TV Press Tour: 'Mad Men' embraces change

Jonhamm_madmen_s3_290 Just about every cast member of "Mad Men" and creator Matt Weiner got asked the following question at Tuesday evening's AMC cocktail party: How much time has passed in between seasons two and three?

And they all said this: We're not telling you.

"It is in the future from last season, yeah," is all Weiner would offer up by way of confirmation. Star Jon Hamm, who plays Don Draper: "I don't want to get specific on it, but obviously some time passes." Aaron Staton, who plays Ken Cosgrove: "That I'm definitely not supposed to say. ... Anything specific, we are encouraged to talk around those sorts of things."

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So what was there to be learned, other than Weiner runs a really tight ship? Well, for one thing, Weiner gets that we're all interested in where the story picks up and how his characters fit into the history of the 1960s, but he doesn't think that's the most important thing about the show.

"I think [the new season] is deeper into these people's lives, but the time period, in a weird way, is inconsequential to me. The same way it is to our lives -- we're too stupid to notice that history is actually affecting us. I'm still wearing what I wore in high school."

A few more bits from Weiner and Hamm:

What the time jump accomplishes
Weiner: "I wanted to see what the next stage in these people's lives is. I don't want there ever to be a formula on the show -- maybe the next season starts the day after the last episode, maybe it's six months later, maybe it's two years later. My real thing is, how much story do I have, what is the next phase and what do I want to see? ...

"I hate to say it, but it's not a philosophical thing. It's all a story-telling thing. The two years between the first two seasons -- I was like, 'I've exhausted this.' And it wasn't two years, it was 15 months. But I need to know where they are. And when we land, I want the audience to start scrambling to figure out what happened, and once they know that, well, where's it going to go?"

The season's theme
Hamm:
"I think what happens ... is change. That's not just talking about the characters and the story and the arcs of all these people, it's about the culture as well. We are moving forward in time -- it doesn't take place in a vacuum. The country was very much changing, and people were changing along with it."

Weiner: "How history intrudes on it is very minor. But when change comes to your life, you can embrace it -- some people are thrilled by it, and some people are sick by it. There's a lot of looking backward in the show. I don't mean flashbacks necessarily, but there's a lot of looking backward."

New characters
Weiner:
"We bring on a lot of new characters" -- most prominently Jared Harris as Sterling Cooper's new financial officer. "They come in throughout the season. ... It's tough because screentime-wise, they can squeeze out some of the regulars and they aren't getting as much screen time. But I always want this world to be full of conflict and opportunity."

Will Don be more faithful to Betty (January Jones)?
Hamm:
[Fiddling with the swizzle stick in his drink] "Well, people change and people stay the same. So I think I'll leave it with that."

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