Now she’s played a big role in two of the coolest decades.
Sunday night’s Season 7 premiere of Mad Men treated us to a host of familiar faces. There was Don Draper (Jon Hamm), in all his brooding, solipsistic glory; Megan Draper (Jessica Pare) and her delusions of Hollywood stardom, as well as a very Sharon Tate-y pad; Roger Sterling (John Slattery) engaged in a strange ménage-a-trois with a hippie; Peggy Olson’s (Elisabeth Moss) problems with her new boss.
But there was one recognizable new face: Neve Campbell.
If you grew up in the '90s, Campbell was a big part of your formative years with starring roles in Party of Five, The Craft, Scream, Wild Things, and more. On Mad Men, she was transported to a Pan Am flight in ’69, where she just so happened to be seated next to everyone’s favorite ad man, Don Draper. In a strange moment of candor and sincerity, the rakish boozehound opened up to the stunning mystery lady about the pitiable state of his marriage, and even more mysteriously, turned down her not-so-subtle tryst offer.
Campbell spoke to The Daily Beast about her exciting new Mad Men character and all things ‘90s.
How were you cast on Mad Men? I understand it’s a very secretive process.
My manager called and said there was a character on the show that Matt Weiner was considering a few people for, and as a big fan of the show, I said “absolutely.” I did a few scenes that were sent over with Matt. Matt talked to me about the energy of the character in the scene, and that she does possibly represent someone who might be a catalyst for Don, and that there was a vulnerability but he also wanted to feel a strength in her.
It’s a fascinating character because, although she only has about five minutes of screen time, she has a very rich backstory.
Considering what she’s experienced in the past year with losing her husband, and then living in the generation she does, finding herself living as a widow, there was a lot to play with as an actress. And the fact that her husband was an alcoholic and that she watched him spiral downward, I thought about that history and what that would do to me, and what kind of person that would make me.
And here she finds herself attracted to another alcoholic in Don.
Yeah. [Laughs] That tends to be a pattern with people, anyway.
The ebb-and-flow of their interaction is fascinating. She initially rejects Don when he goes in for a kiss, saying, “I’m gonna close my eyes now.”
I think that within the conversation she just hit an emotional peak, and in discussing her husband, she’s suddenly found herself back with him in her mind, so there’s too much melancholy to consider anything physical at that moment.
"The grunge thing was a little bit atrocious. 'Let’s all put on plaid shirts and be as dirty as possible!'"
She really does bring out some candor in Don, who admits to her, “[Megan] knows I’m a terrible husband…I keep wondering, have I broken the vessel?”
Don’s suddenly in a very vulnerable place in his life where everything has fallen apart, and since she’s so open and vulnerable in sharing her story, I think it gives him more room to share. Also, her story is something he can relate to, and hear, and he might realize that the effect my character’s husband had on her might echo the damage he’s causing his own family.
And then Don turns around and rejects her later on with a work excuse. Don wouldn’t have come close to rejecting your character in prior seasons. Why now?
He is feeling very vulnerable right now and maybe hitting bottom, in a way. When that occurs to a person, you don’t have the confidence—or perceived confidence—you might have had in the past. It’s exciting because it’s an interesting time for Don because he’s a character who people think they know, so it will be fun to see where he goes this season.
Your character has a great look, with the short bob and the checkered dress. Did you have any say in it?
Matt has very strong opinions about everything—as he should—which is why the show has been so good for so long, because he’s very obsessive-compulsive about things, but I had some say in the clothes, and there was a picture in an article from the ‘60s that was on the counter in my trailer and they said, “That’s the hairstyle Matt’s chosen.”
I’m curious why you think the ladies love Don so much. He really is the epitome of the cliché “women want him and men want to be him.”
[Laughs] There’s something so intriguing about his character and the way that he plays it. He doesn’t wear his emotions on his sleeve. He’s a strong, sexy, intelligent character, but at the same time, you know there’s something else brewing underneath. I think people are attracted to that. And the man can wear a suit.
Are we going to see more of you this season?
I’m not allowed to answer that! I’m sorry…
I grew up with a lot of your films, and movies like Scream still hold up so well. Have you ever received a bad prank phone call?
No, I haven’t! I haven’t, weirdly. I unfortunately had some stalkers during that time but no weird prank calls. Although Halloween is always fun because I’ll be at the door handing out candy and someone will come by in a Scream mask. It’s just an easy costume, now. I’ll just be Ghostface!
Are we going to see another Scream film?
I don’t think we’ll see it again. I know they’re doing a TV show for MTV that I just read about, but originally they’d talked about Scream 4 being the beginning of another trilogy, but once we made it, it was such a challenge to do a good job with it, give the audience what they wanted, have it be fresh, and have it still retain the elements from the older movies people loved so much. I think we did a good job with it, but I don’t know if you can do it again and again and again. We’d be pushing it. So I think they’re smart with just doing a TV show and leaving it alone.
The Craft is so great as well. There was actually this outdoor screening of it last summer in Brooklyn and people were dressed up and everything. I heard that some strange occurrences went down while filming…is that true?
I remember us talking about it back then. I think, when we were young and silly, we were like, “It was magic! The ocean came up and took part of the set away!” But I think that was just us being silly. But I’m still really good friends with Rachel True and Robin Tunney. I’ve lost touch with Fairuza [Balk] a bit. They actually did a screening of it at the L.A. Cemetery, and there were 5,000 people there all sitting on blankets and some were in costumes. It really ended up with a cult following, which is fun. It was my first time seeing it since the premiere, and we all had a glass of wine in the trailer and were laughing. You can’t take it too seriously! But it’s a lot of fun.
Wild Things is really one of those crazy ‘90s, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink movies. How do you feel looking back on the movie?
Oh, Wild Things. I haven’t seen it since it came out! But you know, it was a fun romp. We had a really good time. John McNaughton was a kooky, dark director, and we shot it in Miami, so it was a fun experience for me when I was 23. Plus my character is a psycho.
A lot of people seem very nostalgic for the ‘90s these days. Things really seemed to be going well—the economy, TV, movies. What’s your take on the ‘90s?
Gosh… that’s a big question! I can tell you that, for me, personally, I was working so much so while some may say I was at the forefront of the ‘90s, I didn’t play much. But I think you’re right. I think we’d gotten past a lot of the cheese of the ‘80s and people had settled down a bit. It felt in the ‘90s that people didn’t really know how to identify themselves as clearly as other decades, but now it feels like it was clearer than we knew.
What are the ‘90s trends you miss the most, or the most regrettable ones?
I don’t think there’s anything I miss. [Laughs] The grunge thing was a little bit atrocious. “Let’s all put on plaid shirts and be as dirty as possible!”
Shell necklaces and guys with rings… those I wasn’t so crazy about.
[Laughs] Oh, absolutely. Brilliant.
What’s next for you?
I have an indie I shot with William H. Macy and Virginia Madsen called Walter, but to be honest, I’ve just been very busy enjoying being a mom, and being picky about what I take. I’m not getting much sleep, but I’m working at it! But I’m absolutely loving it. I was offered a TV show on TNT but it was the outright lead, and wasn’t something I wanted to make at the moment. Plus, being the outright lead on a TV show means 15 hours a day, seven days a week, and that means leaving before my son wakes up and returning after he goes to bed, and to me, that’s not being a mother. So I’m just in this new world of navigating what projects are right to me while being a mother.