File this one under: Awkward But Meaningful Encounters.
In case you hadn't heard, Mad Men creator Matt Weiner has a long history of cracking down on anything that might even allude to the idea of a thought of a spoiler. No one has been more passionate about, nor more successful at, keeping a show's secrets than Weiner and his cast.
Well, in what was perhaps one of the most guilt-inducing moments of my career, that very question was met with: "You."
Turns out, some of the spoilers we did here at E! in the early days of the show were part of the reason Weiner decided to put a full lockdown on spoilers, and go about production in a different way.
"You actually inspired us to change our casting policy," Weiner told me, "because E! would come out with that we were looking for a certain kind of character, and you can't change the breakdown that much or you can't get anyone in for the part that you need, so what we started [doing fake audition sides]."
Clearly, our intent was never to make the process harder on anyone, particular showrunners of shows we loved! But such was the case with Mad Men, I'm now aware of…seven years after the fact. And finally got the chance to tell Matt Weiner that I'm sorry. (Which I am.)
"You know what, it's OK," he said graciously. "I always felt like it was like a tug of war, like the fact that anyone was interested was very exciting to me. I had that confidentiality thing on the cover – we had just taken it from The Sopranos and put it on the cover of the first Mad Men script, and everybody's like, ‘Nobody even knows who this is! Nobody cares!' I was like, ‘I'm keeping it a secret.'
While some of us TV fans do love hearing spoilers, and feel it enhances our enjoyment of the show, Weiner told me why he's whole-heartedly against them.
"I've always felt like not knowing what happens was our niche in the marketplace," Weiner explains. "That there would be something where you would watch it the first time and you would have no idea, and then it would create tension. Because to me, coming attractions and trailers and things like that relieve tension, so that then you would know the story and you could relax a little bit, and I didn't ever want people to do that."
Mad Men's insistence on complete secrecy made the process of press coverage for Mad Men interesting for both reporters and actors alike.
"You sort of become a politician," Christina Hendricks told me, "where if you talk long enough, they sort of forget what they asked you in the first place! We are notorious for keeping secrets so a lot of people just know that there's no way that we're going to answer it. And it's fun. It's fun to keep secrets."
Not only did Mad Men employ the use of fake sides (scenes that are used in the casting process) and fake endings, they treated each script like a nuclear warhead that must be kept under maximum security at all time.
"I left a script on a vending machine at a location once for an episode I was directing," John Slattery recalls, "and I just put it there and I was doing something and then the day ending and everybody said, ‘Ok, that's a wrap!' And I turned around and the candy machine was gone, and it didn't occur to me that it was a prop. So somebody put it on a dolly and wheeled it away and away went my script, and it has your name printed all over it!'
"I started to get paranoid if I went to a carwash or something," Hendricks added, "I'd be like, ‘Oh my gosh, my script's in the car!' Or even just if I put my scripts in my recycling bin, I thought if anyone were to go through my recycling bin if they found out where I lived, or something. We were so talked to about it weekly."
The upside? The Mad Men actors now all have PhD's in secret-keeping.
"I've been promoting other things now," Kiernan Shipka told me. "People have asked me stuff and I just say, ‘I can't say anything!' And they're like, ‘No, you have to tell them a little bit about what happens and what goes on!' It's kind of funny because it's so engrained at this point to just keep it super secretive.
"I've gotten good at it," January Jones says of keeping secrets. "It's exhausting, to be honest. But soon, I'll be done."
Check out what else Matt Weiner and the cast have to say about keeping secrets in the exclusive videos above!
Watch the first of Mad Men's final seven episodes this Sunday on AMC.