Whether it’s the smooth-talking Don Draper, the feisty and ambitious Peggy Olson, or the well-composed Roger Sterling, the actors and actresses behind Mad Men put on tremendous performances throughout the entirety of the series. While you might think that their incredible transformations occurred overnight, the truth is that it took years of hard work for them to develop their acting skills. Every single one of the Mad Men cast members needed to start from the bottom and work their way up in the world of acting. Join us as we take a look back at the actors and actresses of Mad Men before they hit it big with the AMC hit drama series.
Alison Brie As Trudy Campbell
On Mad Men, Alison Brie portrays the loving and faithful wife of Pete Campbell. The first problem in Trudy and Pete’s marriage arises after Trudy discovers that she may be infertile. While she is eager to adopt, Pete will not stand for it.
Eventually, Pete gives into the temptations of infidelity in which so many of his coworkers partake. By season 4, Trudy becomes pregnant and gives birth to a daughter. She ultimately learns of Pete’s infidelity. Their relationship continues in an up-and-down cycle.
Alison Brie – Before Mad Men
Before Alison Brie became a successful actress, she actually spent time working as a birthday party clown in California. Brie earned a bachelor’s degree in theater in 2005. Her television debut came in 2006 when she appeared as Nina, a novice hairdresser, on Disney’s hit series Hannah Montana.
Prior to her Disney role, Brie appeared as a character named Alice in a 2004 short film called Stolen Poem. Brie stayed on Mad Men for the show’s entirety from 2007 until 2015.
Jon Hamm As Don Draper
We all know Jon Hamm as the smooth-talking ladies man of the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce ad agency. You might not know this, but Hamm’s Mad Men character was actually based on the real-life Draper Daniels, the creative director for the Chicago advertising agency, Leo Burnett.
Believe it or not, Jon Hamm wasn’t always the sharp-dressed and confident businessman from Mad Men. He actually had quite the interesting start to his career in show business.
Jon Hamm – Before Mad Men
Before Jon Hamm became the fearless and self-assured Don Draper who we all came to know and love, he was a contestant on a dating game show called The Big Date. Hamm, 25 years old at the time, offered to treat his game show love interest to some “fabulous food, fabulous conversation, and a fabulous foot massage for an evening of total fabulosity.”
Unfortunately, Hamm was passed over by two women. At least he went on to have a successful acting career!
Kiernan Shipka As Sally Draper
As the oldest daughter of Don and Betty Draper, Sally Draper struggled throughout her youth dealing with the complicated relationship between her parents. Sally is adventurous, for better or worse.
As she approaches adolescence, Sally grows more and more curious with regards to Don’s life at work. This leads her to several disturbing discoveries. Eventually, Don offers her his best advice by saying, “You’re a very beautiful girl. It’s up to you to be more than that.”
Kiernan Shipka – Before Mad Men
As the youngest cast member of Mad Men with a starring role, Kiernan Shipka didn’t have a whole lot of prior acting experience before the show’s premiere in 2007. As a baby, Shipka started with print modeling and eventually worked her way into commercials.
Her first appearances on television came in 2006 when she was featured in two episodes of Monk. She also appeared on episodes of Cory in the House, MADtv, and Heroes before landing the part of Sally on Mad Men.
Jay R. Ferguson As Stan Rizzo
Prior to landing a job as the art director for Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, Stan Rizzo was involved in politics, working for the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential campaign in the early 1960s.
As the office flirt, Stan has a particularly intriguing relationship with Peggy. When the two are forced to work together, they spend most of the time name-calling and arguing. Their cat-and-mouse relationship ultimately has a happy ending, or at least we can assume so.
Jay R. Ferguson – Before Mad Men
Jay R. Ferguson got his acting start in the early 1990s, appearing in television films Shattered Dreams and The Price of Love as well as in episodes of shows such as The Outsiders, Glory Days, Judging Amy, and Surface.
Into the 2000s, Ferguson was featured on shows like Sleeper Cell, CSI: Miami, Easy Money, Weeds, Lie to Me, Castle, and Ghost Whisperer. While Ferguson has appeared in a number of films, none of his movie credits have been particularly notable.
Elisabeth Moss As Peggy Olson
On Mad Men, Elisabeth Moss plays Peggy Olson, Don Draper’s ambitious secretary who later becomes the first female copywriter for the Sterling Cooper Agency since World War II. Olson is known for her determination to break through the glass ceiling in a misogynistic culture.
Olson’s complicated relationship with Don Draper adds several nuanced layers to the storyline of Mad Men and gives the audience insight into what it took to make it as a working woman in the 1960s.
Elisabeth Moss – Before Mad Men
Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Elisabeth Moss began acting at a young age. Her first role came in 1990 when she was featured on the NBC miniseries Lucky/Chances.
As a child actress, Moss continued to appear on shows and movies like Picket Fences, Frosty Returns, and Escape to Witch Mountain. She got her big break in 1999 when she was cast as Zoey Bartlet on The West Wing. Moss joined the cast of Mad Men a year after The West Wing‘s finale.
