Prior to the Season 3 premiere, series creator Matthew Weiner sat down with AMCtv.com to answer a few of your questions.
Q: What is the most challenging thing about recreating an entire era? -- Andrea
A: Not being distracted by the way history has interpreted it. It's really hard. You have to construct it out of what you think to be the truth based on the way human beings behave, and then you have popular media, which often says something is very important and it turns out it wasn't. And then people's memories of when things happened and in what order is very unreliable. There are some things we get wrong, but more likely there are things we know are 100 percent right and people just can't accept that. It was very hard for people to believe that the lifestyle in the Village in the '50s was very much what the Summer of Love was like. In fact, it was like that in the '30s. We feel so smart because we're here and we can look back and we know exactly what happened. We have a sense of superiority, but the truth is it keeps happening over and over again and we should get ready for it to happen to us instead of thinking that we're over it.
Q: How much similarity do you see in the worlds of Madison Avenue and Hollywood? -- thechosenfew
A: I think the battle between creative and business is definitely always there. My insight into Madison Avenue and copywriting in particular is because I'm a television writer. I think the businesses are very parallel to each other. Creative people like to think of themselves as artists. And when there is money at stake it becomes for both, "What is the most entertaining?" I've always looked at advertising as a form of entertainment. And if it's entertaining, you think it will sell things, but that's not always true. The Taco Bell dog was so funny, but I don't know if it produced business.
One of the interesting things about the show is it's brought up this whole concept of legacy, which has become a business word for, "Why don't we take advantage of the nostalgic quality attached to our product?" Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
Q: Can you give an example of ways that an actor's performance has influenced you to shift the direction in which you take the character? -- Jesse
A: No. The truth is that the actors are so good I don't have to limit my imagination, and I never have to write around anyone. We think of something, we know that we can write it and the actor is smart enough, talented enough, and has enough of a presence that they can pull it off. And having that kind of confidence in them allows people's imaginations to run free. I know that January Jones is funny and she can do angry and can do touching and can understand complexity. That allows me to write scenes that have all those things in it for her, when a lot of times a woman who looks like that in such a role is only capable of one thing.
Q: The media often refers to Betty as a Hitchcock Blonde. Is that a deliberate characterization on your part or just a nice coincidence? -- janeeyre
A: It's a nice coincidence. I'm a Hitchcock fan, but I didn’t know the term. I think January has the qualities of an old movie star, and I certainly recognize the Grace Kelly thing right away. So did Hitchcock [Laughs]. So the fact that you have a beautiful woman who has been objectified her whole life, and that there's any depth there at all, and there's sexuality, that is interesting to me. And it probably was to him too. You're dealing with someone who's so beautiful you don't even know if they're a person. You literally think, "What is it like for her to go to the supermarket?" As soon as you start going inside that person you have this big drama.
Q: Betty already knew Don was having an affair with Bobbie Barrett, so what was it about seeing Jimmy's commercial that set her off? –- MadforMad
A: When the Bobbie Barrett thing happened, she never had any evidence of it. But what she did have was the public humiliation of seeing that man on TV. And that was enough for her, and had she not gotten pregnant the marriage probably would have been over. She felt like, "Everybody knows but me." And I think it was her pride more than the reality of Don that got to her. Jimmy suggested it; Don never admitted it. It's based on the way he behaved in the past, and that people thought it was true, and that was too much.
Q: Did you create profiles in advance for each of the characters and, if so, how detailed are they? -– LLM
A: I knew who the characters were instinctively, but one of the big breakthroughs for us was when [costume designer] Janie Bryant came on board, she made these posters based on photos of the time and actors, and those were the character profiles. I had everyone look at those. They're framed on the walls of our office to remind people: This is Peggy. This is Rachel Menken. There's a consistency to these human beings, and the show rejects things that are out of character. Sometimes we try to do things, and either we've done them before or we're just like, "He wouldn't do that."
Q: Is there a fixed moral center to the show, or does it shift? –- GEfridge
A: There's a fixed moral center of the world, and we all deal with it the way we can -- the same way the characters do. And there's a lot of embracing of it, a lot of moments of superiority, and a lot of moments of rationalization. I'm trying to imitate our experience. Whenever we talk about other people's moral issues, it's very clear to us. But I think for ourselves there's a lot of wavering, a lot of relative morality. Anybody who has a clear picture of what's right and wrong uses it to judge other people. And a lot of times when we come to our personal situations we're pretty loose. Or we just feel guilty and horrible about what we do. Peggy gave that baby away because she had to, she had to, she had to. But how do you judge her? I don't know. That's what I’m interested in: Here's the objective standard of what's good and bad, and here's the way we behave.
Q: I'm glad that women's lives are being explored in the show. You've said that, originally, men were going to be your focus; what did you intend to explore that you haven't yet? –- The Sound of One Man Laughing
A: Um, watch the show. [Laughs] The issues that are particular male issues are all wrapped up in female issues, and I've never really tried to differentiate them. But I was interested, just from my own point of view, at how strange it is to not have a code of male behavior at this point in time, and how that happened. But then it became just about a bunch of human beings in the world, and I'm always interested in the problems of human beings.
Q: Do you see the show running long enough to leave the '60s and enter the '70s, possibly even the '80s? How do you think it would affect the characters, plot lines, and overall feel of the show? –- Chelsea C
A: I would love to see what happens to them. That's all I’m going to say.
Q: What is the one thing you really wish someone would ask you in an interview that no one has yet asked? -- Deborah Lipp
A: It reveals more about me than it does about the show, but I am always surprised that no one asks me why I was writing about Don Draper. [Laughs] I think it's about admitting the most negative qualities in yourself and how you overcome them. I'm not some crazy philandering guy; I don't look like Don, but I was definitely struck with the idea of the confusion that sets in about feelings that you have from when you're single and ambiguous feelings about family and all these institutions that you're craving. I guess people think that the story was so sexy I just couldn't resist it. [Laughs] The story is pretty sexy, but I've always identified with Don and Peggy and all of those characters. They're multiple sides of my personality, and I'm thrilled there's an audience out there that’s not threatened by investigating what's wrong with us. And that's why there's no judgment. A lot of entertainment is about making you feel that you're OK. That's what Don says in the Pilot. But life is more complicated than that.