According to Jon Hamm, the production's pursuit of historical accuracy is such that series researchers will insist on knowing weather conditions, news items, and popular culture for a particular period related to the script's time frame.
The actors do not smoke real cigarettes. They smoke Ecstacy herbal cigarettes, which are tobacco and nicotine free. Show creator Matthew Weiner said in a New York Times article, "You don't want actors smoking real cigarettes. They get agitated and nervous. I've been on sets where people throw up, they've smoked so much." When asked what it's like to smoke herbal cigarettes, Jon Hamm (who plays Don Draper) told Vulture, "Terrible. They taste like a mixture between pot and soap."
At a 2013 Q&A session at the Paley Center for Media, Matthew Weiner said that he had already told his wife and a few writers about how he plans to end the whole series. He also said that "he's been told it's a disaster, but he's going with it [anyway]."
Jon Hamm confirmed that the beverages consumed on the show are non-alcoholic, pointing out that the shooting schedule is actually very hectic and that he would never drink during the day on camera or off.
When Jon Hamm was in the auditioning stages for Don Draper, creator Matt Weiner guessed that Hamm, like Don, was not raised by his own parents. In real life, Hamm's mother died of colon cancer when he was 10, after which he largely lived with his grandmother. In addition, when Hamm was 20 his father also passed away.
In 2012, costume designer Janie Bryant told Slate magazine that she always repeats one of Peggy's costumes from the previous season during the next season's premiere. Bryant said that she "loves" that tradition for Peggy because I think that this all is really based in reality. That's what we would do in real life: We repeat our clothes."
Mad Men counts Barack Obama among its fans. Obama sent a fan letter to Matthew Weiner following Season 3, telling him how much he enjoys the show. A stunned and flattered Weiner keeps the letter from Obama in a frame on the wall outside of his office.
Matthew Weiner shot the pilot on the hiatus between the two parts of season 6 of The Sopranos, and he used a lot of the crew from the HBO show to do it. David Chase agreed to help him in what he could, but making sure that Weiner would come back to write the last episodes of The Sopranos.
The titles pay homage to graphic designer Saul Bass's skyscraper-filled opening titles for Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest (1959) and falling man movie poster for Vertigo (1958); Weiner has listed Hitchcock as a major influence on the visual style of the series.
At of the start of the fifth season, the role of Robert "Bobby" Draper has been played by four different child actors. Bobby was originally played by Maxwell Huckabee; Huckabee was replaced with Aaron Hart toward the end of the first season; Hart was replaced with Jared Gilmore by the start of the third season; and Gilmore was replaced with Mason Vale Cotton starting with season five. It is particularly notable that Hart was replaced since he is the youngest actor ever to win a SAG Award (which he won for playing Bobby Draper). By contrast, the oldest Draper child, Sally, has been played by the same actress, Kiernan Shipka, since the start of the show. Shipka was seven years old when her first "Mad Men" episode aired.
During a 2013 interview in the New York Times Magazine, the interviewer, Andrew Goldman, asked Elisabeth Moss (who plays Peggy) if she thought the Don-Peggy relationship would "ever be consummated, given the obvious sexual tension between them." Moss's reply was, "I hope not. Anyone who sleeps with Don does not have a long road ahead of them. It's like the kiss of death to sleep with Don. I really think it would be jumping the shark to do that."
Very unusual on a TV-show, almost no information is provided for the press during the shooting. This includes casting or storylines. The main cast is not allowed to talk about it and any guest actor signs a contract not to tell anybody he/she is working on the show. Matthew Weiner and his team oversee and decide how the information is given and how it is released.
According to January Jones, she had some doubts about taking the role because she hadn't had much to do on the first episodes, but she decided to trust her instincts that Betty would have rich plots coming up.
January Jones auditioned twice for the role of Peggy Olson before Matthew Weiner asked her to read for the part of Betty Draper instead, despite the fact that at that point the character was barely in the pilot and he had no plans of fleshing her out.
Matthew Weiner wrote the pilot of Mad Men in 1999 while working on the Ted Danson sitcom Becker (1998). In 2002, Weiner sent the pilot as a writing sample to David Chase, who created The Sopranos (1999).
