20 Mad Men Facts To Make You Feel Like Don Draper

Mad Men is an American period drama set in the 1960s created by Matthew Weiner in 2007. Our behind the scenes facts about Mad Men include who initially auditioned for Peggy Olsen, whether the cigarette's smoked on set were real and what surprising beauty ritual Jon Hamm had to do 3 times a day whilst filming.

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Mad Men is an American period drama set in the 1960s created by Matthew Weiner in 2007. The show is set in the fictional Advertising Agency, Sterling Cooper on Madison Avenue in Manhattan and follows the life of main character and the company's Lead Creative Don Draper and his colleagues. Mad Men is often cited as the greatest television programme of all time and an integral part of the Golden Age Of TV in the early 21st Century. There are a total of 92 episodes spanning 7 seasons. 

Here are some little known facts about Mad Men.

1. "Mad" Is Short For Madison Avenue

The name Mad Men, as described in the show’s pilot episode, is said to be a slang term used by ad executives in the 1950s to describe themselves whilst working on Madison Avenue, New York. However, there isn’t a lot of proof that this was a real term used in the era and was probably brought into the public consciousness solely by the series itself.

2. There Wouldn’t Have Been Mad Men Without The Sopranos

When Mad Men showrunner, Matthew Weiner, was working as a staff writer on the Ted Danson sitcom Becker in 2000, he wrote the first speculative script for the pilot of Mad Men. He later showed it to David Chase, the producer of The Sopranos who later hired Weiner to work as a writer on the HBO series. Unfortunately, Weiner and his team were unable to get Mad Men funded by HBO, and David Chase turned down the role of Producer. HBO’s CEO Richard Plepler has been cited saying that turning down Mad Men was one of his greatest regrets.

Weiner states that The Sopranos had a big influence on how Mad Men was shot including weaving the emotion of Peggy’s unplanned pregnancy in Season 1 throughout the storyline as the show went on.

3. Mad Men's Crew Did A Huge Amount Of Research

Matthew Weiner and the writers of Mad Men had achieved bucket loads of research to make sure that every aspect of the series was historically accurate for the 1960s. This included looking at set design, costume design and props including incorporating realistic amounts of smoking and drinking alcohol in scenes despite differing attitudes in the present day.

Jon Hamm, who plays Don Draper, has confirmed in interviews the cigarettes smoked on set were herbal and contained no nicotine or tobacco.

4. Each Episode Had The Budget Of $2.5 Million Maximum

In order to keep all of the scenes historically accurate, the production team on Mad Men needed a hefty budget with each episode amassing up to $2.5 Million (US) to shoot. The pilot episode was said to have a budget of $3 Million.

Ahead of Mad Men’s fifth season, creator Matthew Weiner was said to have signed a $30 Million contract for the next three seasons. The show’s international syndication was said to have reached up to $700,000 per episode during it’s 7 year run. It was rumoured that Netflix signed a video deal of $71-$100 Million to have Mad Men available on its service in 2011.

5. Mad Men Was Heavily Influenced By Alfred Hitchcock

The opening titles to Mad Men reflect Weiner’s fascination with Hitchcock most noticeably. A silhouette of a man falls from the window of a skyscraper playing homage to North By Northwest (1959) and Vertigo’s (1958) iconic poster.

6. The Show May Really Be About Mad Women

Weiner talks openly about how the introduction of the contraceptive pill in the 1960s was “the largest change in the entire world”. Suddenly women could choose whether to be pregnant or have children and the world opened up for them and attitudes had to shift. You can see this struggle in all of the female characters in Mad Men. Betty wants the life of the younger women in society which she cannot have as she already had 3 children. Peggy chooses not to have her baby and to focus on her career, still a taboo at the beginning of attitudes changing. Megan is met with suspicion and criticism when she clearly wants to pursue her career even when married.

The pilot takes place in around March 1960 and the show spans 10 years ending in October 1970. Nearly a year spans between creating the pilot episode, ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’ and Episode 2 of Season 1, ‘Ladies Room.’

7. Four Characters Were Turned Into Barbie Dolls

In 2010, a series of limited edition Barbie and Ken dolls were released for collectors depicting Joan Holloway, Roger Sterling, Betty Francis and Don Draper.

8. Brands Mentioned Were Not Paid Product Placement

Mad Men showrunner, Matthew Weiner featured a significant number of real products and brand names during the show, and many were advertising clients of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. These included Lucky Strike Cigarettes, Heineken, Cadillac, Playtex, Chanel, Spam and American Airlines. Only Jack Daniels, Heineken, Unilever and Hilton were part of a paid promotion, however Hilton handed over a sum of money to the show as a ‘thank you’ for featuring them in a storyline in episodes previous.

Whilst Season 4 of Mad Men aired, Unilever funded 6 retro advertisements that were played during ad breaks on US Television. Products included, Dove, Hellmans, Vaseline, Suave, Klondike and Breyers.

