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Jon Hamm Apologizes for Don Draper While Joan and Peggy Plan a Spin-Off at the PaleyFest 'Mad Men' Panel

Photo of Ben Travers By Ben Travers | Indiewire March 22, 2014 at 11:47AM

While a few cast members were absent, Jon Hamm and Elizabeth Moss kept things rolling at Paleyfest.
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Jon Hamm, Vincent Kartheiser, and Elizabeth Moss at PaleyFest 2014.
Kevin Parry/ Paley Center for Media Jon Hamm, Vincent Kartheiser, and Elizabeth Moss at PaleyFest 2014.

"Pete...he's in deep shit right now."

Vincent Kartheiser's summary of his character's current situation is as close to a reveal regarding the upcoming season of "Mad Men" as we got Friday night at the AMC drama's PaleyFest panel. While many shows under the microscope at the event debut clips from future episodes if not the episodes in their entirety, the always-secretive Matthew Weiner instead introduced the season six finale before the cast remained tight-lipped about anecdotes for season seven during a Q&A.

"I think some of us know where our characters are going to be," Jon Hamm said when pressed about whether he or the rest of the cast knew how the show would end. "But we don't know the scope or vibe or tone of the what the whole will be." 

Jon Hamm answers questions at PaleyFest 2014.
Kevin Parry/Paley Center for Media Jon Hamm answers questions at PaleyFest 2014.

That's not to say the actors weren't eager to talk -- or not talk, as Hamm illustrated with an epic staring contest with moderator Michael Schneider. Below are the highlights of the hour-long panel discussion with Hamm, Kartheiser, Elizabeth Moss, Christina Hendricks, Jessica Paré, Robert Morse and Kiernan Shipka (Weiner introduced the clip and then did not return for the Q&A).

Do not get into a staring contest with Jon Hamm.

You will lose. Hamm was asked how he prepares for the many scenes in "Mad Men" that ask him to convey thoughts without words, and Hamm's reply was appropriately wordless. The show's central figure -- a fact disputed by a recent New Yorker cover story also discussed at the panel -- merely turned his head and stared at moderator Michael Schneider, choosing to convey his answer the same way Don Draper so often does on the show. This quickly turned into a staring contest, with Hamm refusing to change expression, let alone blink. After a good minute or so, Schneider gave up in order to continue the Q&A, but the point was made: don't look at Jon Hamm directly in the eyes.

The cast is in denial about the show ending.

Early on, the cast was asked for how the group is coping with an end on the horizon. After saying they're getting ready to shoot the final seven episodes "a week from today," Hamm said, "We're in some phase of grief, and it's probably denial. I think we are collectively starting to realize the end is coming faster than we thought it would. There's nothing we could do to prepare for it, [but] we're going to have as much fun as we've always had making the show until we can't make it anymore."

"I don't know. I'm scared," added Kartheiser. "I hope I have something to go to."

Robert Morse, who plays Bertram Cooper, joked perhaps they could convince Matthew Weiner to keep making the show. "Maybe we could all change roles," Morse said (Hamm as Roger Sterling? Yes, please.).

Vincent Kartheiser and Elizabeth Moss at Paleyfest 2014.
Kevin Parry/Paley Center for Media Vincent Kartheiser and Elizabeth Moss at Paleyfest 2014.

Peggy Olson is the star of the show.

Much was made about the recent New York Magazine cover story on Elizabeth Moss. Schneider brought out the magazine to show the audience, and referenced its suggestion her character, Peggy, is actually the show's star -- an opinion supported by the sixth season finale's shot of Peggy mimicking Don's position in the opening credits. "I think her battle all along is about who she should be," Moss said. "Should she be Don? Should she be Joan? Now she's finally asking, 'Who am I?' I think that's the story of women in the workplace at that time. 'Should we be more like the boys?' I don't think she's necessarily figured it out by the end of season six, but I think she's starting to ask the right questions."

Joan and Peggy: The Spin-off

"Breaking Bad" is giving us "Better Call Saul." Could "Mad Men" give us a spin-off, too? After being asked about the relationship between Joan and Peggy on the show, Christina Hendricks and Moss tossed around the idea of pairing up on their own. "She's always going to be smarter than Peggy," Moss said about Joan. "She's always going to be a little bit more on top of things than Peggy. They were never going to be roommates. They were never going to be Laverne and Shirley. It's a strong and interesting one. I think it's very common for women in the workplace." 

Then Moss interrupted, responding positively to the "Laverne and Shirley" comment. Schneider said he would watch it, and the duo laughed off the admittedly incorrect, if intriguing idea.

Kiernan Shipka, Jessica Pare, and Christina Hendricks at PaleyFest 2014.
Michael Kovac/Paley Center for Media Kiernan Shipka, Jessica Pare, and Christina Hendricks at PaleyFest 2014.

They don't really read the internet (so we can say anything we want!).