Ben Feldman As Michael Ginsberg
After his questionable interview with Peggy Olson, and a much better follow-up interview with Don Draper, Michael Ginsberg is hired and becomes the only Jewish copywriter working for Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.
It doesn’t take long before Ginsberg establishes himself as a motivated and talented copywriter. Unfortunately, he butts heads with Don Draper frequently and the two rarely see eye to eye. Eventually, Ginsberg’s mental health becomes a serious concern and he leaves the show before the finale.
Ben Feldman – Before Mad Men
As the real-life son of an ad agency executive, it’s no wonder Ben Feldman portrayed an ad-man so well. Before he was on Mad Men, Feldman appeared on shows such as Less Than Perfect, Frozen Impact, The Mayor, Living with Fran, Numbers, The New Adventures of Old Christine, Medium, and Drop Dead Diva.
On the big screen, Feldman was featured in movies like When Do We Eat?, The Perfect Man, Cloverfield, Extreme Movie, and Friday the 13th.
John Slattery As Roger Sterling
John Slattery portrays Roger Sterling on Mad Men. As a proud US Navy veteran of World War II and survivor of The Battle of Okinawa, Sterling often makes references to his service and holds a strong grudge against the Japanese.
Because Sterling’s father was a senior partner in the firm, he grew up wealthy and privileged. Sterling becomes known as a womanizer and a heavy drinker. His wild lifestyle ultimately leads to some health problems, and he is forced to slow down.
John Slattery – Before Mad Men
Prior to Mad Men, Slattery was featured in roles on television shows such as Dirty Dozen: The Series, Under Cover, China Beach, Before the Storm, Homefront, From the Earth to the Moon, Party of Five, Maggie, Will & Grace, Law & Order, and Desperate Housewives.
On the big screen, Slattery appeared in films like A Woman of Independent Means, City Hall, Hallmark Hall of Fame, My Brother’s War, Bad Company, The Station Agent, Mona Lisa Smile, and Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights.
Teyonah Parris As Dawn Chambers
After executives from a competitor threw water bombs on African American protestors, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce agency put out an ad promoting that they were an equal opportunity employer.
Even though it was intended to taunt their competition, many African Americans applied for positions. Among them was Dawn Chambers, who became Don Draper’s new secretary. Dawn always maintains a high level of professionalism, despite needing to constantly overcome the adversity of being an African American in the 1960s.
Teyonah Parris – Before Mad Men
Teyonah Parris’s portrayal of Dawn Chambers on Mad Men would serve as her breakthrough role. Prior to Mad Men, Parris appeared in films such as Empire Corner, Wu is Dead, and How Do You Know.
Parris also appeared on a 2010 episode of The Good Wife titled “Double Jeopardy.” Even though Parris only appeared in 22 episodes of Mad Men, the actress was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series.
Vincent Kartheiser As Pete Campbell
Like many members of the Mad Men cast, Pete Campbell is known for his dishonesty and poor treatment of the women in his life. Campbell grew up wealthy, but with a strained relationship with both his father and his mother.
At the advertising agency, Pete works on the client side of the business but is envious of Don Draper’s position on the creative side. Therefore, he often makes efforts to sabotage Draper and make him look bad for his own benefit.
Vincent Kartheiser – Before Mad Men
Pete Campbell is played by Vincent Kartheiser, an actor who grew up in Minnesota. Kartheiser got into acting through his involvement in Minneapolis’s Children’s Theatre Company. In 1993, Kartheiser made his on-screen debut, credited as the Orphan Boy in a film called Untamed Heart.
Before joining the case of Mad Men, Kartheiser’s biggest roles were in films like The Indian in the Cupboard, Another Day in Paradise, Crime and Punishment in Suburbia, and Dandelion. Kartheiser also played Connor on Angel from 2002-2004.
Rosemarie Dewitt As Midge Daniels
It was no surprise to the Mad Men audience when Don Draper fell for the smart, independent, and ambitious art illustrator Midge Daniels. How could he resist a woman who plays by her own rules?
Even though Midge’s rebellious friends may have been too much for Draper, he still felt himself drawn to her confidence and mystery. As an art illustrator, Midge’s questionable circle of friends and overall instability leads her to make some bad decisions.
Rosemarie Dewitt – Before Mad Men
Rosemarie Dewitt graduated from Hofstra University where she majored in creative studies. Dewitt found her passion in acting when she got involved in theater, performing in numerous off-Broadway productions. Her first appearances on television came with small roles on episodes of shows such as Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Sex and the City, The Commuters, Rescue Me, Love Monkey, and Standoff.
On the big screen, Dewitt also appeared in notable blockbusters like The Great New Wonderful and Cinderella Man.
Aaron Staton As Ken Cosgrove
Aaron Staton portrays Sterling Cooper’s laid back and care-free account executive, Ken Cosgrove. Cosgrove initially had aspirations of becoming a writer, but after learning that there was more money in advertising, decided he would change career paths and keep writing as a hobby.