9. Unlike Most Shows, You Can See The Ceiling In Mad Men

Cinematographer Phil Abraham and director Alan Taylor wanted the show to have a clear visual tone so created an air of mystery around Don Draper’s character and shot most scenes at the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce set lower than eyeline in order to feature ceilings, depth and the wider mise-en-scene. The frequent feature of ceilings caused more work for the lighting crew who had to constantly move their rigs out of shot.

Taylor is also said to have discouraged the use of Steadicams, and hand held shots on the set of Mad Men due to their jarring nature with other footage from the era, so made sure each set was designed with enough room to move a dolly.

10. There Was No Improvisation On Set

Matthew Weiner had to be alerted to any changes of the Mad Men script and didn’t allow improvisation on set. He rewrote every single script for the show and would only include himself in the writing credits for the episode if less than 20% of the original writer’s work remained in the final shooting script.

11. John Slattery Originally Auditioned To Play Don Draper

Before accepting the role of Roger Sterling, the son of the initial agency’s co-founder, John Slattery originally auditioned for the role of Don Draper. He went on to be nominated four consecutive times for an Emmy Award and Critics Choice TV Award for his role.

12. Talia Balsam Is Roger Sterling’s Wife

Actor Talia Balsam who plays Roger Sterling's first wife Mona Sterling, is actually John Slattery’s wife in real life. She was also the only actor to not audition for her role.

13. Peggy Olson Repeated Her Wardrobe

Mad Men costume designer Janie Bryant discussed in an interview for Slate Magazine in 2012 that she had a tradition to repeat one of Peggy’s outfits from a previous season during the next season’s premiere. This helps to visually show Peggy’s self-made, hustling, down to earth character more and is more true to real working life.

14. Jon Hamm Had To Be Shaved 3 Times A Day

For an interview in Esquire Magazine, one Mad Men make-up artist Lana Horochowski had to make sure that Jon Hamm was clean shaven at all times. During longer shooting days, she reminisces having to shave his stubble up to three times a day on set in order for it to be hidden on camera!

The show was planned so meticulously that each hour would have instructions for the crew including makeup to adjust Don’s skin with appropriate facial hair if the scene was taking place past 5PM.

15. Matthew Weiner’s Son Stars In Mad Men

Marten Holden Weiner plays the memorable character of Glen Bishop, friend of Sally Draper who we first see harbouring an unhealthy obsession with Betty Draper. He is a recurring character throughout the show’s run, we see him and Sally meet up in New York and then later he visits her dorm room at boarding school.

16. Bobby Draper Was The Youngest Actor To Ever Win A SAG Award

Aaron Hart who played Bobby Draper in Season 1 - Season 3 was the youngest actor to ever win a SAG Award. The Character of Bobby Draper was played by 4 different child actors throughout the course of the show whereas Kiernan Shipka (who you may know from Netflix’s Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina) played Sally Draper continuously throughout. She was 6 years old in season 1 of Mad Men.

17. January Jones Auditioned Twice To Play Peggy Olsen

Before reading for her successful role of Betty Draper, January Jones read twice for the part of Peggy Olsen which was later given to Elisabeth Moss. Initially she had reservations about accepting the part as in the first few scripts available Betty hadn’t been given a lot to say and wasn’t thoroughly fleshed out.

In an interview for the New York Times Magazine in 2013, Elisabeth Moss who plays Peggy Olsen in the show was asked whether Peggy and Don would ever sleep together in the plot. She replied, “I hope’s like the kiss of death to sleep with Don!”

Christina Hendricks also auditioned for another role before landing her starring appointment as Joan Holloway. She originally read for Midge Daniels, a struggling artist and former lover of Don Draper.

18. Jessica Paré Auditioned To Play Rachel Menken

Before landing her role as Megan Calvert, Jessica Paré auditioned for the role of Rachel Menken, Don’s one that got away business woman from Season 1, and Jane Seigel, Roger’s secretary then second wife. Recommended by Jon Hamm, Sarah Silverman was also offered an audition for the role of Rachel Menken.

Rumour has it Julia Ormond, who stars in the role of Megan’s Mother, Marie Calvert was such a huge fan of Mad Man that she once broke off a long term relationship because her partner had seen an episode of it without her present.

19. Mad Men Had A Large Number Of Former Child Actors

A significant number of the Mad Men cast had been former child actors. You may remember Elisabeth Moss playing the daughter of Martin Sheen’s President Bartlet on The West Wing or Vincent Kartheiser playing Conor son of the vampire Angelus in the Buffy The Vampire Slayer spin off. We also see Trevor Einhorn play John Mathis, part of the creative department, who notably played the son of Frasier and Lilith Crane, Frederick on Frasier.

20. In The Finale Joan Goes Into Business Alone

In the last episode of Mad Men, Joan Holloway asks Peggy Olson to go into business with her which Peggie subsequently turns down. We later see Joan has in fact started her own company anyway under the name ‘Holloway Harris’ as you ‘need two names to make it sound real’. These are both her maiden and married names.

Mad Men Facts - 20 Mad Men Facts To Make You Feel Like Don Draper

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