A master class could be taught about the women of “Mad Men’s” Don Draper, whose existential angst has become so acute that his capacity for intimacy seems to be at an all-time low. But in season six of the series, yet another mistress gets under his skin, causing him once again to confront a profound ambivalence that no amount of bourbon can wash away.
This object of desire is played by Linda Cardellini as Sylvia, the trophy wife of a doctor who lives in the same swanky apartment building as the unhappily married Drapers. With her Jackie O bouffant, tailored clothes and a strategically placed beauty mark, one could have mistaken her as merely a sexy distraction — putty in Don’s hands. But in fact she’s in many ways his equal, introducing him to Dante and, eventually, calling his bluff after he subjects her to a dominant submissive exercise as a way of separating sex and commitment.
How did it feel for the actress to bring Don Draper to his knees? “I feel pretty good,” laughs Cardellini over the phone. “I think it’s interesting because you think that because she has this so-called conscience, that she’s not going to be able to compartmentalize as well as he does. And it seems that she does.”
Cardellini’s appearance in the series immediately sparked water cooler conversation about how drastically different she is from her role as a sullen teen in “Freaks and Geeks,” for which she was previously best known.
“It definitely has hit a different audience,” she says, “and it surprised people to see me in that sort of role. I think that was the most fun about it.”
— Steve Chagollan