Mad Men is inching toward the sunset, with the first of the acclaimed period drama's final seven episodes set to premiere April 5th on AMC. As the Wall Street Journal reports, five key cast members – Jon Hamm (Don Draper), Elisabeth Moss (Peggy Olson), John Slattery (Roger Sterling), Vincent Kartheiser (Pete Campbell) and Christina Hendricks (Joan Harris) – recently gathered to reflect on the series' exquisite writing, explore their complex character evolutions and mourn the loss of a modern television classic.
The first roundtable video (above) finds Kartheiser discussing the gradual maturity of Pete Campbell – from a wise-ass womanizer to a sobered, world-weary businessman. "When it begins, he really thinks he can do anything," the actor says. "He's just a young prep boy who's like, 'I'm gonna take this world by storm.' And then 10 years of the world literally kicking him in his face over and over, it builds character. But I think those attributes lend him to be in a position of more power. Because, I think, when you endure those things and you're still standing, you have a wisdom."
Below, Slattery examines the subtle, but substantial, awakening of his character. "I think Roger Sterling is/was a pragmatic person who was born in a certain privileged circumstance who had the experience and the minor insight to open his eyes and look around and learn from the people around him," he says. "He was smart enough to learn from – despite outward appearances – the women in his life, the friendship he had with Don and to appreciate the creative brilliance of this guy."
Hendricks says she's "deeply satisfied and deeply proud" of Joan's empowering character arc. "Joan was a bright, optimistic, enthusiastic, hard working woman with ambitions to find a perfect husband, start a family, move out to the country, be a perfect wife – and discovered along the way that that wasn't all it was cut out to be," she says.
"It's so satisfying to see that woman bump up against the ceiling and bump up against the celling until, finally, she breaks through," adds Hamm.
Moss says Peggy's journey has been about "becoming a person," a slow process of self-discovery built on trial and error: "She tries on all these different characters and all these different personas — Should she be a man? Should she be a woman? Should she be sexless entirely? — until I think she finally becomes who she is."
As for the final evolution of Mad Men? "I think you can't really ask for anything more as far as this show goes," she says.
But even if the cast feels confident that Mad Men is ending gracefully, series creator Matthew Weiner is apprehensive about the finale's eventual reception. "The road has been paved for a mixed review, no matter what," he told the Wall Street Journal in August. "I hate to say this — obviously ending the entire series is significantly more pressure — but it's been that way every year. I never knew if the show was coming back for most of the series, so we treated every episode 13 like it was the end. It's very bittersweet and high-pressure."