Jessica Paré was asked if she'd paid attention to the wild internet rumors regarding her character, Megan, in season six. "Generally, I don't," she said. "I pay attention to the writers. They usually know."

Later, Jon Hamm was asked about the intense speculation regarding Bob Benson, the always-smiling, always-around office worker. 

"I think it just goes to show with the Megan/Sharon Tate mystery as well," Hamm said. "The way the show doles out information is very oblique sometimes. When that's the case, and when people are invested in the characters and the story, [they] try to fill in the blanks in an attempt to get ahead of the story for whatever reason. Really, it means people are engaged in the narrative."

As for his first reaction to the new characters? "Who is this guy? Two coffees and a lot of words," Hamm joked.

Jon Hamm, Vincent Kartheiser, and Elizabeth Moss answer questions at PaleyFest 2014.
Kevin Parry/Paley Center for Media Jon Hamm, Vincent Kartheiser, and Elizabeth Moss answer questions at PaleyFest 2014.

Hamm does, however, love YouTube.

Hamm enthusiastically recommended a YouTube video that uses the music from "Benson," a 1980s sitcom starring Robert Guillaume, and clips from "Mad Men." "If anyone hasn't seen it, by the way, you all need to go on YouTube," Hamm told the audience. "It's 45 seconds of your life, but then you're going to watch it 10 more times. It's amazing." 

Favorite moments on "Mad Men:"

Hamm: "For me it was the first day we started shooting. The knee-trembling abject terror from taking this from the theoretical realm into the actual realm and saying the words I had been practicing being terrified and exhilarated all at once. That never gets old. And you have to remember, this was a pilot for a network that had never produced anything original. They had just been showing old movies. It was a big gamble, and we all knew that, but we also found it pretty special."

Kartheiser: "For me, as Pete, it was season one. There was this scene where I'm chasing [Don] through the office and the desperation of the character started to sneak out form under its shell. It was the first of many layers I had the pleasure of trying to portray."

Moss remembered a moment after shooting the pilot when she and Weiner were standing on the roof of the sound stage watching the sun set. "Well, that was really wonderful," she remembered saying about the shoot. "'I hope we get to come back and do it again.' It was just a very honest moment with Matt."

Hendricks: "I guess the first thing that popped into my head was when I received the script in season one for episode five titled 'Babylon,'" she remembered, saying it was the first time Joan really got her time to shine. "She was doing stuff I would never do, and I [gasped] and said, 'That would be so much fun!'"

Matthew Weiner with the "Mad Men" cast at PaleyFest 2014.
Michael Kovac/Paley Center for Media Matthew Weiner with the "Mad Men" cast at PaleyFest 2014.

Morse: "I think it was in her dressing room..." Morse joked, motioning to Hendricks who mocked confusion upon hearing of her peeping Tom. Morse then went on to say his actual favorite moment was when Bertram Cooper got to tell Pete "Who cares?" after he tried ratting out Don as a fraud.

Paré remembered the finale of season four when Don proposed to Megan. "I didn't know it was going to happen," she said, before recounting how a member of the props department came in and asked, "'I don't know how to do this, but I need to measure your ring finger.' She was putting the ring on my finger, and I was like, 'Yes!'"

Shipka's favorite scenes were when Sally ate ice cream with her grandfather and he told her she could be whoever she wanted. Shipka called it a "pivotal moment for Sally." Shipka also said when Sally's grandfather died was "one of the most emotional scenes I've ever done."

Quick Quips:

"You just get to see her boobs for the first time," Moss said regarding Peggy's altered wardrobe in season six.

"Probably not," Hamm answering an audience member's question on whether or not Don and Betty will get back together before the series ends.

"I once had a dream that Pete Campbell was looking in a window at me. It's true. I did! It creeped me out. Pete Campbell is really creepy,"" Kartheiser said after a fan asked if any of the cast had dreams about their characters.

"I think we're all pretty good at leaving work at work. Thank God." Hamm joked about not taking his character home with him, even after six seasons of playing the booze-swilling, lady-loving, consistently depressed Don Draper.

"I think Megan sees Don in a light no one else sees him in. Maybe it's naive, but I prefer to think of it as optimistic," Paré said after praising her on screen husband despite his selfish tendencies. 

"Half of them said, 'None of that happened. You're all crazy.' The other half is like, 'Yup. All of it happened.' So maybe the other half just didn't get invited to the parties." Hamm on the accuracies of '60s culture on "Mad Men."

"Is it hard to end the show? Yeah, it's really, really hard," Weiner said when he took the stage to introduce the episode.

"Sorry about that." Hamm issued an apology on behalf of Don Draper to Sally -- or the audience, it was hard to tell -- for when she caught Don with another woman in season six.

"Well, that we've seen," Hamm said after Schneider said Sally seeing Don was the character's absolute rock bottom moment.

This article is related to: Mad Men, Mad Men, Jon Hamm, PaleyFest, Christina Hendricks, Elizabeth Moss, Matthew Weiner, Television