'Mad Men' Actress Stephanie Drake on the Good Fortune of Being Turned Down by Don Draper

Mad Men Meredith - H 2015

Mad Men Meredith - H 2015

Meredith has become one of Mad Men's unsung heroes. Slowly rising in the assistant pool and ultimately taking a seat outside Don Draper's office, the character played by actress Stephanie Drake offers consistent comedic relief when many of those around can't overcome the AMC drama's trademark melancholy.

After almost succumbing to the all-too-familiar trend of Draper secretaries to sleep with the pitchman during last year's midseason finale, she's returned unscathed for the final run — and recently spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about the prop she wasn't allowed to keep, her awkward pass at Don and what she's really doing during the show's big meeting scenes.


People are really warming to Meredith. One blog suggested she run the entire office.
I don't know if there would still be an SC&P, but that's amazing. It's so nice that people are finally taking notice of little Meredith.

And she made two appearances in the typically cryptic teaser for this episode.
I saw it on Sunday night with everyone else. It's so hard to figure out what's going to happen, but I think most people know not to even ask me. They know I'm not going to say anything. My lips are sealed.

That's a smart move.
I wouldn't even want to know what the punishment would be.

Did you watch Mad Men before you joined the cast?
I'd never seen the show until the night before my audition. My parents were huge fans, and I'd heard them talk about it, but it was never really on my radar. I got my notice for the audition, so I watched one and realized how good it was. Then, once I got the part, I went back and binged all of the seasons in probably in a week.

Becoming Don's secretary can be the kiss of death or the golden ticket.
It can really go either way. I think the real kiss of death is sleeping with Don. When I was rejected by him, after I planted that big ol' kiss, I figured I might be able to stick around. They did a little Mad Men by the numbers, and I'm his ninth secretary.

Where do you think she ranks?
I think she's No. 1, definitely. He's had fantastic secretaries in the past. Miss Blankenship was a hoot, but I'm partial to myself.

Did you ever feel a sense of job security being in so much of the final season?
Without a contract, I never knew when I was coming back. I was elated whenever I was pinged for a new episode. Originally, when I got the part, I had three episodes that season — but I never knew that was even a possibility. They had just said there was potential for recurring. I didn't want to get my hopes up. I can't say anything about the second part of the seventh season, but I'm obviously in the first two.

Were there any challenges that surprised you on the show?
The hardest scenes were always the big conference room scenes when I became the note-taker in season six. They were so long, with so many people in them.

Did you actually take notes?
I was doodling and writing little messages. The pen I used in every episode was this thick pen from the '60s. I wanted to keep it when the show wrapped, but the props guy was like, "No, it's actually rented. We have to give it back." "Are you kidding me? I can't keep my pen?"

Of course Mad Men would rent the right pen.
It would run out of ink very quickly, so a lot of the times I was making indentations in the page rather than actually writing.

Meredith made an unsuccessful play for Don at the end of the first half of last season that was simultaneously sweet and a little sad.
I came in with the idea that I already know who Meredith is and how she'd react to situations. I think Matthew [Weiner] was surprised by how serious it turned out to be. Meredith takes her job so seriously, and she adores her boss, clearly. It was awkward and exciting and embarrassing … I kissed Jon Hamm. But I was thrilled with how it turned out.

If he'd taken the bait, we probably wouldn't be talking today.
I don't know if he would have fired me, but I probably would have been put on somebody else's desk. As awful as it was being rejected, I'm glad nothing happened. They have a good relationship now.

Mad Men courts a very Hollywood audience. Have your prospects increased with your screen time?
I will say that this past week has been my busiest week of auditions ever. I've had more than in like the past year. I'm not sure if it's a coincidence or because Mad Men started airing again, but it's been a good week. I'm hoping it continues, but I look a lot different in real life then I do on the show. I don't know that anyone actually recognizes me.

What do you want to do next?
It's funny because I never thought I'd be on a show like Mad Men. I always pictured myself in the single-camera comedy world, but it's been so much fun to be a comedic part of such a serious show.

And how do you think things turn out for Meredith in the years after the finale?
I think she'll stay a secretary. Hopefully she'll meet a nice guy. But I feel like Meredith could do whatever she sets her mind to. If she wants to be a copywriter, I don't see why not.