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Mad Men Q&A – Maggie Siff (Rachel Menken)

Maggie Siff, who plays Rachel Menken on AMC’s Mad Men, talks about Rachel and Don‘s compatibility and returning to the show in little more than a chinchilla coat for Episode 708.

Q: It’s been a while since Rachel uttered the words to Don: “This was a dalliance, a cheap affair. You don’t want to run away with me; you just want to run away.” Were you surprised she didn’t go with Don back in Episode 112?

A: I think Matt [Weiner] really honored her integrity when he wrote that scene. I wasn’t exactly surprised because I knew that the arc of the character was one season. I think she really sees something about Don that she didn’t see before and she can’t live with it. If she was a little bit weaker within herself, she might have stayed, but [Matt] really honored her strength of character in that moment.

Q: You’ve talked about keeping up with the show after you left. Have you had any revelations about Don and Rachel’s relationship since appearing on the show — things that you may not have realized at the time?

A: At the time, I knew — in terms of the arc of the series — Don Draper would have a lot of women to burn through, so I was curious to see what his trajectory would be in terms of his extramarital relationships and how things would transpire with Betty. I actually have found myself to be very surprised at all the twists and turns and people he’s turned to. Looking back on it, I feel like Rachel was really a match for him in terms of strength. I felt that then as well, but it still feels true.

Q: Don has certainly had his share of love interests over the years. What makes Rachel different?

A: They’re all so different from each other, which is one of the interesting things about the series. I think one of the things Don and Rachel shared was that they both felt like outsiders in different ways. In that first season, his whole being was still in hiding and he was holding on to this deep secret about his past and who he was. He was working dual identities. Rachel – being Jewish in a certain time and place where there was a lot of anti-Semitism and also a female entrepreneur – handled a lot of racism and sexism. They sniffed something in each other. They had a feeling for each other about their outsider status. That was their hook. In a sense, that’s what makes their relationship unique.

Q: How and when did you find out that Rachel would be coming back for another appearance? Were you surprised?

A: I was delighted when I heard the news. I guess I thought it was a possibility, but I didn’t expect to come back. I love the character so much and I was curious about where she was. I learned I would come back a little more than a year ago. They called and said they wanted me for specific dates, and those dates were very close to my due date — I was very, very pregnant. I talked to Matt and Scott Hornbacher, who directed the episode, and they actually thought it would be interesting, but their production dates got pushed, so we ended up shooting it a couple of months after I gave birth.

Q: In Season 1, Rachel had a killer wardrobe. Did you have any favorite pieces?

A: Those were actually all vintage items that [Costume Designer] Janie Bryant found. Rachel had a pink suit with a feather hat that I thought was really beautiful. There was also a leopard print suit that Janie put me in. I was like, “Are you sure about this?” and I grew to love it. It was a real collaboration with Janie in terms of trusting her and learning how to wear the clothes. Rachel’s sense of fashion is so forward.

Q: Speaking of wardrobe, what was it like being back on set in little more than a chinchilla coat?

A: [Laughs] I had given birth not long before, so I was a little bit daunted, but I really do trust Janie and Matt. I think we all did a fine job of making it work. Plus, the coat was amazing!

Q: No doubt, a lot has changed since you were last on the show. Is there anything from your experience on set that was still the same?

A: It all felt deeply familiar. A lot had changed – everyone’s hair looked different – but it was the same people, same personalities and the same smell of stale fake cigarettes everywhere. It was a real feeling of family that was nice to walk back into.

Q: Are you recognized as Rachel when you’re out in public?

A: I do sometimes get recognized, but that was a long time ago. The thing is, you’re so transformed by all of that hair and makeup. When I was on Sons of Anarchy, there was a period where I would try to guess which [show’s] character fans were going to approach me as. [Laughs]

Q: Do you still keep in contact with any of your Mad Men cast mates?

A: I email occasionally with different people and I stayed in touch over the years. I’m still pretty close with Michael Gladis.

Q: Any big plans for the Mad Men series finale?

A: Not as of yet. It is bittersweet and there’s just a few more episodes left, but I’m very curious. I’ll definitely be watching!

Read an interview with Matthew Weiner, Series Creator and Executive Producer.

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