When Jessica Paré made her debut during the fourth season of Mad Men, few might’ve guessed she would emerge as one of the key characters on AMC’s multiple-Emmy-winning series. Least of all Paré. Still, at the end of that season she was engaged to Jon Hamm’s lead character, Don Draper, and in the current season five she has had many memorable scenes that have sparked plenty of talk that her performance may add to creator Matt Weiner’s Emmy haul.
AWARDSLINE: Did you have an idea when you joined the show that this would become a break-out character?
PARÉ: Oh God no! Absolutely not. I mean, as a fan of the show I’m sure you know that there are a lot of secretary characters that don’t really ever come to the forefront or have a storyline of their own necessarily. When I first auditioned, I used scenes from previous seasons. So I had no concept of what she was like at all. Never mind what her arc would be. So it was, well, excuse my profanity, it was fucking shocking!
AWARDSLINE: Did you ever imagine you would be a part of this show?
PARÉ: Of course not. No, it was more like, I’ll never do anything that good. And even now when I drive around LA, there are still a few billboards up, and I see the billboards and I still can’t believe that I’m on that show. I can’t believe my luck. Literally, every time I speak to Matt, I’m like, ‘Well I’m going to New York for the Met Ball next week, did I mention that I wanted to thank you for changing my life?’.
AWARDSLINE: It is an iconic cast now, everybody knows them. They know those characters, and here you are walking into it, working with them and they’ve worked together for four years and all of a sudden there you are. Is it a difficult situation?
PARÉ: It’s definitely intimidating. I was lucky enough to be eased into last season. I did some background work, and I had a few lines. But mostly I didn’t have that much to do, so I got to know everybody pretty gradually. It’s a wonderful set to be on because they’re all such talented actors and they work together so well, and they all genuinely like each other and enjoy each other’s company.
AWARDSLINE: Jon Hamm and you have extraordinary chemistry. You just totally believe this relationship. I know he’s a super nice guy, but what’s he like to work with?
PARÉ: He’s horrible, the worst part of my job… [laughter] He’s obviously incredibly talented, and if you know him then you know that he’s super intelligent, very, very funny, and he likes to have an enjoyable time. So, it’s a joy, absolutely.
AWARDSLINE: The way it started for you this season is, obviously, iconic – your rendition of the song “Zou Bisou Bisou.” It went onto iTunes and people started buying it.
PARÉ: Yeah, I went to my local record store the other day and was sort of wandering around the store picking up a few things and as I was checking out [the guy working there] said, ‘Oh, by the way, your record is selling really well.’
AWARDSLINE: You are from Montreal, and your character is from Montreal, and your father is a professor and your father in this is a professor, so the obvious question … Do you relate at all to Megan here?
PARÉ: Like looking in a mirror. A really flattering mirror. I think the Montreal thing was written for me. You know Matt liked that, he loved Montreal and he stayed there before. And Megan’s maiden name is Calvet, which comes from an inn that Matt stayed at in old Montreal. So I think it came from me. But the professor thing I think was a coincidence. … I think the major trait that Megan and I have in common, and maybe it’s not unrelated to being from Montreal, is that she has a real joie de vivre. It’s a very positive outlook and I think her basic state is one of relative happiness. I think that that’s sort of what she and I share.
AWARDSLINE: Look how far you’ve come in 10 years.
PARÉ: I love acting. I love what I do. I am absolutely filled every day with gratitude that I get to do it. And especially on a project like this, but it’s not just about getting one big break because you kind of have to get one of those after the next. [laughter] And it’s tough. Before I got the show I was really struggling. I was living on a friend’s dime. She was letting me stay in one of her extra bedrooms, rent-free I mean, look, I am lucky enough that I have never had to get a day job to pay the rent which is more than most actors can say, but I was definitely contemplating a move back to Canada when I got the show.
AWARDSLINE: Really? Fate intervened.
PARÉ: Yeah. Again I have to text Matt to say Thanks!