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Mad Men Fodder

Interview: Kiernan Shipka Talks 'Mad Men'

The last season of AMC's critically acclaimed 'Mad Men' was full of shocking revelations, wild twists and flat-out amazing performances. Perhaps the most stunning was Kiernan Shipka, who plays Sally Draper, the eldest child of the unhappy Don and Betty Draper played by Jon Hamm & January Jones.

Sally had a lot to deal with this past year. The death of her grandfather Gene, the JFK assassination, and the separation of her parents have given the character much more to do and Kiernan grabbed hold of it and gave us some of the most heartbreaking moments of the season. Growing up on television can't be easy but the very mature 10-year old Kiernan seems to be handling success quite well. She has a new film coming out in July called Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore with Chris O'Donnell, 30 Rock's Jack McBrayer and Roger Moore and with the voices of Alec Baldwin and Bette Midler and is excited about the upcoming season of 'Mad Men'.

I had the chance to interview Kiernan and I found out that she is a wonderful and well-spoken young lady who talks all things 'Mad Men', her new film and who she met at this years SAG awards. Hope you enjoy it as much I enjoyed interviewing her!

JANAKI CEDANNA: I want to first congratulate you on cleaning up this award season; the Golden Globes, the SAG awards, the Producers Guild awards, that must have been amazing.

KIERNAN SHIPKA: Yes, it felt very amazing. I'm very fortunate to work on a show that's so recognized.

JC: I saw you up onstage and Christina Hendricks was giving you a shoulder pinch. It must have been pretty exciting for you. Was there anybody at the SAG awards that you wanted to meet?

KS: (giggles) It was very exciting for me! I got a chance to meet so many wonderful people and it was all just really special. I met Warren Beatty, I loved him in “Heaven Can Wait” and “Bonnie and Clyde”. I watch it on AMC all the time. Tina Fey, I love her! She’s so hilarious on “30 Rock” and she had one of the most memorable and funniest acceptance speeches a couple of years back. She named all the nasty bloggers by their handle names, it was quite hysterical. Sigourney Weaver of course, I loved her in “Ghostbusters” 1 & 2 and “Avatar”, she was great. Jane Lynch from “Glee”. I mean, I love her! I’m very hooked on the show right now and she is definitely my favorite character.

JC: How was it different from last year? You’re a year older.

KS: It was a little different from last year . . . I was older and I knew what to expect basically. I had more fun, was more relaxed and more confident.

JC: Last season you really established yourself as a character and a wonderful actress. How do you prepare for those dramatic moments?

KS: I try to get in the moment. I try to get as method as possible on set. I think the whole set, the hair, the make-up, the wardrobe really helps also.

JC: Your character Sally went through a really tough time last year like the death of grandpa Gene, the JFK assassination and your parents separation. What kind of effect do you think that’s having on her?

KS: I think Sally has gone through a really tough time this season and like you said, she’s had so many dramatic moments and it’s been quite a year for her.

JC: We already started to see her act out a little bit. Do you think there’s going to be a lot more acting out?

KS: I think so. I think next season will be really good for her. She’s gonna go through a lot.

JC: Bad things?

KS: Right. I think just going through her parents divorce, if they get divorced, and lots of difficult things to handle, I bet.

JC: What do you think about the adult content of the show?

KS: Umm, I don’t really think about it. I just handle the Sally part!

JC: Do you get to watch the show?

KS: I do watch the show, I love the show! I think it’s well written. I love to watch the characters. Just because they've become my friends.

JC: Your TV parents Jon Hamm and January Jones must be a lot of fun to work with.

JC: They’re very fun to work with. They're really nice.

JC: Do they do anything to put you at ease on set?

KS: They’re just so, so nice and I feel like I learn from them everyday. They’re really phenomenal actors.

JC: How do you think ‘Mad Men' has helped your career?

KS: I think ‘Mad Men’ has helped my career a lot! I’m recognized and Sally has become this “character” and it’s really amazing to see her grow.

JC: Do you like playing Sally?

KS: I love playing Sally, she’s so fun. She’s adventurous!

JC: Especially that driving incident last season, right?

KS: (laughs) Yes, that was a very fun scene to shoot. Although I wasn’t actually driving, it was just a greenscreen . . . it’s still fun to imagine.

JC: You had a really good relationship with your grandfather on the show (Ryan Cutrona), did you have that kind of relationship off set?

KS: I did. We became really good friends off set and I’d worked with him just a tiny bit before in the first season but we really developed a great friendship. I think it really helped with our emotions on camera.

JC: It was probably really sad to see him go then.

KS: It was!

JC: We have watched you grow up the last three years on TV, how do you feel about growing up in front of America?

