“Mad Men,” the critically acclaimed television series that popularized everything from period dramas to pear-shaped figures, is coming to an end. To celebrate the launch of the series’ final seven episodes, AMC and Lionsgate TV hosted a high-fashion Black & Red Ball at downtown Los Angeles’ Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on Wednesday night that was only befitting the stylish show known for highballs, hemlines and hijinks in the 1960s advertising world.
“‘Mad Men’ has changed the lives of hundreds of men and women who created 92 hours; 92 successful one-hour works of art,” AMC president and g.m. Charlie Collier said before the screening of the first of the final episodes, as he called to the stage the writers, stars and many production department heads responsible for bringing creator Matthew Weiner’s series to the screen.
Weiner, who received a standing ovation upon taking the stage, opened his speech by joking that “people will stand for anything.”
“People keep asking how I’m feeling,” he said during his speech. “All I know, whatever sadness I felt, I do not feel it about it tonight. Tonight I was really looking forward to as maybe the first-ever complete ‘Mad Men’ convention. I will see you all in the future signing baseballs and so forth. But I’m overwhelmed by this opportunity to turn ideas and American history and a bunch of people that I made up into this big party we’re throwing here. In the end, I suppose I’ll be alone at my computer again.”
The mystery surrounding the show and its spoiler-worthy moments helped propel it to a cultural phenomenon, and Weiner is known for the secrecy he requires of his cast and crew — as well as of journalists writing series previews. This makes it tough for the cast, as every interview requires them to give a little away while also knowing that what they share will be dissected by the show’s fanbase.
“The most difficult part of that is people want to know what happens,” John Slattery, who plays Roger Sterling on the show, said earlier that day at the show’s press junket at the Four Seasons. “Although I don’t know any show where the showrunners would want the people to tell you what happens. So much is made of the secrecy of this show, but what are other shows where the producers want the cast to talk about what happens down the line?”
(He also said of the finale that “the way it goes down makes a lot of sense,” which could send conspiracy theorists who believe Jon Hamm’s Don Draper character to be supposed plane hijacker D.B. Cooper into atwitter.)
But after so many years on such an influential show, is he worried about typecasting? His next big TV project is something completely different: appearing in Netflix’s “Wet Hot American Summer” comedy series.
“I’m not consciously trying to do something anti-‘Mad Men,’” said Slattery. “If something comes up, and you read it and you have an idea to do it or be successful at it …”
The actors also know that the show and its impact on the cultural zeitgeist will forever be tied to them, even if they have answered questions about their role in it countless times. Christina Hendricks, who plays bombshell Joan (Holloway) Harris, quickly got to the point when asked at the junket about how her character affected the conversation of body image and television by saying: “Is TV changing the way it looks at women? I don’t know, I hope so.”
As far as whether show costume designer Janie Bryant and her famous obsession with details had impacted the way she dresses, Hendricks examined her own outfit, exclaiming, “Look at me, I’m Joan clone now.”
“She’s just so great and talented and she just knows so much about fit,” Hendricks said of Bryant. “Yes, all the costumes were beautiful, but it’s also because she made them fit us as perfectly as they should have.”
Of course, Bryant and her costume team were one of the many reasons people tuned into the show — and probably why guests at the party knew they should step it up a notch beyond L.A. standards when the invitation said black tie. Women in formal-length gowns and glittery heels and men sporting either black or white tuxedo jackets roamed the multitiered upstairs of Dorothy Chandler after the screening, sipping classic cocktails and spotting former cast members of the show (Mark Moses, Bryan Batt) as well as familiar faces who they could only assume to be fans (Matt Groening) while a band performed covers of classic songs like “Earth Angel” and “Johnny B. Goode.”
“Mad Men’s” final episodes begin airing April 5 on AMC.
(Pictured: Actor Jon Hamm, series creator Matthew Weiner and actor Robert Morse at the AMC celebration of the final seven episodes of “Mad Men” with the Black & Red Ball)