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Being Don Draper’s secretary didn’t exactly offer much in the way of job security. One even died on the job. (RIP, Ida Blankenship.) But as the last of nine women to hold the job on “Mad Men,” Meredith — as embodied by Stephanie Drake — certainly made a lasting impression. Irrepressibly bright, bubbly and with a wardrobe to match, the receptionist-turned-wisecracking secretary came into her own at Sterling Cooper & Partners, finding her (squeaky) voice and standing up to even the toughest men who crossed her path. Witness her defiant defense of her missing boss when McCann Erickson boss Mr. Hobart comes storming by. Here, Drake explains where she summons her strength.

“Mad Men,” AMC
Season 7 ep. 12, “Lost Horizon”
Written by Semi Chellas & Matthew Weiner; Directed by Phil Abraham

STEPHANIE DRAKE: “I never would have thought after my first episode that there is where I would end up. But Matt (Weiner) told me after my first episode that people are going to catch on to Meredith, that, ‘You’re going to be surprised by all the love you’re going to get.’ I emailed him the other day and said, ‘You were right!’

“Once I get my hair and makeup done, that’s when I really feel like I’m Meredith. And then putting on whatever cute dress I get to wear seals the deal. I have so many amazing costumes! I wish I could have taken something home. I like being the comic relief on set. Whenever I would show up, everyone would take a sigh of relief: ‘Oh, good, Meredith is here! Something fun is going to happen today.’ And everyone would relax a little bit.

“Thank goodness Meredith didn’t sleep with Don. Matt always jokes with me if she had approached Don and kissed him on any other day I’d be pregnant. But because she picked the absolute worst day to try to seduce him, we didn’t sleep together. And as you can see, it’s become quite a nice little relationship between the two of them. She takes her job very seriously. She can’t really embarrass herself more than she already did. She became Don’s voice of reason. She took charge of keeping his life on track, and he responded to it well. That’s where she got the courage to tell him what she really thinks. And I got to yell at him over and over again.

“The day Don disappeared, obviously he didn’t tell her where he was going. She covered for him as best as she could. When we were shooting the scene (when Mr. Hobart came looking for him), the director (Phil Abraham) just kept telling me to smile. Just smile as big as you can. Smile harder. Smile with your mind. Smile, smile, smile. And don’t let (Mr. Hobart) know anything is wrong until he leaves the room.”