Actress Mimi Rogers, who played Pima Ryan in Episode 709 of AMC’s Mad Men, talks about keeping her role on the show a secret and putting together a tailored wardrobe.
Q: How were you approached to play the part of Pima? What was your first reaction when you heard the news?
A: I went in and auditioned for Matthew Weiner and his gang. It was an interesting situation because I saw a number of other women there and – in terms of the wardrobe and look – all of the ladies seemed to have gone in one direction, which seemed a little bohemian. I had gone in a very graphic and bold direction. I thought, “Well I either got it really right or really wrong.” [Laughs] I got to see how top secret the whole Mad Men process is because I was given my scenes, but was not given the entire script. I knew who I was going to be and what I was going to be doing, but I didn’t know for sure who I would be doing it with in terms of the regular cast members.
Q: Were you a fan of the show?
A: Oh, yes! I’m a huge fan. I’ve been binge-watching and staying up way too late at night because I just had to see what would happen in the next episode. I was totally immersed.
Q: Was it hard keeping your role a secret? Who was the hardest person to keep it from? When could you finally tell someone?
A: I had to keep everything top secret. I didn’t even know my episode was airing until it aired the other night! They are so top secret so it’s like “I can tell you, but I’d have to kill you.” I was allowed to say “Hi” and give Matthew Weiner a hug if I ran into him, but couldn’t really mention how I knew him.
Q: Tell us more about Pima’s wardrobe. What was it like collaborating with Janie Bryant for Pima’s look? What went into putting together her wardrobe?
A: [Janie] has such an amazing eye and attention to detail. Matthew had a very strong image of how he wanted Pima to look. Having her in suits was very much something he wanted and he wanted the big gray streak in my hair. It got to be a very collaborative process and [Janie] pulled a lot of amazing clothes. I think Pima’s white suit was actually a suit from the 1970’s that had never been worn. It was a man’s suit that we tailored for me. We decided, working together, that it would always be a three piece suit. Even the shirts were men’s shirts that were cut for me. The second suit, the darker one, was actually a suit from the ‘20s or ‘30s. It was still in amazing shape. That was one of my favorite elements of the experience. When I’m auditioning for parts, putting together the look has always been an integral part of figuring out who the character is.
Q: Pima is so independent and bold. Did you find you could relate to her?
A: She was a top photographer in the world of that era and it was more unusual that a woman would achieve that kind of power and notoriety. I admire that in her and I understood. You have to project a certain power and masculinity. You have to get all these men in the advertising and art world to respect you. Having them be a little intimidated by you was a very effective strategy and I think she used her sexuality and her androgynous element to keep people unsettled.
Q: She’s also very protective over her artistry. In her place, could you see yourself taking work from an advertising agency?
A: Most people, like Pima, who are successful artists tend to have very healthy egos. I think it was something she enjoyed and was gratifying, but one of the elements she didn’t like is that if you work for an ad agency, the work is not yours and you don’t have say once you’ve done the shoot. I think for her it was definitely a little bit difficult – the idea that she would not have control after a certain point. Her seduction of the two characters was two-pronged. It was a lucrative gig, but I think it was also done as a way of maintaining power in this situation.
A: Obviously seducing the guy was a little bit more of a traditional choice, so I was probably more surprised at the pragmatic element of her mentality: if the guy’s not the one in charge, let’s go for the girl! That cracked me up. [Laughs]
Q: Will you be watching the Mad Men finale? Any big plans?
A: I’m watching these last episodes both happily and sadly. I’m really happy that I got to be a part of it before it’s over.
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