As part of this year's Television Critics Association press tour, TVGuide.com was invited to tour the set of AMC's Mad Men, escorted by several cast members. We were sternly warned to "not touch or take anything," as much research, effort and care has been taken to populate the 1960s-based set with all manner and size of period-appropriate detail. According to series creator Matt Weiner, Mad Men employs "an unheralded amount of artists" to give the show its dead-on, transporting look and feel. So, with hands in pockets, we strolled through Sterling Cooper, the Draper residence and the production's prop and wardrobe departments. Here is what we observed:
IN THE (TWILIGHT?) ZONED: Asked to cite his influences for Mad Men's aesthetic, Weiner named such films as Hitchcock's North By Northwest and Love with the Proper Stranger. But it's the classic Twilight Zone TV series, believe it or not, that he says offers some of the best visual representations of the time.
RUMMAGE SALES: The artisans who design the Mad Men world often get requests from friends to sneak their old items into a scene or two. The set decorator rarely obliges, save for, to name one example, an ornate ashtray in Don's office that belonged to a friend.
KICKIN' BUTTS: Mad Men, of course, is known for the cigarette smoke that clouds nearly every scene. As such, it was no surprise that every ashtray in every room on every set is filled with spent Marlboros — more than a few with bright-pink lipstick stains. Off-stage sits a wagon loaded up with spare ashtrays of every shape and size.
COUGAR ATTACK!: When Jon Hamm, January Jones, and John Slattery made a surprise appearance on the Sterling Cooper set in full wardrobe and makeup, Hamm immediately was surrounded by a gaggle of female reporters of a certain age. "You were born to wear these clothes," said one. "I don't know about that," replied a sheepish Hamm, which sent the unofficial Don Draper Fan Club into an embarrassing fit of schoolgirl giggles.
BOOZE CREW: We watched as propmasters mixed up batches of fake Scotch for the set, using, of all things, cranberry juice, grapefruit juice and iced tea.
FUTURE SHOCK: Of course, not every tiny piece of paper on the expansive office set can be dead-to-rights. Look closely, and you'll see that the occasional steno pool member has in her inbox a "memo from the future" dated, say, 1987.
EYED CANDY: The lunch cart that gets pushed around Sterling Cooper offers as wide a variety of vittles as any modern-day vending machine. Those with a sweet tooth can grab a Charleston Chew, Mounds, Sugar Babies, Baby Ruth or Necco wafers. Those needing a nicotine fix have 10 brands of ciggies from which to choose, as well as four types of loose tobacco.
ANITA ANSWER: Among the neatly matted production drawings on the wall, I spy "Salvatore's Apartment" and "Anita's Rowhouse." We all know that Salvatore's bachelor pad will be positively flawless... but who the heck is Anita?
HAVE YOU MET PEGGY'S OFFICE MATE? Elisabeth Moss warned, "Spoiler alert!" as we spied the door to Peggy's new office, since its lettering reveals the name of who she is sharing the space with. (Let's just say that Sterling Cooper's new arrival is a very big deal.) Moss sighs when it's pointed out that Peggy got stuck with the giant Spam poster behind her desk. (But TVGuide.com gave Peggy props for getting "spammed" decades before the Internet was born.) Oh, and if Peggy comes off as a bit old-fashioned, it may have to do with the fact that her desk calendar is stuck on 1959. (You seldom have that problem with Outlook.)
BEDROOM COMMUNITY: When a reporter points out that the Drapers' distinctive padded headboard (pictured above) seems out of character for the conservative couple, Weiner affirmed that the aqua-colored extravagance was all Betty's doing. He wanted to emphasize that while she might be prim and proper out in public, she's a very sexual person. "I'd want to f--- on that headboard," he added.
CAMPBELL'S SCOOP: Clad in a hipster tee, jeans and Skechers, Vincent Kartheiser looked all of 16 (save for the scruff he was sporting). Holding court in his character's office, he explained to reporters that Pete Campbell rubs Don and the other veteran admen the wrong way because he's "ahead of the curve. Pete's right about a lot of this s--t, and they don't want him to be."
WHAT ABOUT JOAN?: Christina Hendricks – who, like Karthieser, looks a good deal younger in person – said that she first "got" pneumatic Joan the very first time she walked on set in full wardrobe and makeup. The bouncing hands and rocking hips took their cue from there. To further delve into Joan's world, Hendricks downloads fromiTunes 1960s music she imagines her alter ego would have on LP in her apartment.
YOU'VE GOT MAIL: Weiner revealed that the Drapers live in Ossining, N.Y., on Bullet Park Road. Just be careful not to address your package to Dick Whitman.
GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER?: On the day of our visit, the cast was filming a dinner-party scene. The placecards on the Drapers' table read as follows (spoiler alert?): Betty, Crab, Don, Herman, Janet, Mona, Petra, and Roger. Um, Crab?!
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