Mad Men’s season premiere this Sunday was a highly anticipated television event, but no one predicted that the star everyone would be talking about the next day would be Jessica Paré, who plays Don Draper’s new wife Megan. Styleite got to chat with Paré about her role on the show and, of course, the clothes.
When you auditioned, did you know that Megan would play such a big role on the show?
No, absolutely not. I did three auditions for this, and I auditioned with scenes from previous seasons. There was nothing written at the time for Megan, although I’m sure it was all in [Matthew Weiner's] head — but I didn’t know what I was auditioning for, it was vaguely described as “female brunette”, so obviously it was kind of a great surprise.
What do you think Megan sees in Don?
He’s very smart, very funny. A fun, mature guy — he’s very sexy, obviously. I think her relationship with him, she doesn’t really see that side of him that the rest of us see watching the show. She doesn’t see a stern, tightly-laced Don Draper, she sees him as being as transparent as he possibly can be, as a wonderful man.
There was a hint in the premiere that Megan knows about Don’s past as Dick Whitman. How do you think she feels about that?
The way I took it was that she knows, and she doesn’t care. I mean, in the last season he does at one point sort of hint at a past and mistakes that he’s made. She blows it off at that point, which she is kind of doing here. You know, I don’t think she cares and it doesn’t affect the way she feels about him. She accepts the whole person in front of her, and that’s the reason that he is so happy with her, I think, because who doesn’t like that feeling?
Megan Draper and Betty Draper are obviously pretty different. What do you think is different about Megan and Don’s relationship?
Well, I obviously have put a lot more thought into Don’s relationship wtih Megan since I have been working on that part of it. But I think that the big surprise for this season is that they’re actually happy, that the two of them are really good together and they’re a pretty good match for one another. I think it’s interesting because we’ve never seen this side of Don. He doesn’t care about work anymore. He says [in the premiere], “I don’t care about work, I want you at work because I want you,” and I don’t think we’ve ever seen him go that far.
What was your scene direction for the fight at the end of the season premiere, and were you nervous to be doing it in lingerie?
The way I saw it is that she is his equal. Megan is Don’s equal in a lot of ways, and the way that she has some kind of power over him is that they are such a great match sexually and physically. So I think that [scene] is sort of her trying to regain the upper hand in that sense.
I was probably less nervous about that than I was about doing this right now, actually. I think that that scene is such a beautifully written, beautifully crafted piece of work that when I read it I totally forgot about the fact that I would be doing it in my bra and underwear. But I think it’s an interesting choice that Megan makes, and it actually has a lot of power, where someone might normally feel more vulnerable in their underwear.
How does Jon Hamm rate as a kisser?
He’s such an amazing, wonderful guy. Honestly, I love working with him so much. He’s a superbly talented actor, and he’s not bad-looking, I guess. In a sort of vague answer to your questions, there is nothing bad about working with him.
Megan’s clothing has obviously changed between seasons 4 and 5, and at one point her friend mentions that she’s a “great actress”. Is there an element of costuming or role-playing to Megan’s character that you have in mind when you’re playing her?
Well, now she’s Mrs. Draper. She has a little bit more money to spend on clothes. Last season she was dressing for the secretary part because there is of course a dress code in that office for that positon. Now, even though she works in the office, she is allowed to be a little bit more fashion forward. And then of course at home and at dinner and out on the street, she can be Megan — like, modern, cool, interesting Megan.
What is it like to transform into that character, hair and makeup-wise?Depending on the look it takes anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half in the hair and makeup trailer. The team on this show works so beautifully together. I’ve never seen a hair and makeup and wardrobe team work so wonderfully. [The costume department] is involved in every part of the process. And certainly you come in in the morning in jeans and a T-shirt, and you walk on to set in full period hair and makeup, and it has a very deep effect on the character.
Has that impacted your style in real life?
It has! working with [costume designer] Janie Bryant has definitely nudged me to try a little harder? I think I was pretty comfortable in jeans and a T-shirt before. I try to dress a little bit more like a lady now, and [wear] bolder colors too.
What have been your favorite costumes for Megan so far?
The color-block dress at the very end of the episode is a lot more mod than we’re used to seeing on the show, so I was really excited about that. And of course the “Zou Bisou Bisou” dress is one of my all-time favorites. And yeah, I wear a lot of coral [on the show], which is a bright color that I wouldn’t normally wear in my life.
Do you think Megan and Don being married and working together is going to work out great, or be a bit of a disaster?
I think it’s pretty beautifully outlined in the first two episodes how it can be exactly both. It also means drawing pretty specific lines in terms of their own intimacy because they’re both so happy in that intimacy and in their marriage. And, you know, when he says ‘the reason I didn’t want you to have a party is because I didn’t want those people in our home” — it’s about inviting those people and opening up their happiness and the
ir home to the sardonic stares of their co-workers. So it’s a delicate line to walk.