KS: I think it’s phenomenal to grow up on ‘Mad Men’! I was really fortunate to get that role and I started when I was about 7 and I’m 10 now and it’s really fun to look back and see all the clips from when I was a little girl. I mean, I’m still a little girl, but when I was 7. (giggles)

JC: Do you and your TV brother (Jared Gillmore) get into any mischief off set?

KS: There’s not much time off set to do many things but he’s a very nice boy. We talk a lot.

JC: Who else on the show would you like to have a scene with?

KS: Well, last season I was really fortunate in episode 4 when Sally went to the office I was fortunate to work with all those actors and actresses (and in season 2) it was a different side of the TV show. It was really quite fun to work with Christina Hendricks, Vincent Kartheiser, and Rich Sommer. Everyone was very fun. Robert Morse was the best, I love him!

JC: What would you like to see from your character?

KS: I’d like to see my character not only dealing with the divorce of her parents or possible divorce. She had to go through a lot (last season) with the loss of her grandfather and just growing up and everything. Kissing a boy was (giggles) quite . . . kind of weird! (giggles) It was different and next season she’s just gonna be older and it’s gonna be fun to see how she handles things.

JC: You start shooting in May, right?

KS: I believe in April. I'm not sure . . .

JC: Can you tell us anything about next season?

KS: Nope, not at all! (laughs) Not really.

JC: How did you get the part of Sally?

KS: Well, it was just a regular audition. When I walked in I didn’t think much of it. I thought it was a possible recurring . . . the main character’s daughter. Little did I know that it would evolve into such a big character. It was amazing!

JC: You’ve been compared a lot to Drew Barrymore . . .

KS: Mmm-hmm, yes! She’s one of my favorite actresses of all time.

JC: Did you meet her at the SAG awards?

KS: I didn’t meet her! I never met her before but I hope to one day.

JC: It would be exciting to see you two in a film together.

KS: Yeah, that would be awesome!

JC: What do you do for school?

Kiernan: I do an independent study program and I have two tutors coming in each week, getting about 30 hours done just teaching me the different disciplines that are in the curriculum.

JC: Tell me about your new film, “Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore”.

KS: It was really fun! It was just so amazing watching the commercial and then looking back at the sets and seeing how different it was. All the dogs were so amazing to work with, they were so trained and very sweet.

JC: Can you tell me more?

KS: The movie is centered mostly around the dogs and cats. But then there is this girl in the movie who sees them talking several different times and she tries to convince her mom but her mom doesn’t think anything of it. She’s the only character in the movie that hears the animals talking.

JC: That’ll be a big movie for you. When does it come out?

KS: It will! It comes out in July, I believe.

Now some questions from the Mad Men Fodder Twitter users!

JC: richsommer (Harry Crane on the show) asks: Did you have a recent growth spurt? You looked a foot taller at the award shows.

KS: (laughs) I did! I actually did!

JC: greygoosegirl asks: Given a choice what time period would you rather live in?

KS: Definitely now! (giggles) Times have really changed quite a lot with all the technology and there’s so many opportunities for girls nowadays. In the 60’s there wasn’t many.

JC: busybeeblogger asks: Do you really like wearing that tutu?

KS: (laughs) Well, actually I do ballet about four times a week myself so it’s really fun when I get to do a ballet scene!

JC: HRmargo asks: What drew you to the role of Sally?

KS: What drew me to the role of Sally was that at the end of the 3rd season she was just . . . throughout the seasons actually, she just keeps growing, growing and growing and I never knew what a great character she was going to become when I auditioned.

JC: ssmirnov asks: What it’s like playing a young girl from the 60’s and how different is it from playing a contemporary character? It must be strange.

KS: It is, but I do think that all the vibes help and it’s very interesting to see the difference how Sally is treated back then and how I’m treated as a child today.

JC: picoppet asks: What was your character feeling when Kennedy was shot?

KS: That was a very deep episode. It really expanded to all the characters and how they took it, and on my side it showed how I was feeling for my mom because she took it very hard.

JC: Ivanpacheco asks: What is Jon Hamm really like?

KS: Jon Hamm is fabulous to work with! He is truly incredibly nice and a phenomenal actor.

JC: Kiernan, thank you very much for talking with me today. You did such an amazing job this last season and I think everybody really notices you now and I appreciate you taking the time to talk with me. It was a pleasure. Look forward to seeing you next season.

KS: Thank you and you’re welcome!

I really had a fun time interviewing Kiernan. I have to say I wasn't prepared for that level of maturity and while I was pleasantly surprised at times, I actually forgot I was talking to a 10-year old. Hollywood at it's finest!

What bums me out is that we have to WAIT until August to see new episodes and this interview gave me some serious 'Mad Men' withdrawals. Oh, well. In the meantime, keep coming back here for more off-season news!

-- Janaki Cedanna

Posted by Janaki Cedanna on January 31, 2010 1:46 AM
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