One hour of Mad Men down, 13 left to go! Now that we’ve seen the first episode of the seventh and final season, we checked in with Elisabeth Moss to find out how Peggy Olson will make her way at Sterling Cooper without mentor Don Draper, what it’s like to say goodbye, and what she thinks Peggy would be doing in 2014.
How does it feel knowing that it’s the last time?
Like, you just said that, and I got butterflies in my stomach. It’s starting to feel weird. [Laughs] I was talking to Matt [Weiner] the other night, just saying “Wow, I’m starting to feel, like, that boulder in my chest.” I think we’ve all been a little bit naïve in thinking that it wasn’t going to be that hard or bad…and I think it’s going to be hard. [Laughs]
Do you know how it ends? Or does the story unfold for you as you get the scripts?
No, it unfolds as we get the scripts. It’s always been like that. It’s been like that, so it feels very normal to not know what’s happening until, like, the day before. And even if you think you know, chances are it’s going to be different than you thought, or … I’ve had so many moments on this show where I’ve been like, “Oh my God, Matt, I can’t believe you didn’t tell me that!” Or he’ll tell you things, but then he won’t tell you the most important thing that’s going to happen. [Laughs]
Does he use that in part as a tool for getting something out of your performance, or is it just secrecy?
No, I think it’s very practical in the sense of, things change a lot. And maybe there’s a schedule thing, and … it’s not done until it’s done. The script isn’t ready until it’s out. They’re writing and writing and writing, and it may just not be done. So he’s not just going to talk about it and get you going down the wrong path if that’s actually not going to be what’s going to happen.
When I talked to Matt, he mentioned that the the focus returns to the characters that we met in the beginnning. How has that felt to you?
That is definitely true. I think that’s a really smart way to go, because I watch a lot of TV. I’ve seen the ends of shows, and in the end, you want to go back to the characters that you [initially] fell in love with. You want to see what happens to them. Not only individual characters, but their relationships too, you know? As a fan, I want to see what happens to Joan and Roger; I want Pete and Peggy to have scenes. I care about these things as well! [Laughs] There’s definitely a sense of getting back to Season One. I don’t know, I think there’s this feeling of … things are changing, but at the same time, everything almost kind of stays the same. Which is kind of a depressing thought, but it’s not necessarily a happy show. [Laughs]
So in the last episode of Season Six, you had a line about how Ted gets to make decisions. Where does that leave Peggy, as this season starts?
I think the line you were talking about – and I’m not really going to remember it either – is “How nice for you to have those decisions,” meaning he’s a man so he gets to decide which way his life wants to go, and she can’t. She has to be the victim of his decisions. I think that kind of was a big moment for Peggy, and summed up a lot of her struggle.
At the same time, I think… in a way, her naiveté is her strongest sort of trait. It’s really what’s gotten her everywhere. [Laughs] I mean, just the fact that she’s naïve enough to voice her opinion. She’s naïve enough to go and ask for a raise. She’s naïve enough to insert herself into these situations. It’s a kind of lack of fear that gets her into these rooms, and it’s kind of gotten her where she is.
And this season she’s lost her mentor.
She tried to get away from Don, but then was put right back in between Chaough and Don — which is exactly where she didn’t want to be. So I think she’s trying to figure out: what is her role, and who is her boss? And you know that Don’s not there, and exactly, she’s lost her mentor. So she’s trying to figure out … where is she, and who’s her mentor now? Is she answering to herself? She’s trying to figure out where she places in this company at the present moment.
Do you think she can she step up into a role of not needing that anymore, and taking all of the things she’s learned and running with them?
Yeah, I think she has this ideal idealism that she loves advertising. She believes in it, and she’s struggling to hold onto it in this world that is changing before her.
How early on did it become clear to you that Peggy was going to be the second most important character in the show?
I mean, I don’t think that I really started to feel that until Season Four. It’s been very episode by episode, and it wasn’t until the four season that I really started to see where Peggy was in the larger picture. Because it felt like such an ensemble show. I used to just be, “No, no, that’s not true. It’s an ensemble show.” I still feel that way, like everybody has this huge part in the show, and you can’t have it without anyone else.
One of the things that happened at the end of the last season was that, basically, all of the secrets that everybody had been hiding had been revealed — except for Peggy and Pete’s secret. How important is that secret to Peggy? Is there the potential that that’s going to somehow come back?
Yeah, I think it’s one of those things that was almost so long ago that…it’s funny, because there is such an emotional through-line of that story in [the first seven episodes that are airing this year] for her. I think she thought that she put it behind her. I think she thought she’s forgotten about it, that she’s gotten past it — and then it kind of keeps coming up, emotionally. Not necessarily in a concrete story way. But just in Peggy realizing, like, “Shit, this is still a really big part of who I am, the fact that I was a mother and this happened.” So, you know, I think that no matter what happens, it’s always going to be a part of her story and a part of who she is. It’s always going to affect things that she does.
Peggy would be at about retirement age now. Do you ever think about how her life would have played out?
You know, I was watching The Good Wife the other night, and I was looking at Diane Lockhart. Do you watch that show? Probably not.
No, but I have seen it.
Diane Lockhart is a character on the show. I was actually watching her last night, going, “That’s who Peggy would be.” This strong woman who’s sort of at the top of her game. I think that’s who she would be, but in advertising instead of law.
Is there a moment or an anecdote that stands out from the first seven episodes that you’ve shot that says something about the feeling of it coming to a close?
Hmm. What can I say without saying anything? I can’t wait to get on a show where I can talk about it! That will be so weird for me. I think there is a moment…[Laughs] There is a moment near the end of this first batch of episodes that was a very…Matt told me that it was going to happen really early, before we started the season, and I started to cry.
I said, “You have to do that.” I texted him, and I said, “I’ve never asked you to do anything, but you have to do that.” And he was going to do it anyway, it’s not like I have any power over him. [Laughs] He was going to do whatever he wanted, but it happened to go in my favor. But it meant so much to me, and this other character, that I care about personally and professionally. It was just this very climactic, kind of sweet moment. I was like, “I’m asking you to please put that in the script.” And he did. When it happens, I’ll let you know. [Laughs]