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'Mad Men': Elisabeth Moss On Sexism, Peggy's Independence And What She Learned From Don

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MAD MEN SEASON 6 ELISABETH MOSS
"Mad Men' star Elisabeth Moss on Peggy's newfound independence and what she learned from Don. | AMC
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"Mad Men" Season 6 premieres on April 7 at 9 p.m. ET on AMC, and the new year finds Peggy Olsen (Elisabeth Moss) in unfamiliar territory, thanks to her new position as Copy Chief at Cutler Gleason and Chaough -- a rival agency to Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.

Outside the not-so-supportive support system at SDCP, Peggy has more power, but plenty of uncertainty along with it, and star Elisabeth Moss told The Huffington Post that the season's main theme is "people trying to get away from themselves and having a lot of trouble with that, and being chased by their own shadows." According to Moss, our characters will be faced with the troubling question: "Do people ever really change?"

Read on for more from our conversation with Moss, including what she thinks Peggy has learned from Don (Jon Hamm), whether she can maintain a relationship with Abe (Charlie Hofheimer) despite their ideological differences, and how big a role gender politics will continue to play in her storyline.

How will we see Peggy's role evolve this season, now that she's out of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and metaphorically spreading her wings?
I think she definitely is trying to spread her wings, and I think she's trying to evolve and be independent and strong, and sort of emulate Don. But I think that the theme of the season is people trying to get away from themselves and having a lot of trouble with that, and being chased by their own shadows and demons and treading water. It's that old thing of, when you're in a relationship and then you break up, and then you find yourself in another relationship with the exact same problem and you're like, “What's the common denominator in these two relationships? Is it me?” So I think that's the theme of the show this season: Why are these people continuing to wind up in the same place?

Do you think she'd ever want to go back to work at Sterling Cooper again, or at this point do you think she's moved on and would see it as regression?
I think the latter. I think that she's definitely moved on. I think she's definitely on her own. I mean, she just got there, so she's still working it out. I think that that's exactly where she should be, on her own -- trying to be the person that Don groomed her to be. She's been developing the past few years and I think that she's exactly where she needs to be but of course, we'll see how well she does at that.

Now that she's in a new agency, there's an opportunity for her to interact with a new team and take more of a managerial role. Will she have any similarities to Don in terms of her management style?
I think that he’s the only example that she's ever had of a boss -- that's her mentor. That’s who she's looked up to, so she thinks that's what you're supposed to do and she thinks that's how you're supposed to manage. I think that's her example, but I'm interested for the audience to see whether or not that works for her, because she's not Don. She has much more heart, and that's what makes her better than Don honestly, and that's what Don actually loves about her. He doesn't want to see her lose that so, yeah, I think she's sort of trying her hand at that at first, but I don't know how long it's going to last.

Can you reveal anything else about her trajectory this season, now that she's on her own and has the opportunity to discover herself out of the SDCP orbit?
What can I say? Yes, she's on her own. Yes, she's in a different place, but there's definitely a sense of winding up exactly where you were before and repeating patterns. The whole season is about never being able to get away from yourself and also, what makes you continue to put yourself in these situations and how do you continue to wind up there, and can you ever really change? Do people really ever change? And ["Mad Men" creator] Matt [Weiner] and I talked a lot about that theme for this season. And it's very, very clear. And the key art poster for this season is the season. People, when they've watched Season 6, will look back at that and go, "Oh, it all makes sense -- that's exactly what we were going to see." It's that; looking over your shoulder and seeing yourself and not being able to get away from it.

How is her relationship with Abe this season? They clearly have basic ideological differences in terms of how they see the world, so will that be an issue down the line?
The thing is for Peggy, she is actually kind of old-fashioned -- she's become old-fashioned. In the beginning of the ‘60s, she was sort of progressive and now, she's kind of behind the times. So Abe is more progressive than she is, and she probably won't change that much for the rest of her life, as far as her ideals and what she believes and who she votes for, and I think that she's not going to become a hippie; that's just not her. She'll probably wear the exact same clothes for the rest of her life. And I think that there is a disconnect there between her and Abe on that point. But at the same time, Peggy has always had a problem balancing work and a personal life. She just is not good at it, cannot do it, and I think that her work is her main passion, her work is her main love, and she’s had problems in her relationships because of that.

Turning back to last season for a moment, what was your reaction when you found out that Peggy would be leaving the agency? Were you nervous about what that would mean for you?
Yes, absolutely! [Laughs.] The first question out of my mouth when Matt told me the storyline, I was like, "That sounds great. Am I still in the show?" I was like, “What does that mean?” and he assured me that everything was going to be fine. But then I couldn't talk about it, so when it aired, everybody was like, "Oh my God, is she leaving?" and I couldn't say anything and I said to Matt, "What do you want me to say? What do you want me to tell people, because everyone's asking me if I'm coming back?” And [he says] what he always says to me which is, “They're just going to have to watch and see." And I was like "OK," and luckily, he came out and confirmed it so it took a little bit of the pressure off of me but yeah, I was totally like, “Oh my God, what does this mean?” And then I was like, “OK, I'm working at another agency, but what does it mean for my profile on the show. Am I going to be around?” I was totally nervous, and I love working with those guys. I've grown up with those guys, so it's sad to leave them.

Regardless of the progress she's made, Peggy's still a woman working in a male-dominated industry. How much are those gender politics going to play into Season 6?
I think the sexism part of it is becoming probably less of an issue, although at the same time, I just remembered something that totally counteracts that. [Laughs.] It becomes less of an issue personally for her, as for how bothered she is with it. I think when any sexism issues come up now, she's just like, "Yeah, whatever." I think it's becoming more about the bigger issue, which is balancing your life and having it all, and having a relationship and having a career, and marriage and kids and all that, that we still deal with everyday, as women today. So, it's more morphing into that issue I feel like, as opposed to like just being hit on and bothered by that. I think she's like, "I couldn't care less anymore."

Because it's still so common.
Exactly. And it's just like, “Why aren't you working? Why are you hitting on me?” And she doesn't present herself like that anyways. So, I think it's becoming more about the general balancing issues.

Will she be keeping in touch with any of the old gang on a regular basis?
I cannot tell you. All I can tell you is that I'm very happy with what's happened and very happy with where it's going. [Laughs.]

"Mad Men" Season 6 premieres Sunday, April 7 at 9 p.m. ET on AMC with a two-hour episode.

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