Emmys: Linda Cardellini Talks 'Mad Men' Casting, Sylvia's Inspiration

Mad Men Linda Cardellini Episode 7 - H 2013

Mad Men Linda Cardellini Episode 7 - H 2013

The season six guest star discusses auditions, her character's style and Gina Lollobrigida.

Things did not work out so well for Don (Jon Hamm) and Sylvia (Linda Cardellini), but the Mad Men mistress managed to weather the sixth season much better than her ill-fated partner in infidelity. The Drapers' devout Catholic neighbor kept her affair under wraps, despite the infamous Sally (Kiernan Shipka) walk-in, and even managed to keep her son out of Vietnam.

Sylvia may not have appeared in the sixth season ender, but Cardellini recently spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about her recurring guest spot and revealed which iconic actress of the 1960s creator Matthew Weiner had in mind when he called her in to audition.

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"They gave me a picture of Gina Lollobrigida," Cardellini says of the Italian starlet. "She had this sensuality and that short black hairstyle. The wig was fashioned after that."

Cardellini still isn't sure exactly who first thought of her to call her in and ask to audition, but she thinks it has something to do with her sharing Sylvia's Italian ancestry. "I think it was something he had thought about, and I know the description was she was an Italian American," she says. "And that was kind of the most info I got. So I went in and read with Matt, I did it a million different ways before I got the role."

The part, Cardellini's first since having her daughter in 2012, demanded she wear a wig for the role and extravagant clothing -- even when Sylvia was sitting home in her robe.

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"Sylvia has a fair amount of money. She's married to a successful surgeon, and she clearly likes clothes," explains Cardellini. "Janie [Bryant], the costume designer, really has a feel for each character and definitely from watching her work she is certainly much like an actor. She is in the subconscious of the characters. She'll just say, 'Oh, Sylvia wouldn’t wear that.' The things they picked out for me were beautiful. Putting on the wig and clothes and under garments really puts me into a mindset."

Of her onscreen romantic interest, with whom her last shared scene was cut short by Sally catching her philandering father in the act, Cardellini also has the highest praise.

"He's so talented and kind," she says of Hamm. "There are a lot of intimate scenes, and it's really nice to be working with someone who is so great at the role. I cant imagine anyone else in the world playing Don."