Emmy Awards 2013

08.21.13

Emmys 2013: Christina Hendricks on Joan’s Best ‘Mad Men’ Season 6 Moments

Joan Harris (née Holloway) was really put through the wringer during Season 6 of AMC’s acclaimed TV series ‘Mad Men.’ Although she’s now a partner at SC&P, Don Draper and Co. still treat her like a secretary, and she eventually lands in the hospital. Christina Hendricks, who received a Best Supporting Actress Emmy nomination for her stellar turn, discusses Joan’s finest moments from the past season.

Harry Attacks Joan in Front of the Partners

Episode 4: ‘To Have and to Hold’

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Joan and Harry have had struggles over the years, a sort of power play with each other. And this isn’t the first time Joan has fired someone for doing something they shouldn’t have done, in this case Harry’s secretary, and then their boss comes through and saves the day for them, basically taking away any power Joan has. And Harry feels powerless because he’s not a partner, and he doesn’t know what Joan is saying to the partners and he gets paranoid, so he comes in and humiliates her to get his power back, saying, “I’m sorry that my accomplishments happened in broad daylight.” The Jaguar situation has not been addressed with any of these people to Joan in Season 6, so all of a sudden we’re seeing it hit the fan. And then Don turns around and treats her like a secretary again, too! Because of the way Joan acts, dresses, and presents herself, even though she’s just as good at what she does as Peggy is at what she does, people assume, “Oh, you must have slept your way to the top.” She’s proved time and again that she’s incredibly capable, even more capable than others, but that assumption is being made all the time.

Joan Complains to an Old Pal About Hitting the Glass Ceiling

Episode 4: ‘To Have and to Hold’

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We shot the telephone scene where we pick up the young guys at a restaurant in Los Feliz called Little Dom’s, and we shot the nightclub scene at a Masonic temple just around the corner. I felt like a lot of this episode was about how the next generation is coming up, and we were the previous generation. So Joan is feeling a little old, and like a has-been, so she just goes, “Screw it. No one’s here but my friend, no one’s judging me, this is what’s happening in society now, and I still want to be a part of it.” We’ve seen hints of this in the past with Joan, like back in Season 3 when she went out with her roommate and brought a guy home, but this is the first time we’ve seen her go out and pick up a man since she became a mother.

When you have people in your past with you it really makes you reflect about what’s really going on. At the end of last season, Joan was made a partner, and we were all waiting to see what that would truly mean. What Joan realizes is it didn’t mean a whole lot. So Joan has a realization while lying in bed with her old friend Kate (Marley Shelton), and it took seeing the situation through someone else’s eyes for her to realize, “It’s all there … you just need to make it happen,” and Joan has always had to make it happen for herself. She just needed a little nudge. We’re seeing the prototype of the working mother in the ’60s through Joan. She’s going to work, working very hard, and then going home and being a mother, so she doesn’t really have time to go out on dates or have personal time. But still, she’s not really trapped because she’s able to have a career and be a mother. Some women call that having it all.

Don Fires Jaguar, Joan Reads Him the Riot Act in Front of the Partners

Episode 6: ‘For Immediate Release’

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At the beginning of the episode, you see Pete and Joan talking about what the Jaguar account means to them, and it’s $1 million. This is life-changing money. This is “send your son to school and have him be set” money. With one burst of ego, Don just changes her whole life. And she’s just sick of it. It was such a fun scene to do because you do get very attached to your character, and I feel like everyone has wanted to say this to Don and tell him off for years. One of the things I love about Joan is that she’ll say what other people are thinking and want to say. And she does it. You see the vulnerability of her and how that scenario hurt her—sleeping with the man from Jaguar—and how difficult that was for her to do. Joan tries to cover things up a lot emotionally and often just moves on: what’s been done has been done, and we’re not moving back, we’re moving forward. But this is a moment when she has to confront her past again. So much of Joan is about control, and sometimes it just gets too much for any human to take.

Joan Is Hospitalized, Bob Benson Comes to Her Rescue

Episode 7: ‘Man With the Plan’

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To Joan, Bob Benson (James Wolk) is just a hardworking guy who goes out of his way to be attentive and respectful. Joan isn’t paranoid like the other guys, since he’s not trying to take her job or move in with her. It’s just two people being nice to each other. Here’s a guy who’s not hitting on her, who’s not making snarky comments to her, and who isn’t a woman who’s terrified of her, since most of the secretaries in the place try not to make eye contact and keep moving down the hall when they see Joan. The hospital visit happened in the middle of the season, and we were all like, “What’s going to happen to Joan?” I spoke to Matt [Weiner] and apparently women can have an ovarian cyst that can burst, and it’s not that uncommon and not that serious. For me, it was a good storytelling device for these two relative strangers to come together and get closer to each other.

We shot the scene in the basement of the Mad Men studio we usually shoot at, and it was so dark and dank and just made you feel ill. Here I am in this vulnerable place with James, this new actor who’s being nice to me, and it all felt very vulnerable and real. Plus, John [Slattery] is such a good director. John and I know each other so well at this point and he knows the character of Joan so well that we have a shorthand. 

Roger Comes by With a Gift for Kevin, but Joan Shows Him the Door

Episode 9: ‘The Better Half’

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What this scene shows is the consistent behavior of Joan being incredibly protective of her family and quite logical. Her heart sometimes sways her but I think her mind usually wins out in the end. With Roger, she wants to protect her son, plain and simple, and thinks this is the best way to do it. Roger screwed up a bunch of times in a row. They have a long history, and Joan’s no dummy. We’d hate to see her fall for Roger’s act time and again, so Joan wants Kevin to know that he’ll always have a war hero father in Greg in the back of his head, whether he’s around or not. That’s the imagery she wants him to have of his father, a handsome photo of a man in uniform doing good, as opposed to an ad executive with lots of women hanging around. Is Greg going to come back? I don’t know.

I feel almost as emotional about the relationship between Joan and Roger as the audience does. I love seeing the two of them together and I love doing scenes with John, so would I want to see them together? Of course I do! Would they be miserable? Of course they would! But that doesn’t matter, really, does it?

Joan and Peggy Have It Out

Episode 10: ‘A Tale of Two Cities’

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I think that scene was about a misunderstanding, with Joan saying, “No, this is how you do it!” and Peggy saying, “No, this is how you do it!” They’ve had two very different climbs up the ladder, and Peggy thinks of it in the traditional sense of, “Oh, you get promoted, and then you go on to do this,” and Joan is like, “When has that ever happened for me?” So these two women have been having this conflict they’ve been having for years, but the power dynamic has changed, so now Peggy feels like she has so much power, while Joan feels pretty powerless. I don’t think Joan is jealous of Peggy, but rather she’s reluctant to admit that she may have been wrong in her approach. Joan has always preached, “Dress like this and do this and you’ll get a husband and have a good life,” and Peggy had other plans and kept proving Joan wrong. But I think Joan has also respected Peggy for her path. When Joan says, “Peggy, this is the only way I could do it,” she’s looking at Peggy like, “You’re a smart woman, you’ve seen what goes on. How are you not on my side on this?” I think it’s just two people not hearing each other. They’re both smart, ambitious women who are in the same environment but have gone about things in very different ways and had entirely different experiences. 

As told to Marlow Stern.