> on March 21, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.It was quite clear heading into Friday night’s Mad Men panel at the PaleyFest that the audience would come away knowing more about Star Wars: Episode VII  than Mad Men Season 7. Star Wars wasn’t discussed, but in traditional fashion, Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner not only revealed zero clues about the next season of the AMC series, which returns April 13, but he remained largely tight-lipped about his next act when the show concludes in 2015. “I love the audience not knowing how the new season is going to start,” Weiner told Deadline“We ended [Season 6] in the fall of 1968, and we’ll begin right after that.” One reveal: “A week from today, we start shooting the final seven episodes,” star Jon Hamm during Paleyfest 2014 logothe Q&A, which followed a screening of Season 6 finale “In Care Of.”  In that episode, Hamm’s complex protagonist, ad man Don Draper, suffers a layoff from Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and divulges his past to his co-workers and children. “I don’t think any of us have any idea what the tone or look will be,” Hamm said of how the cast remains in the dark about the ultimate finale.

Mad MenWhether Weiner will wrap up all the Mad Men storylines in a nice bow or leave the audience hanging a la David Chase with the Sopranos  finale, well, you have to watch. “I don’t think David Chase was upsetting the audience,” said Weiner about his former boss’ creative choices, “That was the way that show had to end, and every year that passes we know that was the way the show should end. You can’t divorce The Sopranos’ ending from the audience’s emotion. I will end Mad Men the way it tells me to do it, the way I want to do it. The way that Mad Men is finally perceived by the audience versus what I want to do are two different things and I want it to be satisfying.” He summed up by saying, “I don’t want to destroy the entire life of the show.”

Mad Men 2What remains at Weiner’s immediate fingertips in the next year is his feature directorial debut, You Are Here starring Owen Wilson and Zach Galifianakis. He recently finished re-editing after the film’s fall premiere at Toronto. There’s also a stage play that Weiner wrote sitting on his shelf, which he might take up post-Mad Men.  “When Mad Men is over, I will know what’s on my mind,” Weiner told Deadline“This has been a 14-year journey. I wrote the pilot when I was 35, I was 42 when it went into production, I’ll be 49 when the series is finished shooting, and I’ll probably be 50 when the show is finished airing. I love television, and I hope to be in [the medium] again.”

Mad Men 4Weiner introduced the season-finale screening but was absent for the Q&A. The cast largely took a look back at season 6 while reflecting on the fact that the end is nigh. “Emotionally, we’re in some phase of grief, which is probably denial,” said Hamm. “We are collectively realizing that the end is coming, and there’s no way to prepare for it.  Robert Morse, who play Bertram Cooper, was in near tears as he expressed how much he would miss the show. The actor also told the crowd that he didn’t have any immediate plans to return to the Broadway stage, due to the physical state of his legs. Another highlight triggering great applause at  the Dolby Theatre tonight: Hamm engaging in a staring contest with the Q&A moderator, and losing.  Also on hand for the PaleyFest panel were Elisabeth Moss (Peggy Olson), Christina Hendricks (Joan Harris), Vincent Kartheiser (Pete Campbell), Jessica Pare (Megan Draper) and Kiernan Shipka (Sally Draper).

While you wait for the opener, here’s the airport-centric but spoiler-free Season 7 trailer: