Throughout the run of AMC’s Mad Men, advertising legend Don Draper has had quite a bit of secretaries. It’s a position at Sterling Cooper (and all its later iterations) where Peggy Olsen started in season one, employed Roger Sterling’s eventual mistress (and second wife), was hilariously helmed by Miss Blankenship, and more.
Going into the seventh and final season, the job has been held by regular SCP staffer Meredith, played by actress Stephanie Drake. Known for her fashionable dresses, big hair, and not being all there, Meredith has become a something of a fan favorite.
Enstars recently caught up with Drake to talk about the role just before the Mad Men series finale, to talk about how she didn’t watch the cable drama until she joined the cast, that infamous kiss with Don at the end of season seven’s first half, and just what exactly (she thinks) Mad Men is REALLY about.
Enstars: I’m curious if you prefer to think of Meredith’s job title as “Secretary” or the more modern phrasing of “Executive Assistant?”
Stephanie Drake: I’d say secretary.
ES: You joined the show more than halfway through its run, in season five. Were you surprised that your character became kind of popular with fans?
SD: Yeah, I was. I feel like people didn’t really start noticing Meredith until actually maybe the end of season six, because I remember reading on websites and blogs people saying, “Where did this Meredith girl come from?” I was like, “I’ve been there!” But I feel that people started to take notice of her a little later on and now that she’s Don’s secretary and they have such a nice budding relationship I think people are really starting to take notice, which is fantastic.
ES: She’s had a quite a bit of memorable moments, Joan throwing the model airplane at her and when she made pass at Don and kissed him. Is there any one scene that you think viewers most associate wither her?
SD: Yeah, I think the kiss scene is what I’ve gotten the most response from. You know, people still talk about the “Surprise, there’s an airplane here to see you!” But I’d say my pass at Don and the look on his face after I kiss him is just so priceless that people really like that scene.
ES: But for something like that, you can’t help but feel for Meredith. It’s such a human moment.
SD: I know and I think that’s why people like it so much. And neither of us were trying to be funny when we were shooting, we were just being really honest and truthful and that’s how Meredith wants to take care of him and yes, she misreads him so badly, but she I don’t think she’s ever misread it, you know? She even says, “You’re right. Not right now.” As if it might happen later [Laughs] But she just wants what’s best for him and I think that’s so wonderful and why Don appreciates her and keeps her around after that happens.
ES: I think one thing that most people would say about Meredith is that she’s not that bright.
SD: Yes, she definitely has her ditzy moments that get in her way.
ES: But she’s never fired and even lands the job of Don’s secretary and keeps its, which is actually kind of impressive.
SD: Yeah, I think she’s always been a really hard worker and I think she’s always tried to be really good at her job. It’s unfortunate that the ditziness does get the best of her sometimes and specifically the scene where Joan throws the airplane at her...and calls her an idiot and I think that really gave Meredith that kind of reputation. But I think she still tries to be really good at her job and that’s why she’s still there.
ES: I heard that you weren’t a fan of the show before you joined. Is that true?
SD: Not that I wasn’t a fan. I just didn’t watch it. My parents watched it, they LOVED it. And there’s always so many good show to watch on television that it just wasn’t on my radar at all. But once I got the part I went back and watched it from the very beginning.
ES: Is it weird to experience this delay between filming the last episodes that people are only seeing now?
SD: Yeah, it is. You know, I wasn’t sure how I would feel with the final seven airing. I thought maybe I’d be sad again, because I was sad when we finished shooting last summer. You know, it was so nice to have a steady job for a few years and then it’s done. But now that this season’s back up, I’m so excited to see the final episodes. So excited. And because we shot them a year ago, it’s as if I’m seeing them for the first because I don’t remember much. [Laughs] I mean a year is a long time.
ES: Do you have any thoughts on what career advice Meredith would give?
SD: I think she would say to always do your best and work hard and eventually people will take notice and then want to give you more responsibility.
ES: People like to debate and argue over what Mad Men is REALY about. Some say it’s about modern life, others say it’s about creative careers and media or identity and how we define it, and on and on. Do you have any thoughts on what the show is really about?
SD: Mmm…I hadn’t really thought about it. From my point of view, as a viewer but also being on the show, I think it’s just about…I don’t know, trying to make a name for yourself in a world where it’s difficult and you don’t always know where life is going to take you and just trying to find your place. I don’t know, that’s how I see it.