Martinis? Poured. Cigarettes? Lit. Anticipation? Killing us. In less than two weeks (March 25 to be exact), Mad Men returns to our living rooms. This week’s cover of EW takes you behind-the-scenes of AMC’s ‘60s-era drama — which centers on masterful ad exec Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and has claimed the Outstanding Drama Emmy four years running — to give you a preview of the fifth season and review of that prolonged 17-month hiatus. Below, we offer up a bunch of bonus quotes that you won’t find in the piece from many of Mad‘s main men, including Hamm, John Slattery, Vincent Kartheiser, Jared Harris, and Rich Sommer, as well as series creator/exec producer Matthew Weiner. (We’ll hear from the women in part II.)
On Don’s proposal to Megan (Jessica Pare) in the season 4 finale
JON HAMM: Everything that Matt does takes me by surprise, somewhat, so this was no exception. But also it’s a natural progression… He had told me about it way before he had written it. And honestly, part of it was teed up by what Cara Buono’s character, Dr. Miller, says to Don very early in the season: “Don’t worry, you’ll be married within a year.” And that landed on Don in a particular way and maybe unconsciously, maybe subconsciously, maybe consciously he was trying to not prove that, and in not proving it, proved it. He basically became the stereotype… So was it surprising? Yes and no. But I think it was logical… That’s a thing with Don: You think you know him and then all of a sudden you don’t. Betty [January Jones] has had the experience with Don. Peggy [Elisabeth Moss] has had that experience with Don. That’s part of Don’s makeup — zigging when everyone else thinks he’s going to zag. And, yeah, it certainly made for interesting television.
On the time jump to begin season 5
HAMM: It’s off enough to where you’re like, “Okay, where are we? It doesn’t feel like the next day.”… It’s just enough of a jump to where you go, “Whoa, what happened to those two? Do those two know each other? Do they know what happened?” All those things impact and land in the first episode.
On the season premiere
MATTHEW WEINER: This episode is really about: Is the office a good place? There’s a lot in that. What holds us to work? If the office is bad, is it because we’re bringing our badness back and forth? We spend more time at work than we do with our family.
HAMM: Don is a very compartmentalized person. He compartmentalizes things. And when those worlds start spinning into one another, Don gets very uncomfortable. And that’s as much as I can say without giving anything away.
On the office dynamics at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce
VINCENT KARTHEISER: There seems to be a crop of young people who have an impact on the older people and have a voice and a vision into the times — they’re changing so rapidly and the old guard kind of can’t keep up. And even if they have better ideas, it’s not relevant anymore. So there’s that battle between [the old guard] and the young people trying to assert themselves. I think it’s always been there on the show, but this season it’s definitely something that’s highlighted.
On the looming change that the second half of the ’60s will bring
WEINER: [In the early ’60s], books came out: Why is there poverty in America? Why is there pollution in America? Why is there inequality of the sexes in America? And I’ve shown that those things didn’t make that big an impact on our characters, especially because they’re in advertising. Well, that impact is coming. I don’t know if both shoes are going to drop this season, but you will see that. That’s what people are expecting. They should expect it… But Don is not moving to San Francisco this season, if that’s what they’re expecting.
JOHN SLATTERY: What’s so interesting is the audience knows change is coming, and they’re waiting for this iconic period to happen. And you get the satisfaction of watching these people go into this. What’s going to happen to these people when the late ‘60s arrive? Who changes? Who decides, “This is who I am and I don’t care what’s going on around me”? Or the opposite: Who decides that they can’t wait to change who they are?
On Don’s relationship with Betty
HAMM: Betty will always be part of Don’s life. She’s the mother of his children. As broken and as flawed as those two people are together, there’s still a very deep, soulful real connection, and we explore it a little bit this season. I have a feeling that she ain’t going anywhere.
On Roger (Slattery), in the wake of the loss of the Lucky Strike account
WEINER: Cooper (Robert Morse) has compared himself to the Queen of England in the past. Roger really may be it. He really may just be a figurehead…. There’s a hangover from [the loss of Lucky Strike]. He lost his account that was the entire agency. His name is still on the agency and he is the president, but does he care? That’s the interesting part.
SLATTERY: He had the golden goose and that went away. So his role definitely has to change. But I’ve always seen Roger as a pragmatist in some ways. There’s always been a pragmatism about looking at himself and cutting through the bulls—, both of other people and himself. At least if he can’t make the decision, he knows what he’s faced with… There are younger people coming up that want to make their name, and you know what they’re capable of. You have to watch your back, and even if you can’t do anything about it, you can bide your time.
NEXT: Joan’s pregnancy and the show’s endgame
On pregnant Joan
WEINER: When is her profession really going to be her goal? She got a taste of it a couple seasons ago, and everybody saw that ambition and it was crushing. But she has a position of authority in the new agency. So, is she a career woman? Is she going to be the early single mom? Or is she going to keep this a secret? We don’t know if she’s giving it away, but we know that she’s committed to having the baby… All I will say is I think it’s a very identifiable story.
On what to expect from Lane
JARED HARRIS: He wants to fit in. One of the things that I was and am attracted to by America is the idea that you can reinvent yourself. And I think that Lane is attracted to that idea subconsciously. Of course the most difficult thing about doing that is that you have to change who you are. The cloth that he’s cut from is something that he finds hard to let go of, so as much as he would like to reinvent himself, he’s got some very, very old habits that are difficult to change.
On what to expect from Pete
KARTHEISER: Right before last season ended, he became a partner at the firm. And he has a voice now in the voting world of it. There is an opportunity for him to show himself, but it’s coming about right when change is coming too. It’s like becoming CEO of a banking firm in 2007. It’s a nice job, but get ready.
On Harry (Sommer)
WEINER: History will show that Harry Crane has the most important job in the agency.
RICH SOMMER: It’s clear that Harry is becoming more valuable, and that value is being recognized not just by people in the office but by Harry himself. So people are taking every opportunity they can to capitalize on that — and that includes Harry.
On Ken (Aaron Staton)
WEINER: People who have everything still have wants.
On AMC’s decision to delay season 5 until spring 2012
HAMM: It was frustrating for us — we just wanted to go back to work… Debuting our show in the spring is risky because they’d never done it, [but] in many ways, we’re happy to be the guinea pig. Absence will make the heart grow fonder, ideally.
On the backlash from Weiner’s contract negotiations
WEINER: I just thought people didn’t have the information and I was surprised because I expected people in the WGA and creators to support that, but it was so misinformed that I couldn’t really be mad about it.
On the show’s three-season renewal, which takes Mad Men through a seventh and presumably final season
WEINER: Anything that gave me security to put down roots was nice. They said, “Can you do seven seasons?” and I thought “Yeah, I think I can do that.” I can’t imagine pushing it beyond that… It’s a luxury for me and hopefully it will be for the audience to know how long this thing is. I hope they’re clamoring for more when it’s over. And I hope that I know at that point that it’s over if it’s over. But I don’t want to paint myself into a corner and be the person who’s like, “Remember how I said I was leaving? Elvis hasn’t really left the building. Elvis is in the parking lot. Why don’t you come outside and I’ll play another song?” I am not going to be that.