Start date not yet set as dealmaking drags on

The prolonged wrangling between AMC, Lionsgate TV and Matt Weiner over a new deal for the next two seasons of “Mad Men” is starting to take a toll on one of the show’s key components: the thesps.

Members of the show’s large ensemble had been counting on being able to cash paychecks in the near future, based on the show’s traditional production cycle. In the past, the “Mad Men” writers room had opened around mid-February, with lensing beginning in early spring and running through the summer.

But with the dealmaking dragging on, it’s hard for anyone to pin down a date for the start of shooting on the show’s fifth season. That leaves the show’s key stars idled and with limited options for taking other jobs because of their contractual obligations to “Mad Men.”

AMC and Lionsgate are said to have concluded what had been an arduous negotiation to extend the show’s license term through a sixth season. Now the focus is on finalizing a new pact for Weiner to stay at the helm for another two seasons (his previous deal expired at the end of last season). AMC’s hired gun, attorney Jim Jackoway, is leading the negotiations with Weiner’s team, a signal that AMC is kicking in significant coin to make sure “Mad Men” retains its original creative vision. There were indications last week that a deal was coming together, but sources close to the situation note that it’s been a rocky process.

The strain of the uncertainty is weighing on some of the “Mad Men” troupe, including its leading man. Jon Hamm didn’t mince words when asked by Variety at last week’s “Sucker Punch” preem party when he thought the show might be back in action: “2012,” he said. “And you can write that.”

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