Emmys: Mad Men's Matt Weiner on January Jones' Pregnancy and the Story Behind "The Suitcase"
Let's get it out of the way: Yes, Mad Men executive producer Matt Weiner has a plan to deal with January Jones' pregnancy, and no, he doesn't want to talk about it yet.
Mad Men received a leading 19 Emmy nominations among scripted series, and the show's writing staff is in the middle of breaking Episode 6 of the delayed fifth season — which means by now, a decision about Jones' baby bump, and what it means for Betty, has been made. But, per usual, Weiner is keeping all details on lockdown. "I'm not going to say what I'm going to do, but I am going to have to do something! So, that's all I can say. It's really, I mean, you'll have to watch the show," he says. "It was two choices really: Either I hide it or I'm gonna go with it. I made a decision. She told me before the world knew, so I had some time to think about it. The real thing is, she's so cute! She looks great. She looks so great! It's very disappointing."
Weiner, who got up early to watch the nominations announcement this year, says being recognized never gets old. (Mad Men has won the best drama series prize the last three years.) "Four seasons into something, you just don't know. I felt like we did our best work last year, but I was truly surprised. And I'm not being humble, but you really can never tell," he says. "I'm at work right now, but we're not going to get much done. I'm not gonna lie!"
The nominations he's most proud of this year? Nods in the guest actress category for Cara Buono and Randee Heller. "Cara didn't know! She was like, 'What! What!' And we've never broken into that category before. It's reserved for very, very famous actresses, so to see Randee and Cara in there was a very cool thing."
Weiner himself is nominated for writing "The Suitcase," an episode focused exclusively on a particularly long night for Don and Peggy. He says the idea came from needing Don to lose Anna Draper, "the last person in the world who really knew him, the old him."
"It was a very simple idea: Peggy is succeeding and Don is a mess and she hasn't commented on it. And what if, at the same time, Don is losing this very important person, and, of course, he's not going to talk about it, and what if he just holds Peggy hostage," Weiner says. "He doesn't want to be alone. He can't even ask for help because there's no one for him to turn to... In a way it's a very old form. It's the forgotten birthday show, you know. What was unique about it for us was this show depends on maintaining a kind of reality about how much we don't say to each other, and we found an opportunity, or we had earned the right rather, for Don and Peggy to really have an intimate experience."
In addition, Weiner says, "I was just like, we need Don to hit bottom here somewhere: Where does that happen? How much can he take, you know?... It's very satisfying to see Jon Hamm recognized again. He had to gauge this decline in the first half of that season. He got scripts one week at a time and he kept looking at me and saying, 'How bad is this going to get?' And I'd say, 'It's going to get really bad.' How much worse was he in 'The Suitcase' than the episode before when he had blacked out, and the episode before that where his secretary humiliated him in front of the whole office, and the episode before that when he went on his binge with Lane, and the episode before that when he had the Christmas party and slept with his secretary?... 'The Suitcase' was a payoff, and Jon really made that decline work."
After celebrating the show's nominations Thursday, Weiner will go back to trying to get the season premiere in shape for Hamm, who will be pulling double duty as director for the first time. "We've got drafts coming in for the first two episodes. Ooooooh, yeah, I gotta give Jon a script in like a couple of weeks!" Weiner says. "I'm trying to make it, uh, a more finished form than I usually do for the director of the first episode, just because I really don't want him to see how choppy it is before they usually get it!"
Any teases at all for the upcoming fifth season then? Ha! "Nothing. Nothing yet! As we get closer, I will say something, but at this point I really would like to, and this is always my intention, just to preserve the thing — especially with people waiting so long. I want them to be able to sit down, not knowing anything about what's going to happen. I want them to have that pleasure. There's almost nothing in life that's like that."
He adds: "As usual, I'm terrified. I want it to be good, and I feel like there's an extra pressure this time."