Here's a tip: If you ever get a chance to talk to the cast of "Mad Men," don't even bother asking what's going to happen on the new season. They're not telling.
"I’m as frustrated as you guys, because I get excited to talk about it and can’t," January Jones (Betty) told reporters at a "Mad Men" press event last month. Season 6 of AMC's acclaimed drama debuts this Sunday, and fans still know next to nothing about what's next for Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Jon Hamm (Don) got the biggest laugh of the day by enigmatically draping a scarf over his face and referring to the cast's reputation as "cryptic secret-keepers."
Creator Matthew Weiner insists that all the ambiguity is necessary, though: "The events in the story are so fragile on this show. The scale is so small that when you give it away, it's immediately not as much fun." And since "Mad Men" remains the best drama anywhere on TV, we'll give him the benefit of the doubt on that one.
But that still leaves us with a lot of questions heading into Season 6 -- five in particular. Luckily, we were able to piece together some clues from speaking to the cast and Weiner that might shed some light on the new season. We hope. If not, Sunday's only two days away, right?
(1) Is Don cheating on Megan?
We know a lot of you out there are rooting for this one, with all the backlash last season against Don's (mostly) happy marriage to his ex-secretary Megan. "I think Don's fidelity, honestly, was surprising to a lot of people," Hamm says, and Weiner agrees: "Last season, he was faithful, and it was confusing to people that he had almost this schoolgirl perception of what that relationship was going to be."
Still, the cracks in Don and Megan's relationship began to show when Megan quit her job at SCDP and went back to pursuing an acting career. As Weiner puts it, "it was narcissistically difficult for [Don]… to see the life he'd picked for her rejected, to see whatever romantic fantasy he had for her rejected because she had a will of her own and had a desire to have a profession."
And of course, last season ended on an emotional cliffhanger, with Don literally walking away from Megan and being approached by an attractive woman at a bar, who asked him "Are you alone?" Hamm says, "We left off Season 5 with the question 'Are you alone?' It's a different question than 'Are you single?' It's a different question than 'Are you lonely?' And it's a different question than 'Are you with anyone?'… We find out more in Season 6 about why Don is how he is, and why Don does what he does. His house is built on a weak foundation. He's a fundamentally damaged and broken guy."
(2) Peggy's still around, right?
Since Elisabeth Moss participated in this year's press day, we can actually answer this one with an emphatic "Yes!" Although Moss didn't even want to concede that much: "Maybe this is a huge trick. This is a big red herring!"
After four-and-a-half seasons of working under Don's tutelage, copywriter Peggy Olson (Moss) broke out on her own last season and jumped ship to a rival firm. And Moss was as worried as we were that Peggy would be written out as a result. "[Weiner] called me and said, 'All this stuff's gonna happen, and you're gonna leave,'" she recalls. "I literally was like, 'That sounds amazing! Am I still on the show?' He was actually a little bit offended and he was like, 'Of course! Yes!'" (Whew.)
Peggy's move does make sense within the corporate culture of advertising, as Moss notes: "It's very common for people in advertising to flip around and go to different places." And Peggy takes what she's learned from Don to her new position. "Don is what her idea of what a boss is, so obviously she's learned how to be a boss from him. She tries her hand at that a little bit, but ultimately she's still Peggy and she's not Don."
Is there anything Don does as a boss that Peggy wouldn't do? "Probably sleep with her secretary… just because she's straight. If she got a male secretary, you never know."
(3) Will Joan be respected as a partner at the firm?
One of the biggest moments from Season 5 was the office's queen bee Joan (Christina Hendricks) agreeing to sleep with a client in exchange for a partnership role at the firm. But just because she's a SCDP partner now doesn't mean she's on equal footing with the boys. "Are people going to just all of a sudden turn around and say, 'Oh, Joan's a partner. Let's treat her like a partner'?" Hendricks muses. "Or is how she got there going to affect things? Is it just a title and everything is the same as usual? That is something going into Season 6 that we explore with Joan."
But no matter how Joan acquired her title as partner, Hendricks believes she's earned it. "I do think that Joan thinks she deserves the title and deserves the job, and I think she has proven herself to be incredibly capable and quite talented at it. So I think if she found out she wasn't getting the respect she deserved, it would bother her." You hear that, Roger Sterling? Behave yourself.
(4) Are the fashions even crazier this year?
If you've checked out any photos from the new season, you already know the answer to this one is a big fat "Yes." Season 6 moves even further into the late '60s, and the fashions follow suit, with lots of psychedelic outfits around the SCDP office and long hair and sideburns on the guys. John Slattery (Roger) won't even give us that much, though: "I will neither confirm nor deny the existence of sideburns." (Relax, John; we've already seen the photos.)
Hendricks likes what she sees this season: "I think the men's fashion this year is standout. It is definitely groovier. My outfit in that first episode… I feel like Daphne from 'Scooby-Doo.'"
But Moss thinks Peggy is hopelessly behind the times: "She'll always wear pantyhose and consider it appropriate to wear hats and gloves. It's funny, because as we've gone through the '60s, she used to be quite progressive, but she's actually become old-fashioned, I think." That goes for Don, too: He's still rocking his 1960 look of close-cropped hair, short sideburns, and dapper suits. If it ain't broke, right?
(5) Is Betty still fat?
Another Season 5 shocker: Don's ex-wife and former model Betty Francis ballooned into an overweight housewife, gobbling whipped cream straight from the can. We can't reveal if Betty is back to her rail-thin self this year (though you'll get your answer in Sunday's premiere), but the switch originally sprang from Jones' real-life pregnancy. As Jones reveals, "I was only actually pregnant under the fat suit for one episode. I think that [Weiner] just liked that storyline."
Did Jones like it, though? "It was extremely challenging, just physically and time-wise, because I had 6 or 7 hours of prosthetics, so I’d have to arrive at work at 3 in the morning, and then an hour to take it off at the end of the day. I never missed my girdle so much, as much as I complained about it. But I loved how I felt in [the fat suit], too, because I just felt that it lent so much to Betty and made her a bit more sympathetic. People empathize with her a bit more, I think." And anything that lets us empathize with a monster like Betty can only be a good thing.
Season 6 of "Mad Men" premieres Sunday, 4/7 at 9 PM on AMC.
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