It's been so long since Mad Men was on the air that it feels as though the show actually shot in the 1960s. We don't care to dwell on the contract negotiations that delayed it. What's important is that Don, Roger, Peggy, Pete, Joan, Betty, Lane, Sally and the rest of that impeccably groomed, highly dysfunctional crowd are back. With Season 5 premiering in a two-hour episode on March 25, TV Guide Magazine sat down with the cast — and creator Matthew Weiner — in Los Angeles to try to pry some secrets out of them and chat about why the wait was worth it.
TV Guide Magazine: Was it hard being off for so long?
Jon Hamm (Don Draper): Yes. It was forever. By the time we premiere, we will have been off for 525 days. That's an eternity in television time.
John Slattery (Roger Sterling): That first day on set, there was a feeling of "How the hell do you do this? Is this how you drink a vodka?" My voice sounded like it was coming out of my ear.
TV Guide Magazine: How is Season 5 different?
Weiner: It's about trying to make sense of the world as things change. We're deeper into the 1960s and everything's shifting. With Lucky Strike out [as a client], Roger has had to adapt. The letter Don sent condemning the cigarette industry sacrificed a lot, and we're seeing the impact. But I'm not spoiling anything by saying we did not get a new set. I would keep an eye on the hierarchy of the business.
Hamm: Season 5 is about deepening what we started and trying to figure out if there's more to life. The first and second seasons were about introducing the characters. The third season, the agency blew up and the team had to start over. Last season was dealing with the fallout from that. The fifth season is about putting the pieces back together.
Slattery: There are some surprises coming this season that are so out of control, I wish we had cameras in people's houses and could watch them go, "No way!" as they watch the show.
TV Guide Magazine: People loved the scene in last season's finale with Peggy and Joan gossiping about Don's shocking proposal to Megan (Jessica Paré). Are Peggy and Joan the new Laverne and Shirley?
Elisabeth Moss (Peggy Olson): We would make the greatest roommates ever! But no. They're never going to be friends. They're just too different.
Christina Hendricks (Joan Holloway): That scene was very personal for Lizzy and me to do. We all watched the finale together in New York and both got teary-eyed because these characters have been on such a long journey together.
TV Guide Magazine: And what about Megan? Is Don really going to marry her? Or has he already?
Weiner: We will see... I think everyone only likes the beginnings of things. [But] maybe Don's going to have a shot at happiness.
TV Guide Magazine: Betty was not a happy camper last season, and she and Henry fought bitterly in the finale. What's next?
Weiner: You should look for somebody who is going to try to come to terms with the fact that she's in a bad marriage. But Betty may always think that what is out there is better than what she has.
January Jones (Betty Draper): I don't know if Betty knows what happiness means. She is not in touch with who she is. Selfishly, I hope Betty stays miserable, angry and complex. It's more fun to play. Until it starts to rub off on you as a person.
TV Guide Magazine: How so?
Jones: People liked Betty when she was repressed. And it was fun to see her snap, like when she had sex with that stranger in a bar. But now she's unlikable, and I'm confused by the
reaction. I read on the Internet that I'm an icy blonde in real life. I'm not icy.
TV Guide Magazine: Do all of you get treated like your characters?
Hamm: What I get is, people come up and say that Don Draper was based on their grandfather or someone they knew, and they absolutely believe these stories 100 percent.
Hendricks: Or someone will say, "I actually worked in advertising in the '60s and we did not smoke like that." And I'm like, "But these people do." It's a TV show!
Moss: For me, the most fun thing is when people we admire come out as fans.
TV Guide Magazine: For instance?
Hamm: The president of the United States.
Vincent Kartheiser (Pete Campbell): I'll beat that — Gary Oldman. He did a five-minute monologue about the show for me.
Jared Harris (Lane Pryce): Daniel Day-Lewis.
Kartheiser: D.D.L. watches? No way!
Moss: Part of the reason we're all so grateful the show is back is that none of us expected it to become what it's become.
Slattery: After the pilot, it was like, "Hey, nice meeting you guys. Good luck with whatever." It was a year and a half before we started shooting and longer until it caught on.
Hendricks: I was working at a flower shop. Actors would come in and say, "Is everything all right?" I'd say, "Yeah, I'm working on this show that might get picked up, but, you know, can I get you some roses?" I didn't really know if I had a job or not.
TV Guide Magazine: Is Joan's husband, Greg, going to die in Vietnam?
Weiner: You will hear the word Vietnam. That's all I can tell you.
For more with the cast of Mad Men, pick up this week's issue of TV Guide Magazine, on newsstands Thursday, March 15!