The new AMC series Mad Men takes place in the early 1960s and focuses on the advertising men who were the forces behind what the public read, saw and heard. Their slogans often become part of pop culture. They are called Mad Men because the big advertising agencies are located on Madison Avenue in New York City. Hence, Mad Men.
What stands out in the beginning are the costumes, hair, and most of all, the morality of the time. The women are harassed in the office, and smoking is the norm.
Cast members January Jones who plays Betty Draper, Jon Hamm who plays Don Draper and John Slattery who plays Roger Sterling provide some insight into the show and their characters.
January Jones: You definitely hold yourself differently when you can only take short breaths, but you definitely develop a posture where you hold yourself taller and you may walk a certain way ... But the hair and makeup and the wardrobe has all been researched very well and I think that the undergarments specifically make you walk and hold yourself differently. It's a little bit of a cheat as an actor to have that already there for you.
(Smoking is) just as [important] as any of the clothes and the wardrobe. It's just part of those peoples' lives.
Jon Hamm: It is interesting because my character falls in the middle of the two generations and straddles both worlds in many ways, not quite from the World War II generation and that sort of patriarchal, older crew, and then not so much with the younger, hipper guys. I was constantly trying to navigate this middle ground between those two. And I think that plays in the show. He's got a very different sense of what is right and what is wrong and what is expected and what is not expected of himself as both the man -- and a businessman, as a husband, as a boss. And I think his journey, in trying to figure out where his place is in all of that, is much murkier than most. He's got one foot firmly planted in both of these.
John Slattery: I think the theme of the show is that although there are strictures or perceived strictures in society in 1960, that all of these characters subvert to those strictures. And that's what makes them interesting. Although there were rules -- and we're not to give anything away -- these characters that reprehensibly, at least in relation to those rules, perceived rules, you know. And, again, what I like about the show is that the slow drip of information is what makes it so interesting. It's not a show where you find out everything about these characters in the first 15 minutes. It's a first impression. It's the first impression that these characters want you to have of them.
Like anyone walking into a room, you want to look like you've got your act together, and then, through repeated viewings, you see these people as who they really are. And their moral compasses are as off as anybody's today. And although they have role models, a role model is just that, a role model. You try, and nobody is perfect. You get an opportunity -- I heard someone say "A man is only as faithful as his options," which can be true. And certainly, in 1960, the options for a man in regards to drinking and fidelity and race relations and interoffice politics, I mean, although there were these strictures, the world was a man's oyster, and some took more oysters than others.
Mad Men is currently on AMC at 10 PM/9 C.
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