The first half of Mad Men's final season is right around the corner, and, to honor the brilliant AMC series, Time put together a cover story featuring an in-depth, riveting interview with creator Matthew Weiner for its print edition. With a show as dense, intricate, and slow-burning as Mad Men is, it's great to have the mastermind behind it shed some light on what lays beneath the iceberg.
The cover story isn't available online unless you're a paid subscriber, so if you want to check that out you'll either have to shell out some dough, get a hard copy, or go to Barnes and Noble and be a freeloader.
Luckily, Time did post an excerpt with a gallery of some set pieces here, and we've got you covered with some excerpts of the best bits below.
On the audience influencing the writing of characters:
I can’t take my cues from the audience anyway, because the one thing they hated the most was him being faithful to Megan. They were just tortured by that. People felt that we had taken the tension out of the show. But that is the story of the second wife. I’m going to do it right this time. I married for love. I know more than she does. I know more than I’ve ever known. And the minute that person expresses – the minute the object of affection expresses independence, it is a rejection. And that to me – Don’s almost like childish belief in romance was shattered and it broke his heart, it really did, in season five. So he ends up looking for someone who didn’t know him, like Sylvia. And he could take or leave Sylvia until she rejected him. It’s all very much about this guy’s attachment issues.
On Sally Draper's importance:
I think that [Don] realized that [Sally] was the crucial relationship. We tried to set it up with Grandma Ida, the woman who broke into the [apartment], that Sally really doesn’t know anything about him. His children don’t know, and that means that he is never going to be close to them. And I think that in the spirit of confession that was the beginning of him reconciling who he was to tear down the façade for his children. Specifically Sally who never saw – it’s not supposed to look like an excuse, like “Hey, this is where I grew up, that’s why I’m a dirtbag.” He’s just saying, I want you to know who I am. I’m willing to risk you rejecting me because I’m so ashamed of this.
The inspirations behind Don Draper's character:
[Don's identity] is the heart of the show, not just the father’s relationship with the kid. It’s the Jay Gatsby of it all. It’s an American iconographic–it’s in our DNA, these slightly picaresque figures who built this country that inspired the show for me. Rockefeller and Bill Clinton and Sam Walton and Lee Iacocca, people who came to be the leaders in this country–all of them came from poverty and none of them talked about their childhoods, or they lied about them. They invented themselves. And there’s a psychic cost to that.
How the present shaped the show's past:
1968, as I researched it, I realized I cannot pretend like this is not going to have an impact on people’s lives. There is an international revolution going on that year and it starts with so much hope and so much underdog spirit and so much virtue. And every one of these things is thwarted and crushed or killed literally. Martin Luther King is killed and that’s so shameful but it could be the thing that galvanizes the movement. And then you see Bobby Kennedy is killed. And then you see these Russians roll into Prague. And then you see the massacre in a Mexico City. And you see the French students being batted down. Finally to the Democratic convention where, on U.S. soil, we see a protest that looks like it’s happening in the third world. And then what happens at the end? Richard Nixon is the President. Please bring us back order, bring us back the conservatism, bring us back, you know, bring some order into this.
I embrace that because I felt that sensation last year. I really felt that people were exhausted and terrified by the economic disaster of the last few years; that they had very low self-esteem; that we had national anxiety about our place in the world; and national anxiety about our place in our community, and that theme of anxiety last year that Don was going to be out of control because the culture was out of control.
The dissonance, and what drives the three central female characters; Peggy, Betty, and Joan
Peggy is indestructible. She has some character flaws, certainly. She hasn’t been able to be herself in a relationship, and at work she’s very sure of herself to the point that people are constantly say to her, “Shut up!” And she’s like, “Why? How come you get to talk and I don’t?” That’s already just a very brave thing but it’s also a personality thing.
The most deliberate thing that I’ve tried to show about Betty is that she has no options, and some of that’s her fault. There are people around her who are succeeding and she’s not. She has very, very low expectations and her sense of herself almost defeats any kind of achievement outside of the home–yet she’s someone who maybe shouldn’t of had kids and doesn’t like being a mother. Not particularly introspective. And one of the great things I got to do was talk about her beauty. How much easier that made her life and how much shallower it made her life, whether she wanted it to or not. So those are the kinds of things that, whether characters are female or not, that I love talking about.
You take someone like Joan, slowly realizing that she had ambitions outside of marriage. Has it been limited by her options? Maybe a little bit, but she decided to have that child by herself. I don’t write like, “A woman thinks this way and a man thinks this way.” People think this way. And they think in their own interests. And yes, men and women are different on some level, but the crossover is ridiculous. I mean there have been very few things that have been gender specific behavior in the show.
On race and how and why it's dealt with on the show:
They live in New York–New York is not an integrated place despite people’s fantasies. The schools in California are not integrated until 1972. When you see something that takes place in the ’60s and there are black children and white children going to school together, it’s a lie... Let’s put it this way, I’m proud of the fact that not just guilty liberal white people noticed that black people were not in the show. And not just black people also. That there was a kind of confusion about whether it was some oversight, but I’m not telling the story of the civil rights movement. I’m telling a story of the mass culture and their experience of the civil rights movement.
Mad Men airs on April 6 on AMC.