'Mad Men': Showrunner Matthew Weiner talks about the show's legacy and his sense of loss
"It's up to me to maintain those relationships, and we can see each other, but we'll never be forced to go to work together every day like that, and that was amazing."
"Mad Men" comes to an end Sunday after seven seasons, so we talked with showrunner Matthew Weiner about what everything coming to an end feels like, what the show's legacy is and what's next for him. (You can also check out the first part of our interview with Weiner talking about the show's writing, reaction on social media and more.)
"It feels like — God, it's a weird thing, because I was a terrible student, even in college — but it definitely had the feeling of graduation. In the sense that this conglomeration of people will never be together again," Weiner says.
Weiner says that doing press can be difficult for him, because he infamously never reveals anything about the show's story. That's made the press tour for "Mad Men's" finale surprisingly psychological.
"I've had so many people ask me about my feelings — which is usually not an issue when you're out there promoting the show," Weiner says. "But there's a sense of loss. I mean, I've never gone through this before. So, it is my show that I did by myself at the beginning, and then went through this seven-year process to make it a show, and then I've been surrounded by amazing people for seven years."
There were between 200 and 300 people who Weiner would interact with due to the show over the course of a year, and he's had to say goodbye to all of them.
"It got winnowed down to me again, and that's kind of mortal, in a way," Weiner says. "I was the big cheerleader in the last seven episodes, reminding everybody of how much we're going to miss all of it. Quite selfishly, I'm going to miss my relationship with all those people."
He hopes to not lose touch, but knows that his relationships will forever be different.
"It's up to me to maintain those relationships, and we can see each other, but we'll never be forced to go to work together every day like that, and that was amazing. And you can't reconstruct that. The people that I worked with, especially by the end of the show — you've got to imagine that no one was there who did not stand the test of excellence, reliability, and kindness."
Weiner tried to set the tone for how the show was going to be made immediately.
"I said right away, in the pilot, there's no cool kids here. I did not want people, because their job was in a different list in the credits, to not feel ownership of the show, and I didn't want anyone else to pretend like they weren't as important."
At the premiere for "Mad Men's" final season, Weiner said, "Once this is all over, I'm a writer alone at his computer again." He says that he has begun to move on from the show, even as it still airs.
"I definitely am ahead of the audience in the sense that I've had plenty of downtime already, for me. And it's been nice to be around my home, and my oldest son's in college, and be there for his Christmas break, and go on vacations, and things that — I'm not complaining, but I didn't really do much of [that during the show].
Weiner says that a writer is always working, but that while he's started to dip his toes into a variety of projects, he's still not sure what the exact next thing will be — his future remains about as unclear as the weekly "Next on 'Mad Men'" clips that never told you much about what the next episode would be about.
As for the show's legacy, Weiner hopes that "Mad Men" lasts.
"I hope it'll be around and that people will watch it. I hope that it'll be seen as part of this period, because there's obviously a reason why it struck a cord. That the changes going on 50 years ago are relevant to whatever's going on right now, otherwise people wouldn't be watching it."
The future of television itself is in flux — Weiner says he doesn't know what his grandchildren will even think TV is — but he's glad it's secured a place for itself.
"I'm so thrilled it's going to be in museums. It's going to be on the field trip. I am proud of the fact that we did not try to imitate anything, and that it had an organic honesty to it. If it's known for that, that would be the most important thing for me."
The show's final episode airs Sunday night on AMC. (Be sure to check out our look at the Southern California stores that supplied "Mad Men" with its distinctive look, from clothing to cars to glasses and everything else.)