Interview: ‘Mad Men’ star Jessica Pare tiptoes around Season 6

Brace yourself: This will be a week of “Mad Men” interviews on HitFix.
Two weeks ago, in one jam-packed afternoon, I sat down with Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, John Slattery, Vincent Kartheiser, January Jones and Jessica Pare to talk about “Mad Men” Season 6, which premieres on AMC on Sunday, April 7.
Or perhaps I should say that I sat down with the stars to talk *around* Season 6 of “Mad Men,” since it’s easier to find out the location and business hours of your local neighborhood fight club than it is to get forward-looking plot or thematic details from any member of the cast or creator Matthew Weiner.
I’m starting “Mad Men” Week with my conversation with Jessica Pare, since she’s the newest to the cast and the least experienced with the art of Weiner Secret Keeping and, for some reason, this was the interview that included the most obfuscation and discussion of obfuscation. 
In the interview, Pare discusses Megan’s acting ability, her ability to lost past Don’s darkness and Pare’s own desire not to pre-learn plotpoints. And we talked a lot about what she couldn’t talk about. 
Stay tuned for the other interviews in the days to come.
HitFix: After a couple years as a regular now, are you growing more accustomed to the secrecy and not-revealing-things-ness of all of this?
Jessica Pare: Yeah, though this is my first time doing something like today, so [she laughs] this is a new challenge.
HitFix: Did you get a proper memo? A list of the things you can and can’t say?
Jessica Pare: Yeah, it’s really short: Don’t talk about Season 6.
HitFix: This is so hard, because I’ve seen the premiere and I want to talk about it!
Jessica Pare: I know! I haven’t even seen it.
HitFix: It’s really good. But I can’t tell you anything more about it.
Jessica Pare: Thanks. I can’t wait. 
HitFix: Well, you guys were in Hawaii. That’s public record and there were pictures taken. I’ve seen them. You can admit that happened, right?
Jessica Pare: [Silence.]
HitFix: You can’t even say that happened?
Jessica Pare: No.
HitFix: You could have just been in Hawaii with Jon and that was a total coincidence?
Jessica Pare: Who was in Hawaii? Are you sure it was Hawaii? [Laughing.]
HitFix: Fine. I’ll play by your rules. So how good of an actress is Megan?
Jessica Pare: I think she’s a good actress. I think she’s talented.
HitFix: Like ready-to-be-a-star talented? 
Jessica Pare: Well, I think it’s fair to say that nobody everybody who’s achieved star status has been Stanislavski-approved. That said, I think she’s very capable. I mean, I don’t know. We don’t know. We’ll find out maybe, or maybe we won’t. But if you ask me my feelings on it, I think she’s good and I think she’s serious.
HitFix: I think that’s one of the interesting thing we were supposed to be wondering through last season. Is this a pipe dream for her? Does she have substance? There was the test reel footage that she made in the finale and people were debating what that displayed about her. What did you think it conveyed?
Jessica Pare: I think that, for me, it was more about conveying that earnestness and that desire. It’s more than a desire. It’s like a need to be able to share this with the world and it’s something that she’s absolutely compelled to do and it’s starting to close in on her, the reality that it might not be the way she wants it to be.
HitFix: Did you read any of the reactions to that scene? There people saying, “Don watches and he realizes Megan can’t act and he’s miserable” and then there was the opposite, “Don watches and realizes that she’s brilliant and that he has to help her.”
Jessica Pare: I often find that people’s reactions to the show say way more about them than they do about the show itself. I think that’s because a lot of it happens between the lines. There’s so much more that goes on inside on the show than is spoken aloud. Hat’s off to the writers and to writers and to Matt Weiner for that, because that’s incredibly deft.
HitFix: A lot of people have generally responded to Megan as a threat, though I’m not completely sure who that means she’s a threat to. Do you respond to her when you look at the show?
Jessica Pare: No! No. Well, that’s become somewhat impossible for me now. I love Megan. I love this character and I love playing her. It’s become more difficult for me to separate watching as a fan. I’ll let you know after I see the premiere. Maybe I will be like, “Oh, shut up, Megan. Give us more of that carousing Don! I wanna see him be BAD.”
HitFix: Do you miss being able to work in that Sterling-Draper-Price environment or being able to work with those people?
Jessica Pare: I do, actually. Yeah. Once Megan left the office, I didn’t get to work as much with those people, with Lizzy and Jay and Rich and Vinnie and stuff. Those guys, I still see them because obviously we overlap and I’ll see them at table-reads and stuff like that, but I miss working on that set.
HitFix: Do you feel like this season maybe lets Megan carve out more environment of her own?
Jessica Pare: [Long pause.]
HitFix: That doesn’t seem like it’s spoiling anything, necessarily.
