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TCA: 'Mad Men' cast hopes to escape death, revels in accolades

July 9, 2008 | 12:45 pm

When "Mad Men" begins its second season July 27, it jumps in time to 1962. But as for what will unfold in the rest of the season, even series creator Matthew Weiner is waiting to see.

“[The first season] in 1960 was very much like [2007],” Weiner told a standing-room-only crowd of reporters Wednesday morning on Day 2 of the Television Critics Assn. Press Tour. “We’ll see how the election goes, what the mood is right now. I’m sure that you’ll see a lot of overlap.”

The cast is in on only some of the mystery going forward.

“You hope for the best," said cast member John Slattery (Roger Sterling). "When we get these scripts we’re texting each other, ‘Can you believe that?' and oohing and aaaahing. It’s so unpredictable.

“I mean, we don’t know very much in advance at all. I’m afraid to ask, it could be your own death -- especially for me!” Slattery continued, only half-joking. (His character suffered a heart attack in the first-season finale.) “If I’m in it, I’m happy.”


Jon Hamm (Don Draper), the show's star, who is presumably safe for at least this season, chimed in. “You’re forced to play what you know, what’s in front of you,” Hamm explained. “You don’t know if you’re going to be fired in two weeks, so you play it.”

The AMC drama, set on Madison Avenue in the midst of the cultural revolution of the 1960s, is basking in accolades that have only gained momentum as the Emmy Awards nominations draw near.

The cast is still rather taken aback when it comes to its phenomenon status. “It’s encompassed two and a half years of most of all our lives and I’ve been proud of this thing from the beginning,” Hamm said. “To have it validated and vindicated . . .  is amazing.”

No one seemed concerned that the show’s first season averaged fewer than 1 million viewers, a small tally even for cable. “I don’t think anyone is looking at this like it’s not a commercial success,” Weiner said. “I don’t hear A&E anymore, I hear AMC,” which has recently made inroads into original drama with the well-received “Broken Trail”  miniseries and the dark comedy “Breaking Bad.” “I do hope as the network becomes more popular, the show will draw a larger audience.”

Since the show’s premiere last year, the media has painted Weiner as a exacting perfectionist and demanding boss, something he doesn't deny. After reading a recent lengthy profile published in the New York Times Magazine, “I looked at my wife and said, ‘That’s me,’ ” he said. “It’s a very accurate of a person who does this job, at least for me.”

Weiner also took time to talk about former boss David Chase, who hired him to write for “The Sopranos”  after he read the pilot script of “Mad Men.”

“I talk to David quite a bit,” he said. Chase called Weiner after watching the series on DVD. “Obviously it was a private moment, but he was very positive about the show and it meant a lot to me.”

-- Denise Martin

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Below: "Mad Men" cast shares behind-the-scenes secrets at The Envelope Emmy Screening Series panel.

Photo: "Mad Men" cast members January Jones (Betty Draper) and Jon Hamm (Don Draper) joke about Betty Draper's poor communication skills at the TCA panel on Wednesday in Beverly Hills. (AP Photo/ Matt Sayles)