Friday, December 22, 2017

Mad Men is back / Sally Draper / Turbulent child of the 60s

 Kiernan Shipka 

Mad Men is back!

Sally Draper
Turbulent child of the 60s

With the long-awaited fifth season beginning next week, Guardian writers meet the actors who play their favourite characters in the show

Sarah Phillips
Wednesday 21 March 2012 20.00 GMT

Kiernan Shipka as Sally Draper.
 Kiernan Shipka as Sally Draper. Photograph: Frank Ockenfels/AMC

As Mad Men has progressed, certain characters have become particularly dear to our hearts – not least little Sally Draper. Don and Betty's eldest child was as meek and mild as you would expect a child of the 60s when we first encountered her. Yet watching her turbulent childhood unfold has been a constant reminder that a philandering father and cold-hearted mother take their toll on the next generation.

Kiernan Shipka, 12, has been playing Sally for half of her life, so feels close to her character. "I would totally be friends with her if I knew her," she says enthusiastically. "We don't run in the same circles, and we're not on the same paths in life, but we definitely have similar personalities and traits."

 Kiernan Shipka as Sally Draper and January Jones as Betty

Shipka first appeared on screen aged five months, then started acting seriously at six when her family moved to LA, so she admits she has had to grow up fast. Sally has too, with the death of her beloved Grandpa Gene, the arrival of a new sibling and, most significant of all, the separation of her parents. "The divorce was a really important point for Sally," Shipka says. "She had a whole new wave of emotions."
There have been mature storylines for someone so young to grapple with, but Shipka has done so adeptly, especially in the fraught scenes with her mother, which she believes have had "some great tension". Betty is particularly distressed when her daughter is found touching herself at a sleepover, but rather than address the difficulties she is going through, the Drapers, ever the early-adopters, pack her off to see a shrink. Understandably Shipka isn't allowed to watch full episodes of Mad Men yet, only her scenes, to see how they turn out. But she does attend script readings. "So I'm not like, what's Mad Men? What's the 60s?"
Sally's appeal is that she is an average all-American girl growing up in the suburbs, making friends, notably the older and equally troubled Glen, and getting up to mischief. One of her standout moments happens when she goes to stay with Don and gives herself an asymmetric haircut while he is out on a date, much to her mother's horror. She has tried Betty's cigarettes, turned up at Don's office and, hilariously, found herself behind the wheel of a car. "Unfortunately it wasn't real," Shipka giggles. "I would have loved to drive, but I'm bad enough in a golf cart."
For Shipka, a budding fashionista, the costumes have been a revelation. "The vintage clothes are so much fun. It has definitely got me into them." (Sadly she has only been allowed to keep a couple of headbands.) She has also enjoyed learning about the era. "Doing Mad Men is a big history lesson. You see all of these people's lives and how different types of people were treated." Even though the show glamorises life back then, Shipka is adamant that she is happier being a child of the noughties. "For a girl my age there weren't as many opportunities, for lots of different reasons."
Sadly Mad Men will end just as Sally becomes an adult. With a backdrop of the summer of love, Woodstock, the pill and second-wave feminism, who knows how how she would have finally turned out?
Sarah Phillips

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