Eye on Emmy: Christina Hendricks Reflects on Joan's Rise and Mad Men's One Taboo Twosome

There was a time when Mad Men‘s Joan Holloway, played by Christina Hendricks, was but the pneumatic head secretary at Sterling Cooper. Someone to be marveled at for her beauty and occasionally respected for her smarts, and yet ultimately dismissed in keeping with the sexism of the times.

Jump to now and she’s come a long way, baby.

In the wake of a season-ending salvo of episodes that firmly redefined Joan’s role at SCDP and in doing so gave Hendricks winning material, TVLine invited the actress to reflect on her character’s “amazing” arc, consider Mad Men‘s one too-hot-to-handle hook-up and explain why the cast’s lack of Emmy love is perhaps not such a bad thing.

TVLINE | Whose heart broke more – yours, saying goodbye to Jared Harris, or Joan’s, saying goodbye to Lane?
Thankfully I will see Jared in my life, because he’s a wonderful friend. But I do have to say, I cried when I heard the news [about Lane being killed off] for the first time.

TVLINE | Joan and Lane had a bit of a connection.
And Jared is such a wonderful actor and a great person. It’s difficult to know you don’t get to work with someone you enjoy so very, very much. But he and [series creator] Matt [Weiner] certainly had a long discussion about it, and it was for the benefit of the storytelling for the show. It was quite an amazing episode.

TVLINE | You’ve already spoken about getting wind of Joan’s unorthodox track to partnership. But at what point did Matt give you an idea that Joan would have the arc that she would, career-wise? When did you know that she was destined for bigger things?
I could be wrong, but I don’t think it was until I got the script for that episode. We had discussed this scenario before, but at the time I don’t think he told me “…and then she will be made partner.”

TVLINE | I ask because it’s been such an incredible arc over these years.
It has been pretty amazing, I have to say. John Slattery and I were just talking the other night, he said, “This is my favorite season so far.” It’s amazing how Matt and the writers can continue to have this caliber of writing every season.

TVLINE | I can’t imagine you predicted back in the day that Joan, given who she was at the start of the series, would be surveying an office space expansion as a partner.
It’s true, all of these characters have grown and changed so much. And that moment in the finale, I just love. It’s such a strong image to have all those people standing in a line — and there’s Joan amongst them!

TVLINE | Do you think Joan is happy right now? Is she happy with herself?
[Pauses to think] That’s interesting…. I think she has a tremendous amount of struggle, and quite a lot to be dealing with in her life. I mean, she’s just left her husband, she has this baby, and this mother, and the politics at work…. So to just say that she’s “happy,” I think, would be pretty hard. It’s a very trying time for her. And yet, I do think she is proud of the decisions she’s been making for herself. To get rid of her husband and be a single mother was a pretty bold move.

TVLINE | We ran a poll asking which of the partners people were most upset with in “The Other Woman,” where Joan slept with the auto dealership bigwig. Roger led with 58 percent of the vote.
Ooooh…. That makes sense. He doesn’t stick up for her. That was one of my reactions when I first read the script: “[Gasps] Roger!” He actually addressed that question in the finale, saying that they are in a very rocky position in their relationship, plus she’s a big girl who is going to do what she’s going to do, regardless of what he says.

RELATED | Mad Men Season 5 Finale Ratings Hit an All-Time High

TVLINE | I wanted to talk about the recent Joan and Don scenes, at the Jaguar dealership and then going out for drinks…. There was such an electricity to them, almost as if we were watching Superman with Wonder Woman. The alpha male with the alpha female. What was it like doing those scene?
It was great. Jon [Hamm] is such a fine actor, and it’s really fun to do a scene where you just get to look at each other and just have that wonderful dialogue. It’s not about moving around and choreography, you get to just sit there and act this beautiful scene out. And my mom was an extra on set during those scenes, so that was also fun!

TVLINE | It feels like Joan and Don can really be themselves with each other. There’s no veneer.
We don’t see it that often, just the two of them together, but when we have, it’s always been very kind and full of mutual respect. They really understand each other, and there’s no hidden agenda with either of them.

