Online Chat With Mad Men Creator Matthew Weiner

Matthew-Weiner_560x330.jpgMad Men creator Matthew Weiner answered fan questions after the Season 2 premiere on this Sunday night. Read the full transcript below.

10:53:02 PM – Ron Johnson of New York, NY: Which Mad Men character do you identify with the most? Meaning, which character is most autobiographical?

10:59:01 PM – Matthew Weiner: I like to think that they are all fragments of my personality, but in the end, I’m probably most like Peggy. Although I wish I was Don. I’m perennially the new girl, I’m a pretty earnest person always shocked by bad behavior. But Don is all of our ids, I think. I have a lot in common with him, but I think I wish that I could live with indulging my needs. And I envy his confidence.

11:02:30 PM – Ashley: What is the most ridiculous claim or prediction you’ve heard about the series?

11:03:12 PM – Matthew Weiner: Wow. I heard a prediction that Don was Jewish. Although, thematically, I understand it. I set Jews up through Rachel Menken as being outsiders and somewhat existential. And I spent a lot of time worrying as Season 1 unfolded, “Did I ever say he wasn’t Jewish?” But in the end, his role is much more complex than simply hiding his religion. I think that’s the most ridiculous thing. Plotwise, I don’t know.

11:04:44 PM – Holly Brockman: Who are your favorite authors and which ones have heavily influenced your work?

11:05:52 PM – Matthew Weiner: I like a variety of writers in different form. Certainly, John Cheever has been very influential. Arthur Miller, JD Salinger. Why? Because they have an incredible interest in humanity and how we react to challenges, disappointments, and family. The literature referenced in the show gives a great reference to the small moments in life that become huge after they pass. Stories become less about the world in a general sense and more about the individuals that we surround ourselves with. I try and live in that world of social rules being broken and twisted for our individual dream.

11:06:56 PM – Boo from Brooklyn: Will your son (who played Glen) come back for Season 2?

11:07:29 PM – Matthew Weiner: I can’t tell you that.

11:07:51 PM – Lisa: New York’s Jewish work experience is very well documented in Mad Men. Will New York’s Black corporate experience be visited as well?

11:09:09 PM – Matthew Weiner: I think that the show is very historically accurate in not pandering to a rosy version of history. African-Americans at this period, with very few exceptions, were marginalized and occupied a completely segregated universe. As times change, the show will reflect that. I felt it was inappropriate to pretend that black people were not present, but equally inappropriate to pretend they were accepted or had positions of power during this period. It was a choice in the conception of the show, as integral as showing the smoking, to show the fact that although racism on a personal level was, as it hugely is, tame. Institutionally, it was horrifying.

11:10:41 PM – Beth: What made you decide to use”Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” in the closing minutes of the season one finale?

11:11:45 PM – Matthew Weiner: It was a song that reflected where we were going, i.e. the future — 1962, and how different the sound would be — but also being emotionally so related to Don having missed an opportunity to find his way home. I can tell you that the historical element of Bob Dylan aside, the song is an emotionally powerful statement about how lovers separate.

11:13:10 PM – Colleen: Today I watched “The Best of Season 1″ and was intrigued to hear you describe yourself as a “vampire.” Do elaborate, please!

11:13:15 PM – Matthew Weiner: This was a term given to me by actors on another job — on The Sopranos. And I think there’s some truth to the fact that I am an observer and can absorb other peoples’ natures sometimes from their behavior. Let’s put it this way: There are many qualities of the characters that are derived from spending time with the actors. I can’t elaborate further than that. But if someone tells me a story or behaves in a certain way, there’s a chance it will end up in the script. And hopefully, I think this is what gives the show a ring of truth.

11:15:23 PM – David Cote: Concerning Don’s upbringing, were you familiar with the literature surrounding adoptees and their psychological issues, or did you have some firsthand experience with adoptees?

11:16:18 PM – Matthew Weiner: It was a combination of my own feelings about childhood, and a lot of literature and a lot of autobiography from great achievers of the 20th century, that they shared this background. And there are a lot of things — I’m not personally adopted — but i think the emotional understanding of this generation that adopted or not, that was born into the Great Depression, had a certain attitutde about life and love and work. I read Sam Walton, Lee Iacoca, Bill Clinton, John D. Rockefeller. And on the literature side, we can’t pretend that Gatsby was pulled out of thin air.

11:16:39 PM – Myrna: I’m curious to find out if you and the cast of Mad Men have had a chance to look at the video entries for the Walk-on Role Contest. If so, what do you think of the videos your fans have created so far?

11:18:01 PM Matthew Weiner: We have. There has been some discussion and delight at the creativity, humor, and insanity of our fans. I can’t weigh in on specifics, but it’s been a pleasure.

11:19:36 PM – Packer01: Was there any resistance to Don’s back story?

11:22:03 PM – Matthew Weiner: No. Once it was clear that although it was complex, it rang true, everyone was impressed by the natural explanation of this man and his behavior. I always had this in mind for the character, because it explained to me why he was the way he was. He fits into an American reality of people of this time. I think he’s emblematic of successful people of this time. Richard Nixon’s biography is far more Dickensian.

11:23:10 PM – Dan Jaspers: Is there any overarching statement about the human condition that you are trying to make with the show?

11:24:26 PM – Matthew Weiner: It’s hard to simplify with something that is creatively this large, but I’ll try and say simply, everyone has a reason for what they do, good and bad.

11:25:23 PM – Guillermo Montes: Mr. Weiner, the show obviously has had to do its share of research for creative and continuity reasons,which is what makes the show so unique and fascinating. What would you say has been the hardest part of the era to research and why?

