Sunday, April 26, 2015

TV Watch: "Mad Men"'s Sally Draper then and now


Look who's back! Last week Sally (Kiernan Shipka) got an unexpected visit from old pal Glen (Marten Weiner), in No. 3 of the final seven episodes of Mad Men. No. 4 airs tonight.)

by Ken

It must have been at the Museum of the Moving Image's Mad Men exhibition that I ran into someone I know fairly slightly, and on seeing something related to Don and Betty Draper's (or should I say "Don Draper's and Betty Francis's"?) eldest offspring, daughter Sally, and my acquaintance commented how fortunate the producers had been in the way actress Kiernan Shipka had grown up over the course of the show's many years, and of course I had to agree.

This is of course a basic fact of life in a show with kids which has an extended run. You can audition till you're blue in the face to get just the right kiddies for Season 1, but you have no idea what, or rather who, you're going to be dealing with if you're lucky enough to get to a Season 5 or 6 or 7. And while I don't doubt that the Mad Men creative team would have done an excellent job of developing the character of Sally Draper to fit whatever sort of young woman Kiernan grew into, they've taken splendid advantage of the treasure they lucked into in the original casting.

The fact is that Kiernan herself has been a really fine actress at all the ages she has passed through these eight years. I remember being really knocked out by the Season 3 episode (No. 4, "The Arrangements") in which Sally gets close to her creepy Grandpa Gene and then deals with his death. The quality of Kiernan's work has enabled the Mad Men team to do with and for her what the best TV writers always do: incorporate the actor into the evolution of the character. In last week's episode the team had the inspiration to bring back Sally's old pal Glen Bishop, and revealed to us that Sally and Glen have been in close contact all this time. (It can't have been a strain for the casting people to locate the actor who played Glen, since he's creator-showrunner Matthew Weiner's son Marten. He sure looked different, though! And no, that thing between Glen and Betty wasn't forgotten either.)

It made for an obvious time for the AMC blog team to do a new interview with Kiernan, and they had the new interview ready to roll right after the episode aired.

Sally now: Kiernan Shipka in last week's episode of Mad Men

Kiernan Shipka, who plays Sally Draper on AMC’s Mad Men, talks about saying goodbye to her on-screen parents and Sally’s reunion with Glen.

Q: You basically grew up onscreen. Do you still remember your first day on set and that scene with Betty’s dry cleaning bag over your head?

A: I do! I remember it very vividly. I’m lucky – I was six when I started – and all my memories early on are very vivid and I’m so glad I have them.

Q: Sally has certainly gotten sassier over the years and lots of fans love her for that! Where does that sass come from?

A: I think the fact that Sally’s sassy is because she’s a very smart girl and I don’t think she likes to put up with a lot. I think that’s where it stems from and I think it’s heightened usually when she’s frustrated with someone or just having fun. She’s witty.

Q: What was it like to reunite with Marten Weiner in Episode 710? What do you make of Sally and Glen’s friendship?

A: It was great. I love working with Marten. He’s the best. I’ve known him for a really long time. It’s crazy [how] we’ve both grown up so much and he’s at real college now, so that [episode] was cool to do because it felt like a lot of time had gone by. Sally and Glen’s friendship throughout the years has always been a really special thing to both of them because they were there for each other. Sally never really had an adult to confide in or lean on and trust. She loves both her parents, but she doesn’t really feel that comfort to talk to them like she could always talk to Glen. This is such an emotional time for her. She was mad at him, but also sad for herself. She was really losing her best friend.

Q: Sally mentions not wanting to be like Don or Betty, but do you see any similarities that she shares with them?

A: I think that Sally is in some ways like her parents, but I think in general, she’s very much her own person. As an individual, I really just see her as Sally and not a reflection of either of her parents.

Q: Speaking of Don and Betty, how did you say goodbye to your on-screen parents?

A: The last day on set was very crazy and sad, for sure. Throughout the day, the cast members were all making their speeches and it was definitely somber. After everything wrapped, we hung out for a little bit and played Catchphrase and all sorts of other games. That was really fun and it did feel, in a way, like a last hurrah.

Q: We went back and reread your interview when we first spoke to you almost six years ago…

A: Oh my god! [Laughs]

Q: [Laughs] You predicted Sally would go to college and have a family, but now she seems pretty unsure about her future and career goals. If you could offer her any advice, what would it be?

A: I have faith in Sally. I would probably just tell her to do her thing because I think she’s pretty great and very smart and really on the right track. She’s going places.

Q: If you weren’t acting, what would you be doing professionally?

A: I always said I would want to be a food critic. I love eating so much and I love writing, so I thought it would be a perfect combination. It would definitely be something artistic.

Q: Are you still planning to have that full Mad Men series viewing marathon when all the episodes are over?

A: I couldn’t wait! I already did it. It was awesome. It’s really nice because the scenes that I was in are very nostalgic and just watching them as a whole is very special. Seeing the whole picture was nice.

Q: Have you gotten to keep anything of Sally’s? What do you treasure the most?

A: I got to keep Sally’s “SBD” necklace. I was very happy I got to keep that because I feel like it’s a very vital part of her character and her style – which is also something that I really love – and it’s also really cute, so I can wear it.


Since our friends at AMC provided the link, we took a peek back at Kiernan's Season 2 interview.

Sally then: Here she is back in Season 2.

Over the course of Season 2, Sally Draper grew up and got into trouble. She visited Sterling Cooper, tried smoking, received a pair of riding boots, and even mixed cocktails. spoke with Kiernan Shipka, the articulate 9-year-old actress who plays the Draper daughter.

Q: Sally Draper has a lot of personality. Do you relate to her personally?

A: I love playing Sally. She is a quintessential girl of the 1960s. People come up to me and say how much they relate to my character. It conjures up a lot
of memories for them.

Q: Did you study the ’60s to learn what it was like?

A: I talk to my mother and get her advice about what she was like as a girl.

Q: What’s it like working with your TV parents, Jon Hamm and January Jones?

A: They are great. We have fun, and then sometimes, we’re very serious.

Q: The costumes you wear as Sally are quite different from what kids wear today. Do you like her clothes?

A: Sally’s wardrobe is so pretty. I get advice from my fittings all the time! Sometimes I wear clothes that are like Sally’s.

Q: Sally also practices ballet. Do you dance?

A: I love dancing. I dance about 20 hours a week. I play piano, too, but it’s not serious yet. It’s mostly playing around.

Q: In Season 2, your character gets to order room service. Have you ordered room service before?

A: I love ordering room service. It’s my favorite thing to do when I stay in a hotel.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to order?

A: I’m pretty hooked on the French onion soup right now.

Q: At the end of Season 2, your character gets her own pair of riding boots. Do you ride horses?

A: I loved the riding boots. They were really beautiful. I ride Western and English. I would like to do it more.

Q: What do you think Sally will be when she grows up?

A: She could grow up in her mom’s footsteps and go to college and have a family, or I think she could be a dance instructor.

Q: What is your favorite thing about being on Mad Men?

A: I love the cast and crew. They are delightful to be around.

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