RELATED | Mad Men Creator Hints at [Spoiler]’s Exit

TVLINE | How did you interpret the closing scene of the Season 5 finale? Don walking away from Megan on the set, the pause before he answers that gal at the bar….
I just watched it for the first time, and it was so good. To me it kind of felt like we had come full circle, “Here we are at square one again.” Like, here is the Don we knew, the one we started out in Season 1 with, and you just know something naughty is about to happen. [Laughs]

TVLINE | What would you do if in Season 6 or the probable Season 7 you cracked open a script and saw that, for whatever reasons and under whatever circumstances, Joan and Don were going to sleep together?
I don’t think that would ever happen. I would be surprised immediately. And then maybe I’d feel doom. [Laughs] Like, “Oh no, this can’t happen!” I know there’s been some sort of talk about that with some of the people who watch the show, but I don’t see those two characters doing that. I could be wrong, but….

TVLINE | It’s almost a beauty of Mad Men, and a testament to Matt’s restraint, that they haven’t done that, paired the most libidinous characters on the show.
Yeah, they’re almost too similar in that way. They’ve already got each other’s number, so the “game” of that is taken away, to a certain extent.

TVLINE | In our latest episode of Spoiler Alert!, we ruminated over how mind-boggling it is that no one on Mad Men has won an acting Emmy. [Hendricks was nominated for Supporting Actress in 2010 and 2011.] What would it mean to you to be the one to break that streak?
Oh! We all still think of ourselves as a unit, and we’ve been lucky enough to win the SAG Award for ensemble casting a couple of times. I think our viewers look at us as a whole, and that’s a great thing. It’s nice that everyone is doing the best job that they can do, and it’s not about picking out individuals. But of course, you’re going to be completely flattered if you even get nominated. I’d be so honored and so proud.

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  1. Dani says:

    That shot where they all lined up in a row gave me goosebumps, and I’m so pleased Joan was amongst them. Both she and Peggy have come such a long way since the pilot. I don’t understand why some people vilified her character after she slept with the Jaguar guy to get the partnership. Sadly that sort of thing went on in the 60’s. She was between a rock and a hard place and if it was a choice between that and relying on handouts from Roger for the next 18 years she made the right one, even if it was horrible. Both are forms of prostitution to varying degrees of subtlety.

    I’m glad she feels that Don and Joan shouldn’t hook up too. They are too similar.

    Fingers crossed the show and the actors do get some Emmy love this year. Despite other people saying it’s been it’s weakest season, I think it’s as strong as it’s ever been.

    • Timothy C Meehan says:

      Dani–I rarely, almost never, read comments by someone who makes me think, “who the hell is THIS?”(In a positive way, that is). Your views on MM are spot on. Would love to hear more of your observations/ideas, if you care to correspond. And if you’ve got any observations/opinions about Deadwood, Rome, or the Soprano’s, feel free to share, as well. Here’s one that I noticed, indicative of the brillance of Matt and his writing team; in season one, during an office party, Kinsey says to some secretaries that when he smokes pot, he gets “incantatory”(& when one of the ladies asks what that means, Joan, walking by, says, “it means he starts using big words”…but I digress), and then, in season five…he ends up a Hare Krishna! Too funny. Tadghmeehan@gmail.com

    • shari says:

      I agree Dani. Joan obviously had a choice, neither of which she was happy with so she choose the one that would benefit her and her baby. At that point SHE was the one in control not the men and not the circumstances. And as always she did even the detestible with the power and grace that is Joan.

  2. Jen says:

    Next season, will it be SCDH? Sterling Cooper Draper Harris?

