As Sally Draper on “Mad Men,” Kiernan Shipka has been slapped, mixed drinks, smoked cigarettes, driven a car and, in a recent episode, cut her own hair and then got caught masturbating at a sleepover. It’s a lot for any actress, let alone one who’s 11.
But when asked if anything in “Mad Men’s” four-season run has made her uncomfortable, Shipka barely hesitates. “No,” she offers nonchalantly. Next question.
Shipka rarely needs her hand held. Sally Draper started as a blip on the radar — more to support parents Don and Betty Draper’s stories than her own — but has become a dynamic and vital part of the show. Last season, she lashed out at her family after the death of her grandfather. Shipka went even further in season four as Sally dealt with her parents’ divorce.
“Kiernan’s never putting on a face — not looking ‘sad’ or ‘angry,’ but emotionally experiencing what she’s supposed to,” says creator Matthew Weiner. “It’s always shocking when I see it, because I talk to her, and she really is a little girl.”
So much so that Shipka’s mom watches “Mad Men” episodes first before screening only select parts for her daughter.
Yet like everything else, Shipka understands. “Honestly, I’m not interested in (‘Mad Men’) — it’s there to entertain adults, not kids,” she says. Shipka, a Chicago native who scored the part on “Mad Men” during her first-ever pilot season, prefers to spend time drawing and swimming, occasionally catching a song on “Glee.”
The show has opened Shipka’s eyes. “I did a lot of research on the 1960s — for ‘Mad Men,’ and for fifth grade. It was the only time I really enjoyed history,” she says enthusiastically.