Drinking. Smoking. Womanizing. Advertising. When all is said and done, AMC’s Mad Men—staring Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss—is going to go down as one of the most thought about and talked about shows of the past decade. Much more than a program about advertisers living in New York City in the 1960s, the show examines happiness, gender power structures, racism, sex, culture, and the power of advertisements and the men (and women) who write them. But, behind the cloud of never ending cigarette smoke and bottomless glasses of scotch, are some delightful factoids that you might not have known about the period piece.
There are some potential Spoilers below, so be careful when reading through!
10. Christina Hendricks is Not a Natural Red Head
As Joan Holloway-Harris, Christina Hendricks is the indomitable head secretary turned account woman who runs the Sterling Cooper and Partners ad agency with an iron fist—and a sashay that stops powerful men in their tracks, turned head and bug-eyed. One of the breakout characters of the show, everyone can’t help but love the buxom red head who’s life advice consists of, “men love scarves.” But Christina Hendricks, a relatively unknown prior to this role, began dying her hair when she was young, inspired by Anne of Green Gables. Her natural hair color? Blonde. The next time you tune in, try picturing Joan as a blonde. Just not the same.
9. John Slattery’s Wife Portrays his Fictional Spouse
On the show, Roger Sterling (John Slattery) is not known for his fidelity. The silver haired fox born with an equally silver spoon in his mouth, has a weakness for young pretty secretaries—from Joan to Jane. However, Roger does have a family. Audiences were introduced fairly early on to Roger’s pouty and spoiled daughter Margaret (who this season gave it all up to become a hippie), and Roger’s wife, Mona, wrapped in furs and dripping with diamonds. But it turns out, it’s more of a family affair than you might know: Mona Sterling is portrayed by Talia Balsam, John Slattery’s real life wife. Once you learn this, Roger and Mona’s sparky and contentious chemistry becomes even more entertaining.
8. Jared Harris has a Famous Father
In season three, Mad Men took on the British Invasion in the only way Mad Men would ever tackle that cultural phenomena: by introducing a stuffy British number cruncher named Lane Pryce. While audiences were hesitant to warm up to Lane, affections were secured when Lane helped Don start a new company away from the prying British eyes at the end of third season. Lane then stayed on as chief financial advisor until this tragic death at the end of the fifth season. Jared Harris portrays Lane, and if that surname sounds familiar it’s because his father is Richard Harris. Richard Harris is best known for his role as King Arthur in the musical Camelot and as playing everyone’s favorite headmaster and wizard, Albus Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter films.
7. Jessica Pare Recorded a Hit Song for Mad Men
Don Draper’s life fell apart in the fourth season after his disastrous divorce from this first wife, Betty. It was only after he took a trip to California, with his children and secretary-of-the-moment Megan Calvet in tow, that Don got his groove back—by marrying said secretary. The fifth season saw Don and Megan living in actual happiness, before invariably falling apart as all of Don’s liaisons do. But the first moment of wedded bliss the audience was privy to was Megan’s birthday gift to Don: a song and dance at his party. Not just any song and dance, mind you. Megan dressed the nines, and sang a very sexy version of “Zou Bisou.” The song, which signaled the on-coming openness about sex in the late ‘60s, was a hit with audiences. Pare recorded it in studio and it landed number one on Billboard’s world music.
6. Glen Bishop’s Father is the Show’s Creator
In season one, a divorced mother with a adolescent son named Glen moved into Don’s country suburban neighborhood. The storyline provided a challenge to the status quo as Don’s wife, Betty, struggled with jealousy over Glen’s mother’s freedom, and her indignation over a single divorced mother moving into a house by herself. Betty and the young Glen began a rather bizarre (and somewhat inappropriate) friendship. Betty, who has always been a bit of a child herself, found a confidant in the nine year old. If the nine year old looked familiar, it’s because his real name is Marten Weiner, son of series creator and lead writer Matthew Weiner. Marten has since appeared in almost every season since, Glen having formed a new friendship with Betty’s daughter, Sally.
5. January Jones Auditioned for a Different Role
When series creator Matt Weiner wrote the pilot for the show, Betty Draper, Don’s wife and mother of his children, was not planned. There were to be vague references that Don was married, but Betty was never going to be a fleshed out role. How did this character come to be? Even though they’ve been divorced for four seasons now, Betty continues to be a part of Mad Men. Well, January Jones happened. Originally, Jones auditioned for the role of Peggy Oslon, Don’s secretary and eventual protégée. After Weiner saw Jones audition, he decided to flesh out Don’s wife and offered the role to Jones. And since then Jones has been playing the blonde ice queen.
4. AMC Was Not the First Choice of Network
Before Mad Men began in 2006, the cable channel “American Movie Classics” was known for only one thing: classic Hollywood movies. It was not known for original programming or where writers went to pitch their ideas. In the early 2000s, AMC decided to try and change their image to opening their doors to more original programming. Matt Weiner did not go to AMC first, but rather went to Showtime (who turned him down) and his old Soprano’s stomping ground of HBO (who also turned him down). It was AMC who decided to take a chance on the show. For a channel that had yet to really establish itself as a hot spot for original and good content, it was a major risk. How is AMC doing today? Not bad. They air three of the biggest show–ratings and monetary wise–on TV: along with Mad Men, they count The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad as their shows.
3. New York is Not the Center of the Show
The city of New York. The metropolis is where Don works, drinks and philanderers. But, shockingly, the show itself does not shoot in New York City. Every episode, with the exception of the pilot episode, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” was shot in Los Angeles. Ironically, the seventh season of the show, divides its time equally between Don in New York City and Megan, a struggling actress, in Los Angeles, focusing on how different the cities are and how much havoc its playing on their marriage.
2. Fake Props
It wouldn’t be Mad Men if the characters weren’t constantly smoking. Every character smokes regularly and in every possible place and situation. Whether it’s in the boardroom, in the kitchen, in an airplane, or whether it’s a doctor who lights up as he examines a patient, a thin layer of smoke overlays almost every scene in the show. And those cigarettes being lit up? All 100% fake. The cigarettes are herbal and according to star Jon Hamm, taste absolutely horrible.
1. The Real Mad Man
Don Draper has become one of the most iconic and loved/hated characters on TV. With his hat, his raw sexuality, his ability to persuade anyone and everyone to buy his ideas, and with a past that haunts him everywhere he goes, not to mention a superb performance by Jon Hamm, Don seems almost too good to be true. But it turns out that creator Matt Weiner based his Don Draper on a real life ad man, Draper Daniels, out of the real Leo Burnett advertising agency in Chicago. Real creative director Daniels is best known for creating the famous Marlboro Man in the 1950s. While Mad Men’s Don Draper is unique in his history and psychology, Weiner did use the real ad man’s relationship with big tobacco in season one, where Don saves his agency’s tobacco client, Lucky Strike, with a genius campaign.
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