Shortly before the show premiered, Matthew Weiner got worried when he heard the news that an adaptation of Richard Yates's Revolutionary Road was going to be shot. The novel and the show share some important thematic, plot, and setting elements, and Weiner feared that everyone would complain about him copying Yates's traits. The irony was that when Revolutionary Road premiered in 2008, Mad Men had already aired two seasons, so people actually accused Sam Mendes's movie of looking too much like Mad Men.
McCann Erickson, an agency that is mentioned by name over the course of the series and then plays a large role in the ongoing plot during the final two seasons is an actual advertising agency. The company as it still exists (as of 2015) was formed in 1930 from the merger of the Erickson Company and the H. K. McCann Company. The agency's website states that they operate "180 offices in more than 120 countries."
Creator Matthew Weiner thought Jon Hamm was right for the role of Don Draper early on in the audition process, however, executives were not so sure and the actor was forced to audition numerous times to get the role.
When Don Draper appeared wearing sunglasses in season 3, the frames became one of the most sought-after items of the holiday season, sparking an intense debate as to whether they were made by Randolph Engineering or American Optical, as both companies manufactured a nearly identical frame. Many mens' fashion magazines, such as GQ, cited Randolph Engineering as the manufacturer, due to the company's positive reputation in the fashion industry, and criticized viewers who purchased American Optical frames (which are relatively inexpensive and manufactured for the US Military) as "cheapskates." However, Randolph Engineering did not begin manufacturing their square aviator until the 1970s; given the show's period authenticity and Matthew Weiner's devotion to historical accuracy, this means that Don's frames are, in fact, the American Optical Aviator, which was in manufacture during the 1960s.
Sally's teacher is first introduced on the show dancing around a maypole with her students. The teacher character is named Suzanne Farrell, after one of the most famous American ballerinas of the 1960s, '70s, and '80s.
With the exception of Talia Balsam, who Matthew Weiner knew from his time on The Sopranos and who is married to John Slattery, every single actor that appeared on the show auditioned for his or her part.
Sarah Silverman was offered an audition for the role of Rachel Menken but turned down the offer because she was starring in _The Sarah Silverman Program (2007)_. Silverman was recommended for the role by Jon Hamm, who had previously guest starred on The Sarah Silverman Program.
A number of Mad Men's regular actors are former child actors who once played the children of popular main characters in beloved 1990s TV shows. For example, from 1990-1994, Jay R. Ferguson (Stan Rizzo) played the child of Burt Reynolds's character on Evening Shade; starting when he was 8 years old, Trevor Einhorn (John Mathis) played the son of Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) throughout the run of the sitcom Frasier; on Angel, Vincent Kartheiser (Pete) played the son of the eponymous vampire (David Boreanaz); and Elisabeth Moss played the youngest daughter of President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) on The West Wing.
During a March 2015 interview with Matt Zoller Seitz, Matthew Weiner got a question from the audience about why Weiner chose the name "Whitman" as Don's birth name (specifically, whether it was a reference to the poet Walt Whitman). Weiner said that the choice of Whitman had nothing to do with Walt Whitman; rather, it was meant to be a contraction of "white man."
The little ball-shaped glasses often used by Draper and colleagues are a design known since at least the 1950s as "roly poly" tumblers. The band of metal plating along the rim, an innovative accent introduced by artist Dorothy Carpenter Thorpe, made the design even more popular (and much-copied) through the 1960s and beyond. Sets of these made ideal business gifts, as the bands (made of silver, chrome, platinum, or even gold) could be custom-stenciled with initials, company logos or other business-related graphics. Draper's glasses appear to have platinum bands.
