Jessica Pare has followed in her Mad Men predecessor January Jones' footsteps in more ways than one. Not only is her character Megan a trophy wife married to Jon Hamm's slick ad man, Don Draper, but Pare, like Jones, has been catapulted to fame because of the prestigious role.
Don proposed to Megan in the Season Four finale. But Pare immediately proved her mettle in Sunday's Season Five premiere, after singing Gillian Hills' "Zou Bisou Bisou" song and performing a little light-S&M housekeeping while wearing black lace lingerie.
Prior to appearing on Mad Men, Jones was known largely for for her red carpet strolls with singer Josh Groban, although she enjoyed good roles in films such as Love Actually, Full Frontal, American Wedding and The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. Prior to landing her role on the show, Pare appeared in Stardom and Lost and Delirious, as well as the made-for-TV movies Bonanno: A Godfather’s Tale, Random Passage and the WB series Jack and Bobby.
Particularly with such a crowded ensemble of comely actresses, Pare's secretarial role could have been just another credit for her resume. Instead her name -- and that sexy French pop song – became trending topics on Twitter and Facebook almost immediately after the season premiere broadcast on Sunday night.
The show's impact on her appearance stands out the most when she hits the red carpet. After changing her hair color from light brown to a dark brunette for the role, she's started wearing more glamorous make-up, as if perhaps anticipating her future status as a fashion plate. She admits that the ‘60s costumes built by the show’s costume designer Janie Bryant have definitely influenced her own personal wardrobe.
"Working with Janie Bryant has definitely nudged me to try a little harder," Paré says. "I was pretty comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt before, but I try to dress a little more like a lady now and in bolder colors too."
Her favorite Mad Men dress so far? Her vintage "Zou Bisou Bisou" black minidress with sheer pleated sleeves. And while the floor-cleaning sex scene may have shocked some, she says the period lingerie was really no big deal, admitting "There was probably more coverage than a few bathing suits I own."
Jones' Mad Men profile landed her a brand ambassador gig with Versace, which evidenced by her fringed get-up at the 2010 Golden Globes she wears exceptionally well. Meanwhile, she's donned dresses from other iconic designers in red-carpet appearances from seasons past: she's worn Lanvin and Roland Mouret many times, including to the Season Five premiere earlier this month. But despite Jones' recent ubiquitousness, Jessica Pare seems destined to land on several designers' shortlists herself as the Emmys rapidly approach.
We also suspect that even without directly competing with one another, Mad Men producers might pit the two actresses against one another -- if only on the show itself. (It's natural for a second wife to feel competitive with her predecessor, and vice versa, right?) But regardless how the show and these two stars handle their sartorial (much less relationship) shake-ups, it's pretty clear that whichever actress prevails, it's viewers who will really win.