constant,” Hamm said. In that Hershey’s scene, Don is trying to process his life and job, Hamm said. “That was a completely honest moment for him.”
Schneider said that Weiner figured out the series finale somewhere between seasons four and five and asked the cast if they knew the ending. Hamm said that while they don’t know the overall scope, “I think some of us know where are characters are going to be.” He also added that it must be nice for writers to have a definitive end to work toward. “Without putting words in his mouth,” Hamm clarified. Then cracked, “Because he f-ing puts enough words in mine.”
The reticent Kartheiser talked about Pete’s journey in the last season. Pete’s mother’s passing wasn’t as much of an impact as the “fed-up-ness” of Trudy. “The one thing that was always consistent was Trudy,” he said. “And she’s had enough.”
“Someone cut together theme music from [the 1980s series] Benson,” Hamm said. It features the Bob Benson character front-and-center and imagines Mad Men as a sitcom. “It’s 45 seconds of your life, but you’re going to watch it 10 more times.”
An audience member asked about the use of silence to communicate in the show. In probably the funniest moment of the night, Hamm and Schneider engaged in a l-o-n-g staring contest—and the PaleyFest cameras played it up, cutting to different angles of Hamm’s visage.
Another audience member questioned whether the cast ever dreamt of their characters or of any other Mad Men characters. “I once had a dream that Pete Campbell was looking in a window at me,” said Kartheiser. “It creeped me out. Pete Campbell looks really creepy.” Morse added, “I dream of Jon.” (And we do, too!)
Christine N. Ziemba is a Los Angeles-based freelance pop culture writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow her on Twitter.