2015 is a big year for Kiernan Shipka. The 15-year-old actress, best known to audiences as Sally Draper on AMC’s “Mad Men,” will be saying goodbye to the hit show that brought her fame as it wraps up its seventh and last season this spring — and hello to a new post-“Mad Men” stage of her already budding career.
The talented teen has kept busy during the hiatuses of “Mad Men” by appearing in a number of TV movies/shows and features, including Lifetime’s “Flowers in the Attic” and “Very Good Girls,” opposite Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Olsen. But this year sees her stepping out in a bigger way by leading Andrew Droz Palermo’s provocative narrative debut “One & Two” (his first feature was the Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning documentary “Rich Hill”).
In the drama, Shipka plays Eva, a teenager with unique abilities who has lived her entire life closed off from the outside world. When her mother falls mysteriously ill, Eva and her brother Zac (Timothee Chalamet) flee their family in search of some answers.
You’re going through a huge transition right about now with “Mad Men” ending and your film career beginning to flourish.
It’s totally new and it’s really super nice so far. “One & Two” is the first movie I filmed after I wrapped “Mad Men,” and it was a great experience to go into after all that. I’m really happy with the turnout, and it’s been fun. I’m so glad I got the opportunity to work on that movie.
What drew you to “One & Two”? It’s a tough film to describe for an interview without giving away its many secrets.
It’s an interesting screenplay and it left me wondering, curious about the vision of the film. Once I talked to Andrew — we talked a few times over Skype — he gave me his perspective and a lot of great references. And obviously our DP Autumn [Durald] captured it so beautifully. It was just a combination of all those things that brought it together. I was totally intrigued.
What about Eva spoke to you? Did you relate to her rebellious/curious nature?
Eva is a really curious person and we’re in totally different situations. We’re not really that similar, but I totally understand her thought process and the fact that she does have this curiosity and she knows there is something more out there, even though she doesn’t know exactly what it is. I’d be itching to find out as well.
What was it like to lead a film? People know you primarily as a supporting player on this long-running show, but in this film you really had to hold your own; you’re in almost every scene
I was really excited. The rest of the cast is super, super rad an it was a really fun experience. The environment on set was really great. It was a fun time and also a good experience and a nice challenge.
It wasn’t a challenge that intimidated you?
I think scary is good, I do. It definitely was scary but the fact that there were great people around and supporting the film — there’s definitely a sense of ease there because everyone else is so great.
With your work on “Mad Men” now over, what’s your game plan going forward with regards to your career?
It’s pretty hard to envision anything super-specific because you just never know. But as far as material goes that I want to do, it’s stuff that does scare me and is challenging. Material that is fun and with good people [laughs]… hopefully, fingers crossed. But just constantly being challenged and working on material that I like is the dream.
You seem so incredibly grounded. You’re poised and more confident that most folks your age. What do you attest that maturity level to?
I don’t know. I think it’s important to be surrounded by good people and I certainly could attest it to that I guess. [laughs] To be honest, this is me. [laughs] So I don’t know. There are a lot of fun people around me, and they’re so nice. I’ve been lucky to work with great people and family and friends and all that, so it’s probably all that.
What was running through your head during your last day on the set of “Mad Men”?
It was super, super emotional and quite surreal. It didn’t really feel like it was happening because I went to set— I had gone to set so many times before and then it all just felt so familiar. And then all of a sudden you realize it’s the last time you’re going to do this, and the last time you’re going to do that. Just a bunch of lasts, which was kind of crazy. And then obviously when you wrap, when you’re done… done…done, I was super emotional because it was a really big part of my life and it felt like this chapter closing. The best word to describe it is: very, very emotional.
How long did it take for you to accept that chapter of your life is over?
Well, it almost doesn’t feel like its over because it’s not over for—
—for the viewers. So I am enjoying this moment of it not quite being done.
Unlike your “Mad Men” co-stars, you visibly grew up on the show. Everyone got older of course, but you went from child to teenager. What’s it like to see yourself grow up on screen? I’m sure you revisit episodes from time to time.
[laughs] It’s funny. It’s like all these home videos. It’s so funny, watching myself when I was little. It’s actually cool because there are memories behind the scenes, and it’s very nostalgic because I was there and now I’m watching it so many years later. So it’s very cool, I think, to watch myself when I was so little. It brings back a lot of memories. It’s interesting because you see everyone grow a lot. I mean it’s been a long time since the premiere.