Joining the cast of "Mad Men" has held more than a few surprises for Teyonah Parris.
"Mad Men" is tackling the subject of integration and race this season, but working on the hit AMC drama has been a huge mystery for Teyonah. The network is super secretive about what’s going on with the show.
"When I watched the season premiere with everybody, I had no clue that’s how my character got there. That was news to me," said Teyonah, who dished that everything on the set is told on a need-to-know basis. The actors even have to sign out scripts during table reads! "If I’m not in that episode, or I’m not in that scene, then I just don’t know."
Even auditioning for "Mad Men" was a little mysterious because the character description for tryouts was very vague. "There wasn’t much to go by," Teyonah told S2S.
As Teyonah discovered, that was just a taste of all the secrecy on "Mad Men." The actress plays Dawn Chambers, Don Draper’s secretary and the first Black hire at Sterling Cooper ad agency, but she kind of had to feel out the character as she’s gone along.
"Once I got hired, I made up my own backstory for who this woman was," Teyonah said. "As the show went along, I started to learn more about my character through what the writers and the creative scene were going for." She integrated what she learned with her idea of who Dawn is.
Teyonah’s also taken some cues from her wardrobe for the show. "When I went to try on the outfit," Teyonah explained. "[It] was a wool, plaid skirt, below my knees, with a button-up ruffle shirt that probably stopped at my chin. That says a lot to me about who this girl is. Very conservative. Probably something she’d wear to church."
While being the first Black employee at Sterling Cooper might have its awkward moments, Teyonah said that the cast has been very welcoming. "Mad Men" star Jon Hamm, who plays Don, even directed Teyonah’s first appearance on the show.
"You don’t get to see a lot of Dawn and Don’s interaction onscreen," Teyonah explained, "but I feel like with Jon Hamm directing that episode that Jon and Teyonah were able to forge a rapport that will carry into the Don and Dawn relationship."
She continued, "Jon Hamm really ushered me in and welcomed me to the show."