    • Kenbud says:

      WOW! good thought …… would love to get some verification scoop from Mr. Mitovich. :-)

    • Why would it be that? If anything it would be SCDC (Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Campbell). Pete has a much higher stake in the company than Joan does. He has a higher position than Joan as well. In terms of importance, he brings in a bulk (maybe even the majority) of clients and revenue. Regardless what you think of Pete (a lot of ans hate him), that doesn’t change the fact that he’s important to the company. In fact, I would argue he was more important than Lane ever was. Lane only became a full time partner because he fired them from their old job (which got them out of contract). That was part of h is arc, because outside of that, he always struggled to find his worth in the new company. Pete did much more for the company once it was actually established.

      So if they gave name to Joan over Pete, I would find it absurd.

      • Matt Webb Mitovich says:

        Acknowledging that it is fantastically early to be pondering Season 6 questions…. I think Court has it right, that Pete’s name goes on the door. Joan when laying out her terms never said a NAME partner, just non-silent.

    • Britta Unfiltered says:

      Maybe that will be part of next season’s story arc is Pete trying to get his name on the door while Roger fights against it. They’ve already had a good start with that this last season.

  3. pawan says:

    I agree with Dani that it was a good season. On the Don and Joan matter Why can’t they stay friends. I know it’s not done much but men and women should be able to stay just friends, not always become a romantic thing. Don has remained amicable with Betty and Peggy so let some male/female relationships remain strong good friendships.

  4. Britta Unfiltered says:

    I agree with Christina, Don and Joan aren’t going to happen. I’m glad she said it.
    I’m hoping next season they get more into how Joan feels about herself for what she did, because that’s not the kind of thing you can’t easily forget, and there’s no way there won’t be emotional repercussions. If Weiner tried to imply there weren’t, and that she felt great about herself for prostituting herself out and the whole thing was swept under the rug, I don’t think it would be realistic. Knowing you’re capable of doing that kind of thing, it changes you, and not for the better.
    Good luck with the Emmys, Christina! I’m rooting for you to win this year!

  5. AJ says:

    It’s a shame no one has won an individual acting emmy on this show, much as it is a shame Breaking Bad hasn’t won a best Drama emmy. I think the fate of both will change this season and we will see two acting emmys for Mad Men and the best drama emmy going to Breaking Bad.

  6. no says:

    I wasn’t a fan of this season (WAY too much Megan. So sick of her.) but despite that, Hendricks did a great job and I really hope she wins the Emmy. It’s ridiculous that no Mad Men actor has won yet.

  7. dave bishop says:

    Astounding season, as usual. I’ve noticed a lot of negativity directed at Megan’s character. I saw nothing wrong with her. I’ve seen nothing wrong with anything on this show. Brilliant in every way and Joan is certainly a contribution to that. Christina is both gorgeous and a fine actress, indeed.

  8. Doug Nelson says:

    Too bad Maggie Smith is in Christina Hendricks’ catagory…otherwise she would likely serve as the favorite to finally break Mad Men’s lack of Emmy acting wins. She has been tremendous during the last four episodes — tough to choose her Emmy reel!

  9. RB says:

    The great beauty of “Mad Men” is the fact that both Don and Joan are mirror versions of Alpha endowed male and female; we know they’re physically attracted to each other; they both know they’d love the sex-but it would destroy the relation. Oddly enough-talking for them might be a greater level of intimacy than sex could ever be. I hope it never happens but that we are constantly teased with the suggestion that it could.

  10. Julie Brandt says:

    Personally I’d like to see more of Betty Draper. She’s still an integral part of Don’s life. A little less of Meghan and more of Betty.

  11. JY Van Loog says:

    Don and Joan? Ain’t gonna happen.

    As for Megan, the writing is on the wall after the superb, Nancy Sinatra-themed finale: Don back to his straying ways.

    Must be hard for him to look back and realise that his 2nd marriage is on the ropes.

    Expect Pete to rise from all the blows he took in season five.

    Roger in a bad place with his LSD experiments getting him to look over the City with no clothes on. Remember his heart issues in season one.

    The closing “Are you alone?” line epitomized Don who was cagey throughout S5. That guy is the definition of loneliness.

    Who cares about Emmies. Mad Men makes my day. Bring on Season Six!