A Star is Born: Don Draper’s New Wife An Overnight Sensation

TV's New Star: Jessica Pare of AMC's "Mad Men" (Photo: AMC)

Meet Jessica Paré, overnight sensation.

It doesn’t happen often in the TV biz — where an actress is little known on one day and a mega-star the next. But this is what seems to have occurred Sunday night for Paré, 29, who emerged as the most talked-about cast member in the long-awaited fifth-season premiere of “Mad Men” on AMC.

In the wake of the two-hour season premiere, those who are talking about “Mad Men” (and there are a lot of them: 3.5 million watched, a record for the show) are invariably talking about Paré or, more to the point, her character, Megan, who’s now Mrs. Don Draper.

Snaring TV’s handsomest, most eligible leading man would have been enough to get people talking all on its own. We knew she and Don (Jon Hamm) had become engaged at the end of Season Four 18 months ago, when Megan was just a minor character. But there were no guarantees that they would successfully make it to the alter. Sunday’s season premiere showed that they had. They were seen happily betrothed, living in a new, swank Manhattan apartment and working together at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce — he the swashbuckling partner and creative director and she a fledgling copywriter, basically reporting to her husband.

But when she sang a French pop song from the ’60s called “Zou Bisou Bisou,” viewers sat up and took notice. And then, later in the show, she was seen cleaning up after the surprise 40th birthday party she threw for Don, and wearing just a black bra and panties. She and Don then made love on the floor. And before you could say “Ooh la la,” Jessica Paré had suddenly become the most talked-about entertainment figure in America, at least on Monday. (Among other things, her performance of the song became a Youtube and an iTunes sensation, according to this story.)

How does Jessica herself feel about her (seemingly) overnight stardom? We caught up with her on Monday and asked her that question. Here’s what she had to say in a telephone news conference about that, and a few other Megan-related topics:

On the big splash she made in her two scenes Sunday night:

“I’ve been waiting for today [Monday] and last night [premiere night] for months and I’m really excited about it. I’m really proud of the work that I did. I could not be more thrilled or honored to be part of such an amazing cast and such an incredible show, so it really is life-changing, in that sense, for me.”

On how they produced her sultry song performance:

“I listened to [the song] a whole lot and [executive producer] Matt [Weiner] gave me some pretty comphrehensive notes to go along with it,” she said of her preparation for singing the song, though singing professionally has never been a part of her performing career. She confirmed that the singing voice heard on the show was hers, but she recorded the song in a recording studio and lip-synched when the scene was filmed. She noted more than once the pressure she felt she was under to perform in front of, basically, the entire “Mad Men” cast when she herself was a relative newcomer. It was “sort of like a hazing,” she said, adding that everyone on the set was very supportive, especially afterwards, when she heard the tune being hummed backstage.

She politely evaded questions about future plot developments, in keeping with the executive producer’s wish that cast members, journalists and anyone else in the know refrain from revealing spoilers. Among the topics she wouldn’t address: Whether she interacts with Don’s ex-wife, Betty (January Jones), on the show, and whether Megan’s marriage to Don will have more staying power than his last one. “I worked a little bit with everyone,” she said on the “Betty” question. On the marriage question, she said she didn’t know what the show’s writers have in store for the newly married Drapers.

As for working with handsome Jon Hamm, she had these adjectives for him: “Smart, funny, fun, mature, sexy.”

“Mad Men” airs Sunday nights at 9/8c on AMC.

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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