During his March 2015 discussion with Matt Zoller Seitz at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, Matthew Weiner refuted the early and ongoing fan theory that Don Draper is a secretly Jewish man who is passing as a WASP. Weiner said that when he first heard this fan theory it took him by complete surprise; he had hoped that it would be answered definitively for viewers by the episode "The Hobo Code," which shows Don being brought up by a stepmother who was (in Weiner's words) a "Holy Roller" (meaning that she was a demonstrative evangelical protestant), but even that does not seem to have quelled the theory for some fans.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
After the final episode of the series aired, many viewers engaged in fierce debate about the meaning of the episode's final moments. Most interpreted the very ending (in which Don seems to experience a moment of happiness and revelation during a meditation session, and then the real-life 1971 Coca-Cola commercial "Hilltop" plays) to mean that Don realized he was meant to be an adman all along, returned to McCann, and created perhaps the most famous ad of the 1970s based on his experience at the meditation retreat. Proponents of this theory noticed several clues that indicated it, including the fact that Don fixes a Coke machine in a previous episode and also the strong physical and sartorial similarities between many of the other attendees at the retreat and the singers in the ad. However, a significant and vocal minority of viewers and critics believed in other interpretations, including the possibility that Peggy, not Don, created the ad or that the ad did not literally "exist" in the Mad Men characters' lives and instead represented Don's spiritual awakening. These alternate theories were debunked in the days after the last episode aired - first by Jon Hamm (the actor who played Don Draper) in a New York Times interview and then by showrunner Matthew Weiner himself in a public conversation with A. M. Holmes at the New York Public Library. Weiner confirmed that the episode was meant to imply that Don wrote the Coke ad: "The idea that some enlightened state, and not just co-option, might've created something that is very pure [appealed to Weiner]. . . . To me, it's the best ad ever made, and it comes from a very good place."
Clips from and references to the movie and the song Bye Bye Birdie (1963) pervade much of the third season. It had already been established in previous seasons that Don's affectionate pet name for Betty is "Birdy;" since the third season ends with Betty flying to Reno to divorce Don, the prominence of the song is the showrunner's nod to the fact that the third season is the one in which Don must literally say "bye bye" to his wife, "Birdy."
Joan finally chooses the name "Holloway, Harris" for her new, independent company. Many viewers were left confused about where these names came from. When Joan proposed a partnership to Peggy, she said that their company would be named "Harris, Olson," because "you need two names to make it sound real." Joan also told Peggy that she didn't want a professional partnership with anyone else but Peggy. So after Peggy turned down Joan's offer, Joan gave the company both of her names: Holloway (her original last name from before she was married) and Harris (the name she acquired when she married Dr. Greg Harris and kept even after she divorced him). This verifies the implication from earlier in the episode that Joan has gone into business by herself, with no other partner.
In 2008, show creator Matt Weiner told The Chicago Tribune that Peggy and Pete's son was given up for adoption (as she told Pete) and is not being raised by Peggy's sister or mother. Weiner also said that the misdirection to make the audience think that the son is being raised by Peggy's sister was deliberate. In 2013, Weiner expanded on this at a Q&A session at the Paley Center for Media. Weiner said that Pete and Peggy's child is "gone into the Catholic church's adoption system... it's untraceable, you can't find your birth parents. I guess you could now, but it's pretty hard."
During the show's first season, an elaborate, multi-stage makeup and costuming process was developed by costume designer Janie Bryant and makeup department head Debbie Zoller for actress Elisabeth Moss to simulate Peggy's weight gain. Bryant created several body suits with different levels of padding for Moss to wear under her costumes. Zoller made four stages of facial prosthetics, starting with a fairly subtle piece to augment Moss's chin and neck, and then added increasing cheek pieces to create the illusion that she was slowly becoming significantly heavier. During the filming of the fifth season, the makeup artists repeated the process--this time for January Jones, the actress who plays Betty (Draper) Francis. Although the storyline in which Betty gained a great deal of weight was initially contrived in anticipation of having to explain Jones's pregnancy, Jones didn't gain anything close to the amount of weight that the showrunners intended for Betty to gain, so the makeup artists dressed Jones in a fat suit and covered her face and neck in prosthetic makeup appliances to simulate Betty's weight gain. They also employed a larger body double to film a scene in which heavier Betty gets out of the bath.
In the show, Henry Francis, an advisor to Nelson Rockefeller, convinces Betty to leave Don so she can marry him. In real life Rockefeller did that himself when he convinced Margaretta Murphy, mother of four, to leave her husband, James Murphy. Margaretta married Rockefeller a month after she left her husband.