"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."
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.).
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.