Last night's season premiere of AMC's smash hit period piece "Mad Men" saw the introduction of some new faces, while old characters fell back into bad habits. "ER" and "Freaks & Geeks" actress Linda Cardellini dished to Entertainment Weekly about making her mark on the series. For those who haven't seen last night's episode, be forewarned that SPOILERS follow.
The fifth season finale saw Jon Hamm's Don Draper possibly compromising his latest seemingly happy marriage to Megan (Jessica Pare). Last night's premiere confirmed that the conflicted ad man has fallen back into his old habits, and back into bed with Cardellini's character Sylvia. The "ER" alum's role on the series was kept tightly under wraps, so much so that not even friends and family of the actress were aware of her participation on the series. "[Series creator] Matt [Weiner] never gives it away! The secretive part isn’t only for the audience. It’s for everybody around set. I think it keeps everybody on their toes and guessing and it keeps everybody involved in the future of the show. I think it’s interesting on one level because the question marks, if you let them get to you, can drive you crazy, but it doesn’t because you just sort of have to jump in the water and swim with everybody," she said. "It’s pretty fun. And it’s unique. There are not that many jobs as an actor where you don’t get to know what you’re character will be doing from episode to episode. It’s sort of a giant unknown and you go along and trust. I think that’s what’s really special about 'Mad Men.'"
Indeed, the actress cites the series creator's precise but secretive vision as somewhat unfamiliar to her previous television experiences. "It’s a very different vibe from something like 'Freaks and Geeks,' where the scripts are incredible but it’s a lot looser — there was improv and it was also a period piece but it was a different period and there was more of a naturalistic, loose vibe to the work. When it comes to something like 'Mad Men,' it’s very precise, and you may not even understand the part that you’re playing in the bigger picture. You do precisely what is instructed in terms of what is worded perfectly and what is in the stage directions," she explained. "Some shows operate like that, and some shows don’t. All I can say is it’s very precise, and it’s so deeply structured. The show is so deeply structured so to veer from it or to think that you’re more an authority on it doesn’t make any sense because there are things that need to precisely happen that you don’t even understand in the moment."
Cardellini is aware that fans of the series may resent her character for bringing leading man Don Draper back to his womanizing ways. "I think everybody handles it differently and everybody has their level of sensitivity to it," she said. "You know, the hard thing about audiences not liking what a character does is that they sometimes take it out on the actor personally and that’s something that you know when you become an actor or actress, but it’s always hard to deal with when it actually happens."
The role of on-screen homewrecker is an altogether familiar one for the actress -- fans of ABC's "Boy Meets World" may remember her as Lauren, the character with the unwelcome role of spoiling the star-crossed relationship of Cory and Topanga. "I didn’t realize what I was stepping into by breaking up Cory and Topanga. I hadn’t really watched that show. I was just so excited to have a job on television and I really didn’t realize how vehemently people would react to my breaking them up. People are still mad about it!" Cardellini joked. "Now that [Girl Meets World is happening] people are really happy for them. I think people have fears that Lauren will come back and haunt them, which would be terrible for their relationship and their poor child!"
What did you think of last night's premiere?