11:29:41 PM – Matthew Weiner: The language, because literature and movies are often not drawn from real life, and individuals do not have very good memory, so we try and find places where things are used and try and get a sense of what the slang is. But in the end, we only have our ear to go on, and I think we’re about 95% accuracy. But it’s very difficult. It’s also hard to tell what peoples’ interest is in events because the media now as then, can exaggerate or underplay it. I always use the example of 9/11, which I lived through and how huge it was to our experience and how strange it was that life returned to normal, outside of Manhattan at least, far more quickly than would be suggested by research. Equally, the 2000 election, with the recounts and the chads, we’ve all forgotten that despite the fact that there were 40 days of insanity. How does one tell that story? It’s really hard.

11:30:39 PM – Steve from the Bronx: Has your experience with The Sopranos been any sort of influence on Mad Men?

11:30:42 PM – Matthew Weiner: Being associated and working in the environment of one of the greatest shows in the history of television has made me humble and at the same time striving for excellence. The most important lesson was to not discount emotional truth and always try to be entertaining. I try and tell a story that you don’t know the ending, but when you see it, it seems inevitable.

11:32:06 PM – Mary: I’ve read opinions comparing Mad Men to Billy Wilder’s films. I’ve also heard that you consciously looked to Wilder’s The Apartment for inspiration. Could you discuss this inspiration, and any other influence you’ve had from classic films for the series?

11:33:59 PM – Matthew Weiner: When one is writing screen drama, Billy Wilder is about the best there is, and he succeeded in many genres and a lot of this has to do for me with the mix of humor, visual storytelling, and emotional reality. I love his films, I love his writing, and it’s like asking someone in baseball what they think about Babe Ruth. I also love the film The Best Years of Our Lives, by William Wyler. It was made in 1946 and it was about the human and social reality of life after World War II, and it was done without any purpose or propaganda. Real people living with a real problem in the most dramatic way.

11:34:12 PM – Matthew Weiner: I think that people forget that, even in the Hollywood mainstream, the culture was supported financially and creatively by people who where telling the truth about life. Films like that and The Sweet Smell of Success and hundreds of others showed a social and a personal consciousness that was also commercially successful, which means that the world is interested in people, not agendas. If anything, these classic movies are about hypocrisy, and reality. And that’s always inspiring.

11:36:24 PM – Zachary Snyder: A recurring theme in Mad Men is how the next generation behaves. It seems to both be shown sometimes as a forward thinking and sometimes as disrespectful (i.e. the elevator scene tonight). How do you think today’s generation compares to that of the 1960s?

11:38:18 PM – Matthew Weiner: In a general way, I think that, and it was said in Episode 4 last year, that older people always think younger people have lost their morals and manners, but I do think society has become cruder and that actually I’m hopeful that the young people I meet now, are more respectful than they have been in a few generations. I know it makes me sound like an old person, but there is an experience you have as you get older that the rules are changing about what is acceptable between people, especially when it comes to sexual politics. And this is cyclical, so who knows where we are right now. But I definitely believe that for Don’s generation, despite growing up int he uncivilized environment of the great depression, felt that their standards were being lowered as language changed, and the sexual revolution began.

11:39:13 PM – Roberta Lipp of Little Falls, NJ: Do you have faith in all the characters on this show? So many of them have done awful things, or just don’t get it. Is there anyone who just won’t change, or do they all have the potential to grow?

11:44:00 PM – Matthew Weiner: That question is about how I feel about people rather than how I feel about the characters on the show. I think that people who want to change get as much credit from me as people who actually do. We do change, people do change, but it requires tremendous effort, and I feel that the characters on the show — some are trying and some aren’t. As I said before, everyone has a reason for what they do, has the potential to change, and I try not to put it in good or bad terms. Sometimes they don’t even know what they want. I think that all of us are lost, and we cling to our jobs, and our families, and our institutions, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. And you add the opportunities that come along historically, and it will be interesting to see where people end up.

11:45:02 PM – Sarah: If the show is intended to capture the decadence of the 1960s preceding hippies and Vietnam, then when do you envision the show ending?

11:45:22 PM – Matthew Weiner: I don’t envision the show ending. I have no idea what the future plans are for the network or the studio. I don’t see this time as any more decadent than any other time, but it is a historically fascinating period filled with change. And it’s been my intention to show where people were when it began, and as society actually changes, and eventually changes back, I would love to see what happens to these people’s lives. I think that you look at the sexual revolution, look at the traditional view of the turbulence of the late ’60s with our leaders being murdered and a war and the public mobilized and the children adrift and rules with race and gender being broken and changed, a lot of that did not stick. And I don’t know what the future will bring, but I know that for imagining Don Draper in 1980, if he lives that long due to his smoking and drinking, I wonder if he’d feel right at home — as if it was 1959 all over again.

11:48:04 PM – Thank you so much for your time, Matthew. We’re all very excited to see what happens in the upcoming season. Congratulations on the recent Emmy nominations.

11:48:09 PM – Matthew Weiner: It’s amazing that there’s a way for me to interact with the people who watch the show, and it’s especially gratifying to know the audience is so intelligent and thoughtful and curious. And I hope that you’re ready for a ride, because this season is going to be very, very gratifying.

Filed under: Interviews


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On April 28th, our commenting features will become unavailable while we upgrade the site. We apologize for the inconvenience. Commenting and the Talk forum will relaunch along with a range of new site features early next month. If you would like to be notified when commenting and the Talk forum have relaunched you can sign up for our newsletter here.

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