If you missed last week’s season premiere of Mad Men, it would be hard to understand all the fuss about Jessica Paré, but the 29-year-old actress, who joined the cast of the critically acclaimed AMC series last season as Don Draper’s (Jon Hamm) secretary Megan, definitely gave viewers something to talk about when she wiggled her way through a performance of the French ditty, Zou Bisou Bisou.
“I like to sing around the bonfire, in my car and in the shower and that’s about it,” says the Canadian actress. “I think I have a bit of a rock fantasy, which I guess a lot of us do. So it was definitely a thrill and such a gift to be given the opportunity to actually go and professionally record a song.”
So while the fact that she isn’t a professional singer gave her pause for a moment, it didn’t stop Paré from wholeheartedly jumping into rehearsals for both the song and the very sexy dance that accompanied it.
“At the time I just was like, ‘I can’t believe that I’m new on the show and the first thing that I have to do is an entire dance and song routine for the whole cast of Mad Men, that’s intimidating. So I just kind of focused on getting through that day,” she adds.
Read on to find out what else Paré has to say about her role as Don Drapers’s wife and co-worker.
Did you know when you got the part on Mad Men that Megan was going to be such a big character?
No, absolutely not. I did three other scenes for this and other scenes from previous seasons. There was nothing written for Megan at the time. Although, I’m sure it was all in [creator/executive producer] Matt‘s [Weiner] head. But I didn’t know what I was auditioning for. It was vaguely described as a female brunette. so I had no idea. I thought if I was able to do four or five episodes with a few lines that I would be very satisfied with that. So, obviously, it was kind of a great surprise.
Did you tell Matt that you were a singer and you wanted to pursue that, or did he just throw that at you?
Well, I sang in the last episode of last season — the Tomorrowland episode, I sang songs to the kids. I guess Matt liked it and thought he would throw a bigger challenge my way, so it was more than welcomed.
How did you prepare to sing Zou Bisou Bisou?
I listened to it a whole lot and Matt gave me some pretty comprehensive notes along with it. And then I worked with David Carbenar, who does the music for the show. I got to go into a real grown up recording studio and actually sing a song like a professional, which is an amazing opportunity.
Have you ever done anything like that in real life like surprise someone with a song?
Never. I suppose I might think about it but, honestly, it’s a very gutsy move. So it was a lot of fun to do and certainly a lot of the awkwardness and embarrassment was definitely felt. I think it takes a lot of courage to do something like that. I’m not sure I would gear up for it myself.
I wanted to ask about Megan’s relationship with Peggy. I think they have that moment where Megan asks her advice before the surprise party. Does Megan see Peggy as a friend or as a role model? How exactly do they relate to each other?
I think both of those things. What’s really interesting, I think, in the first episode is that you see that Megan and Peggy are friends. At the end of last season when Peggy and Joan were sort of laughing about the fact that he’s marrying his secretary, it kind of sets it up where they could have an antagonistic relationship but they don’t. They’re friends and, in fact, Peggy has taken Megan under her wing in a certain way.
Not totally unlike the way Don took Peggy under his wing. So I think that’s an interesting mirror right there. And I think that Peggy’s someone that Megan looks up to and admires and actually really, really likes.
What does Megan think about Peggy’s relationship with Don? Is she a little jealous of their bond or does she understand it?
I don’t know. I would think not but I think that’s more of a question for Matt than for me. I would think not. I think there’s room for everybody.
I think one thing a lot of people are really hung up on is at the end of last season there was that scene where Betty tells Don she’s not happy and he announces that he’s engaged to Megan. So I’m wondering if you could even speak to the point of will we see Betty and Megan interacting and how that might go.
I can’t really speak to what’s coming up in the show, but that scene last season was one of my favorites, I think, of all time in all of Mad Men. I love the Betty character so much. I think it’s just a great portrait a woman in that era. And so, yes, I also hope that we’ll be seeing a lot more Betty and Megan.
Were you nervous about doing the love scene at the end of the episode in your bra and underwear?
I was probably less nervous about that than I am about [talking to you] right now actually. To be fair that scene is so beautifully written and crafted that when I read it, I actually forgot about the fact that I would be doing it in a bra and underwear.
But I think it’s an interesting choice that Megan makes and I think it actually has a lot of power, where normally one might feel more vulnerable in their underwear. So it’s an interesting flip of that scene as well.
Just have to ask: How does Jon Hamm rate as a kisser?
He’s such an amazing wonderful guy. I honestly love working with him so much. He’s a superbly talented actor as everybody knows. And he’s not bad looking. He’s just easy to work with. So — how can I phrase this — sort of vague answer to your question, there is nothing bad about working with him.
From the moment that you started singing in the premiere episode, it was pretty obvious that this would become an Internet sensation that it would really take on a life of its own. How aware were you of that possibility and did you realize that it would end up being released on iTunes as a single?
I think at the time that it had been mentioned. In fact, I’m pretty sure it was, but I guess, the truth is that I had a lot on my plate at that moment. So I hadn’t thought, “Oh, neat. There will be a release. That will be sort of fun.” But I guess it’s been getting a lot of really great attention. I’m thrilled, it’s so exciting. I never thought that I would make a single never mind an actual physical record because a 7-inch vinyl is for sale out there, too. But yes, that’s really exciting.
Which scene was more intimidating to film? The Zou Bisou Bisou scene or the sex on the floor scene?
They’re both intimidating for different reasons. The thing is that this is my first episode this season. I had no idea what to expect and then I realized that I had a ton of incredible stuff to do. And so I was excited and I felt equipped for the challenge.
But you don’t want to mess it up, not on your first episode. So I was still nervous about it for sure. I think that you would probably be guessing that I was more nervous about the song and dance scene and you would be right. You’d be right because the singing and dancing it’s not necessarily stuff that’s in my wheel house that I’m confident about. I had a lot of fun doing it and I would love to have an opportunity to do that kind of thing again. So that was more of a challenge. And the other scene was difficult in a different way. I think it’s an interesting power dynamic that happens between them in that scene. And there’s some funny parts in it, but I didn’t want her to be laughable you know? Not that it was for a second written that way, but ultimately I was definitely more anxious about the song and dance for sure.
A lot of people have been asking you how Megan and Don’s working together is going to affect their marriage, and I would like to know, how their marriage is going to affect Don’s career?
Yes, that’s a good question. I think one of the things about this first episode is that you see that, as I was saying, he doesn’t really care as much about work and Peggy said at one point that it worries her. I think she’s worried that he might have lost his edge, which would be terrible thing for Don to lose. But I think it’s interesting to see where that tension will take them for sure.
Mad Men airs Sunday nights at 10 p.m. on AMC.
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