10:03pm PT by Michael O'Connell
'Mad Men': Jon Hamm and Co. Set the Stage for Season 7
The cast of Mad Men was on its best behavior at PaleyFest on Friday night, navigating away from spoilers about the upcoming seventh and final season -- even though creator Matt Weiner was not onstage to help police the panel.
After screening an encore of the sixth season finale -- fans groaned when Weiner, there for an introduction, broke the news that the April 13 premiere was not on deck -- Jon Hamm and the rest of the cast rehashed some of the bigger moments of the most recent episodes to air.
Hamm, first up, seemed to confirm that his alter ego did actually hit rock bottom during the sixth season.
"The one constant that has always been there for Don is the work, and work has always been something he could go back to," said Hamm. "At the end of season six, not only is his marriage in trouble, his relationship with his kids is tricky at best, and now work isn't there. … Don is a survivor. He rises to the challenge."
Vincent Kartheiser summed it up nicely. "Season one, everyone wanted to be Don Draper, and slowly fewer and fewer people do," he said. "Heavy is the head that wears the crown."
Hamm joked that the scene where daughter Sally (Kiernan Shipka) walks in on Don in flagrante with the neighbor lady is the worst for Don "that we've seen" -- and did seem relatively optimistic about his character's prospects in the final season. (Read into that what you will.) As for how much he knows of the last seven episodes they've yet to film, Hamm kept coy. "I think some of us know where our characters will be," he said. "I don't think any of us know what the scope or tone of the whole will be."
Elisabeth Moss, who endured several gentle ribbings about her recent New York Magazine cover referring to her as the "star" of the series, also kept upbeat about Peggy's status when she was last seen in 1968.
"Her battle all along has been, 'Should she be Don? Should she be Joan? Should she be someone's wife or mother?' She's finally figuring out that her role is as a woman, as who [she is], as Peggy," said Moss. "I don't think she's necessarily figured it out, but i think she's maybe starting to ask the right questions."
Moss and Christina Hendricks also tried to explain their characters' rare shared screen time. "They're these two planets orbiting around the office, and they collide for these big events," said Moss. "I think they've come to terms on this kind of equal ground. Matt always says that they're never going to be Laverne and Shirley. It's a different relationship, but it's a strong and interesting one.'
Since the cast goes to back to finish up the final episodes in just two weeks, they also talked about preparing to say goodbye. Shipka got the most laughs for her assessment.
"I've been on the show longer than I haven't, which is hard to think about," said the 16-year-old. "To not know what Sally is going to be up to anymore is a little sad."