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Mad Men is quietly careening toward its May 17 series finale on AMC, offering up subtle hints about the possible endgame during these last episodes with the addition of more guest stars — both old and new.
Spoilers ahead for anybody who has yet to watch.
Sunday’s episode, “The Forecast,” brought the notable return of Glen Bishop (played by creator Matthew Weiner‘s son Marten Holden Weiner) and the addition of a suitor for Joan (Christina Hendricks) in Bruce Greenwood. It also marked the first real focus on the Francis household and Sally (Kiernan Shipka) since the show’s recent return.
Jennifer Getzinger directed the episode. On board Mad Men since the pilot as a script supervisor, she returned to helm her 10th and final episode of the series. She spoke with The Hollywood Reporter on Monday about the many different takes on the show’s final run thus far, what it’s like to direct your boss’ teenage son during an awkward May-December encounter and what’s perhaps the most famous scene she ever took on.
Is there added any pressure directing the boss’ son — especially flirting with January Jones?
There’s pressure, but not in a bad way. When Marten comes on set, that’s his dad. And he acts like his dad. Matt wasn’t even there that much. [Matt] was like, “I’m going to make him nervous, and I’m going to be nervous” — not in a bad way, in a loving way. [Matt] also didn’t want to embarrass him because of all the sexual stuff. [Marten] really just goes for it. I loved the scene with Betty at the end, in particular. He’s very tender and very vulnerable. It’s kind of all we could ask for. It’s nice. Marten has known me for years now, and I think he was comfortable that I was doing the episode.
You’ve also worked with Kiernan since she was a little kid.
I had an episode early on where Kiernan had a great storyline with her grandfather, where she steals money from him. She was such a little kid and she still had that lisp. But even then, Matt was like, “She’s an actor. You can talk to her like an actor.” I tried, and he was right. She understood the process. Now she adds such subtlety to the way she does things, and so many layers. It’s amazing. I think for her, the greatest training has been to have scenes with Jon Hamm and January Jones. It’s so much of why she’s become a really lovely actress.
Sally seemed to be in a good place with her father last season, but they took a few steps back after her friend flirted with him. What do you think of their relationship right now?
Imagine Don Draper being your father. There are so many charming, lovely, wonderful things about him — but there’s so many destructive elements to his person. People talk about how awful it is for her having Betty as a mother, but she has Don as a father. This poor kid. I think it’s interesting because Kiernan gets that. I also did the scene with her in “Favors” where she walks in on Don with Sylvia [Linda Cardellini]. It was such a huge moment for her. We never actually had her in the room when they were together, but she knew what the scene was about. And we talked a lot about the betrayal. [Sally]’s the one who always stood up for him, and [Kiernan] really got that. I feel like doing the scene in the Chinese restaurant and at the bus depot, she’s carrying the weight of all the stuff that’s happened prior with her. I also thought Jon played it perfectly. In a way, he’s being kind of innocent. But he’s responding to it just enough that it justifies Sally being upset.
People have always been divided on whether the show is heading toward tragedy or something hopeful. Have you ever leaned either way?
It’s somewhere in between. To me, we dole out the hopeful moments in very small kernels. It makes them that more impactful. I so loved the storyline with Joan in this episode. We haven’t seen Joan in a situation like that, a hopeful moment where it seems like her future could be different. She never gets that. It’s what I think works so much about the show. Those moments come out in small doses. Maybe it’s sad that I think that’s more what life is like. You only get peppered with these golden moments in your life, and that’s what we try to do on the show. There’s certainly tragedy and self-destruction from everybody, not just Don. I certainly wouldn’t call it a hopeful show. And I didn’t read any scripts after my episode. I want to watch it as a viewer, so I really don’t know how it ends.
What’s your take on the influx of guest stars in the last episodes?
Bruce is obviously the only one I’ve worked with. They picked him very carefully. There were many, many others we were thinking about for that role. Who’s the guy for Joan? — or, at least, that when we see him, that could be him. He did a great job, but it is strange adding new energy to the show. In a lot of ways, it makes it exciting. Christina is so lovely in this episode. You saw her sparkling around him, and part of it was this new person coming in. It’s a great energy. It’s something we’ve always done a lot of — especially with Don and these women. Some will last a whole season and others will last only an episode. I think it’s more a part of his endless searching. With Diana, it’s an interesting way for him to explore something more grounded. It didn’t work between them, but before that he’s just hanging out with girls and spilling wine on his rug. At least it forced him to deal with the ideas of life and death. Something I love about this episode: It’s called “The Forecast,” and it’s all about the future. But I love that it’s such a complicated thing, because everybody has this angst about it. It almost feels like as the show is coming close to the end, all of the characters are asking, “What is my future?” It’s what a lot of people go through. And what’s interesting is how many different outlooks there are. Peggy was trying to be hopeful, and Don is still mired in his whole lost soul thing. What Peggy’s saying in her review is exactly what Don would have wanted. It’s what he did want. It’s what he achieved and was proud of.
The final shot of Don outside of the apartment parallels the parting shot of him in the apartment the week prior. How much did you know about that scene?
I had read it. I knew he ended up on the inside in the last one and now he’s on the outside. I didn’t know how [the previous episode’s director] Mike [Uppendahl] had shot it or anything, but I knew the stillness and the image of him alone would be similar.
Do you have a favorite shot in the episode?
I do love that one, the ending. It’s funny, I love the simple things — like when Bruce brings flowers to Joan. We just had this two-shot, and I remember moving it around and trying different things. I just love the simplicity of the way it ends. You feel the office moving around her, left with these flowers. It’s her in her element. I feel like some of the best moments on Mad Men are the smaller ones.
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