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Kiernan Shipka on 'Mad Men' spin-off: "I'm not saying no"

With the end of Mad Men comes the end of a TV era, but perhaps the biggest adjustment will be for Kiernan Shipka, who’s spent much of her life on the show. Since she was six years old, Shipka has rocked period costume as Sally Draper, to emerge as one of the show’s best-loved characters. From burgeoning feminism, to calling out her cheating father Don, to those go-go boots, everyone has a favorite Sally moment. Now Shipka is busting out of the mould with a new horror movie, February, co-starring Emma Roberts and the millennial comedy Fan Girl. As Shipka says of her certainly glittering future career, “Sally was such a dream role, so be able to do that was just the most incredible thing. I can only hope that I work on other things I also really love.”

Jon Hamm says he’d watch a Sally Draper spin-off. What do you think of that idea? Will it be Better Call Sally?

That was funny! I think they all decided the title would be Sally Through the Decades! I’m good with it. I’m not saying no.

He said you’d have to “turn into Joan Jett, ride a motorcycle and kill a guy.”

I know! He basically wrote the whole series with that answer.

You’ve been on Mad Men for the majority of your life. Do you look back on any of your growing-up phases on screen and feel awkward?

I’ve gotten better at watching myself. When I look back now and at when I’m young, I’m watching a different me and it’s really cute. It’s like looking at old photos or home videos. It’s always nice and I’m very nostalgic too because there are a lot of memories behind it. I remember the days I was filming the scenes I’m watching, so it’s a trip down memory lane. I like it.

It’s like having a unique kind of family album.

Yeah it’s a high-quality album for sure!

How did you say good bye to your Mad Men family?

Well we wrapped in July of last year so we had this leisure period where we got to say goodbye to our characters, which was very nice and let it all sink in. So I felt like when I wrapped I said goodbye to Sally, but last night I said goodbye to the show. Last night felt like saying goodbye to Mad Men and we did it in such a celebratory way. There were so many fun fans too and it felt like we weren’t mourning it, we were just cherishing it, which felt like a good way to go out.

Does leaving Jon Hamm and January Jones feel like you’re almost bidding your parents farewell?

I mean I would say as a whole the set always had a very familial sort of vibe. We were always such a tight-knit group and very protective of each other. They’re just so great and they’re just so great to work with. I was just so happy to have them as my TV parents because I think they’re very talented and very nice. They’re just good individuals. Very nice, fun people. I lucked out.

Kiernan Shipka and Jon Hamm
Kiernan Shipka pictured with Jon Hamm in one of her favorite episodes, At The Codfish Ball in season five
Photograph by Ron Jaffe

And Betty dying? Was that a huge shock? How tough was that to play?

It was certainly super shocking. I’ve played Sally for such a long time and at that time it was towards the end of it all. I’ve lived with Sally through all her experiences so that news was just absolutely heartbreaking for the character and it was heartbreaking for me because I feel like when I channel into the character I was kind of channelling into her entire life. It was certainly very emotional and a powerful episode and it was really beautiful. I loved the writing and I love January so much as an actress and I felt like that episode for us, it was really a very special pivotal moment that I certainly didn’t expect but it really shows that they both loved each other.

What about your all-time favorite Mad Men moments?

Well recently I loved when Peggy walked into McCann with the glasses on. I thought that was fun, such a good moment. I’ve really liked a lot of the moments in these last few episodes because they really show how much time has passed, especially because I more recently went back and watched it all. So to compare and contrast what’s happening was fun. I also really loved the At The Codfish Ball episode when Sally walked out in her Go-go boots.

When Megan’s father says that line about Sally spreading her legs and flying!

Yes! Oh my gosh! Then all the Sally scenes with Glen. Even before Sally moved away, I really loved their conversations together, especially when she was first going through the fact that her parents were getting divorced. I thought those scenes were really sweet between them.

Did you get any parting career advice from the cast?

I think I get to speak for everyone when I say that we all really learned from each other. I don’t know about specific advice anyone else has gotten but I can say from my own experience just being on that show and watching everyone is like one great giant piece of advice as to how to do your job and how to work. It’s also very inspiring because when you get attached to a show like that and you love it so much and everyone loves it so much and you’re creating this amazing thing, it makes you want to create more amazing things. So it was just an all-around very inspiring, very enriching experience.

You have the movie Fan Girl coming up. It’s a super-modern comedy and a real departure from Sally Draper.

Fan Girl was super fun. It was my second project I’d done after Mad Men so I was sort of getting into the groove of doing other films. Right after Mad Men I filmed a movie about a family living in isolation, then I went into Fan Girl which was a very upbeat, very fun movie and I really just loved the script and the people working on it. I didn’t choose it specifically because it was a comedy or because it was modern times but both of those things were new and fun to play out. It was a fun time.

Jimmy Kimmel just showed a throwback clip of you impersonating Britney Spears on The Late Show when you were six. You’ve done some Funny or Die episodes and now Fan Girl. Will we see more comedy from you?

Yes, absolutely I’m super open to it. I love comedy. I have an improv troupe too. I’m totally down. I don’t want to be exclusively dramatic or comedic. That’s part of the fun of acting for me.

You also have February with Emma Roberts coming out –  a horror movie. It’s quite a departure.

Yes that should be really fun. I’m excited about that one. That was great. That was up in Canada and I got to experience real winter. It was fun to film. Oz Perkins is such a cool guy director. It’s a horror film and his dad was Anthony Perkins so it’s kind of major and cool and his brother Elvis did all the music. I think it’s going to be a really cool art piece, I really do. I think it’s going to turn out very well, it’s a very interesting film.

  1. When the first season started, I didn’t really know what was going on. Then as this season was airing, I started remembering back in the sixties. I work for the government, in offices like these and yes, there may have been one of each characters at my job. I started to related, I bought all the seasons!!! I started watching Mad Men in Portland, Oregon, and came to indiana. I understand all good shows comes to an end. I hope we will see more… until then; I do have the DVD and can watch them over and over. I totally love Drama Show! Thanks to ALL THE CAST!!! :0D

  2. Sally would be EXACTLY who I would have be the main character, but not in a spinoff. Instead, it would be in a continuation of Mad Men set at the beginning of 1990 to start and going through the ’90s with (in 1990) a 35-year old Sally Draper having decided to follow in her dad’s footsteps and is at the exact same stage of her career her father was 30 years earlier in 1960, but reaching 35 like many women in New York did at that time, unmarried and childless.

    As I would do it, it would be at the third incarnation of Sterling that Roger starts after his contract with McCann-Erickson expires in July 1974, with the new firm commencing early in 1975 (that with or without Don, Roger would do because he did NOT want to go to his grave knowing Jim Cutler had won a few years earlier). I have Sally at the new firm from the beginning while still in college in 1975 and fuil-time when she graduated in ’76 and a big part of such a firm.

    1. Great idea, but hopefully with a different actress. Simply put, this young lady cannot act. The scene where she covers her ears when she learns the news of her mother was dreadful. And I swear at times I’ve seen her look directly into the camera, as if for validation. From this interview she seems like a lovely person — she just lacks the acting gene.

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