Jessica Pare: Ummm… I still can’t answer it.
HitFix: I’m not trying to trick you into anything big…
Jessica Pare: But you are trying to trick me? Thanks!
HitFix: “Trick” is such a dirty word.
Jessica Pare: It really is. But, again, I can’t speak to anything that happens, any themes or sets that I work on. [She laughs.]
HitFix: Going back to last season. There are questions regarding Megan’s happiness and whether she’s depressive, whether she’s bipolar, whether she could find happiness. Last season it seemed like she was potentially somewhere in a spiral. How do you look at her?
Jessica Pare: I think she made a really difficult choice to leave a really good job and one that she had a future at. I think that leaving that, to pursue a career in acting of all things! I know. There’s a lot of good actor jokes. But I think it tells us a lot about who she is and that it doesn’t go well for her at first and she’s put in this position where she’s so desperate she does ask Don for a favor and she does ask him to do something that would be professionally inappropriate for him. And, also, getting her husband to call in a favor, there’s something defeating to that  and she knows it and she apologizes as soon as it’s done. But he does it and I think where we left her in the end of Season 5 is she feels like she’s got it all. It’s a shoe commercial, but at least her career is moving and she has this man who loves her so much that he would make that sacrifice for her and would support her no matter what.
HitFix: Is Jessica unaware of Don’s darkness? Because we saw…
Jessica Pare: Well, Jessica isn’t! [Laughs.]
HitFix: True. True. We saw a lot of Dark Don last season, but do you think Megan’s fully aware?
Jessica Pare: I think the thing is that she sees Don, and always has, as this warm, loving, fun, charismatic, charming, dynamic person and nobody else sees him like that. Nobody at work. Certainly not Betty. So I think seeing him in that light kind of blinds her to the fact that he can be so cynical and dark. She knows that he’s cynical and dark, but she also still loves that about him. I think she’s optimistic and I think she’s trusting. I don’t call that naive, but I know some people do.
HitFix: There are also times, I guess, where she has an attraction to that darkness. Do you think to some degree she likes that or welcomes that or enjoys that part of him?
Jessica Pare: Well, she accepts him as a whole person. I initially thought your question was about whether or not she sees his ability to philander. I think she trusts him and I think she assumes the best. I think that’s just her nature. So I don’t think she would go straight to that.
HitFix: Meeting Megan’s parents last season helped inform us, as viewers, so much about what shaped your character. Did you know any of those details before those episodes?
Jessica Pare: No, I find things out the same way that the audience does, except for that I read it.
HitFix: Isn’t that the sort of thing that you’d want to know?
Jessica Pare: It’s the specific challenge to this job, but I really like it now. Unless it’s something that I need to know. But, as you say, I think that it says a lot about Megan that she became the person that she became despite the people her parents are, but I’m not sure… In terms of playing that, would I have been tempted as an actor to put that in places it didn’t need to be? Probably. An actor will use every piece of information at their disposal, or a good actor will. So if it’s not important to the scene at hand, then I don’t need to be adding layers that don’t need to be there.
HitFix: So you’ve grown to appreciate that particular desire for secrecy on Matt’s part?
Jessica Pare: Yeah, I have. I really have, actually. We’ll talk about the latest script and I’m like, “Ah. I need to know what happens! Oh, don’t tell me!” And he’s like, “I wouldn’t tell you anyway.” I’m like, “I know. But don’t. But I really want to know. But don’t.” That’s how I feel about it. It’s also how I want the people who watch to feel about it and that includes my parents, my best friends. They all feel the same way. Even my manager is like, “I’m dying to know. Don’t tell me.” Nobody wants to know because the luxury of this show is that nobody talks about it, so you don’t know what’s coming and it’s not spoiled beforehand and you’re able to openly take it in without too much noise. I also think that that’s one of the reasons that people get so drawn into it, because they do bring all of their own thing to it and that’s why it ends up being more about them than the show.
HitFix: How soon before the start of Season 6 were you told anything at all about Season 6? The script appeared on your door and that was the first you knew?
Jessica Pare: Yeah. Except that I guess I knew sometime before then that I was going to be on it. 
HitFix: I’ve been talking to a couple of your co-stars today and it seems like some know a little bit more a little bit earlier and others know less and others don’t want to know. 
Jessica Pare: Yeah. No. I don’t know anything and, like I said, I don’t want to. The other thing is that sometimes things go away. Sometimes there’s a scene that goes away and then you’re like, “Why? What happened to that?” And this is my experience from working in TV before, if had some kind of information that told me more about my character, is that not happening anymore? What does it mean? Is it still the undercurrent and should I use it? So that, again, is specific to this show. I don’t want to know. I don’t want to hear it.
“Mad Men” returns for Season 6 on Sunday, April 7 on AMC.