Early on in Mad Men, Ken appears to be successful and good at what he does without caring a whole lot about his place in the company. Staton eventually earns his keep and becomes an Accounts Director.
Aaron Staton – Before Mad Men
While his role as Ken Cosgrove on Mad Men would prove to be Aaron Staton’s big break, the young actor was featured in a number of small roles prior to the show’s premiere in 2007.
Staton first appeared in an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in 2005, and followed that up with a 2006 role in 7th Heaven. On the big screen, Staton appeared in 5 separate films in the year 2007. Staton would stay on Mad Med from the pilot episode until 2015.
Darby Stanchfield As Helen Bishop
Darby Stanchfield portrays Helen Bishop, a divorcee, and somewhat mysterious jewelry store clerk. Helen is a single mother of two children and often garners her fair share of criticism from the neighborhood women for taking frequent long walks alone.
One of the more interesting interactions we saw in the series occurred after Helen learned that Betty gave her son Glen a lock of her hair while she was babysitting. Helen responded by slapping Betty across the face.
Darby Stanchfield – Before Mad Men
An Alaska native, it’s difficult to comprehend how Darby Stanchfield made her way into the limelight. After graduating from the University of Puget Sound in 1993 with a degree in Communications and a minor in theater, Stanchfield went on to study at the American Conservatory Theater in San Fransisco.
Her television debut came in 2000, with a small role on an episode of Diagnosis Murder. Before landing her Mad Men role, Stanchfield appeared on Monk, Without a Trace, 24, Nip/Tuck, and General Hospital.
Robert Morse As Bertram Cooper
The crafty, clever, and often eccentric Bertram Cooper was one of the founders of Sterling Cooper back in 1923. Cooper is a proud follower of Japanese culture and is never seen without a bow tie.
He is an avid collector of Japanese artwork and decorates his office with a Japanese-inspired design. He also rarely wears shoes indoors, even while at the office. Cooper is known for his business prowess and ability to settle conflicts in a cunning and tactical manner.
Robert Morse – Before Mad Men
At 87-years-old, Robert Morse has acting credits dating back to the mid-1950s. Morse began his career with various Broadway productions. One of his most notable roles was in the Broadway musical and film adaptation of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.
Morse also earned praise for his roles in films such as The Matchmaker, The First Easter Rabbit, and The Emperor’s New Clothes. On television, Morse has been featured on The Dukes of Hazzard, Murder, She Wrote, and The Twilight Zone.
Anne Dudek As Francine Hanson
Early in the show, Francine Hanson and her husband Carlton Hanson live in Betty and Don’s neighborhood. While Francine is one of Betty’s closest friends, Carlton and Don aren’t so friendly with one another.
Francine has a tendency to pry into the personal lives of Betty and Don, but Betty remains closed off and refrains from sharing any personal details. After Betty and Don’s divorce, Carlton refers to Don using lewd terms, and Betty is noticeably annoyed by this.
Anne Dudek – Before Mad Men
Anne Dudek is best known for her portrayal of Tiffany Wilson in the 2004 comedy White Chicks.
Before landing her role on Mad Men, Dudek also appeared in episodes of television shows such as ER, The Book Group, For the People, Judging Amy, Six Feet Under, Friends, Desperate Housewives, Less than Perfect, Charmed, Invasion, Bones, How I Met Your Mother, Psych, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Big Day, and Numbers. Dudek appeared in a total of 16 Mad Men episodes.
Jared Harris As Lane Pryce
Before working as a financial officer for the Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency, Lane Pryce was a supply officer in the British army. After the war, he made his way to Puttnam, Powell, and Lowe, where he earned his reputation as a strong businessman with a knack for dealing with mergers and takeovers.
Even though Pryce was a successful partner at his new agency, he would fall onto hard times. His financial struggles, along with an unfortunate lie, would eventually lead to his demise.
Jared Harris – Before Mad Men
Jared Harris began his movie career as a director for the 1983 film, Darkmoor. Harris made his acting debut in The Rachel Papers, a 1989 British film. He would go on to multiple starring roles in notable films such as The Last of the Mohicans, Natural Born Killers, B. Monkey, Lost in Space, Mr. Deeds, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
On television, Harris also saw success, with credits on shows like Without a Trace, Law & Order, and Fringe.
Christina Hendricks As Joan Holloway
On Mad Men, Christina Hendricks portrays Joan Holloway, the office manager for Sterling Cooper and a temporary love interest of Roger Sterling. Holloway is never afraid to speak her mind and is known for her femme fatale characteristics.
Hendricks describes Holloway by saying, “She’s got fire to her. She snaps back… The men in the office can play with her a little bit. They can tease her, and she’s not going to be in the bathroom crying later.”
Christina Hendricks – Before Mad Men
Christina Hendricks spent most of her youth moving from town to town thanks to her father’s profession. While some may argue that Hendricks’ Mad Men character was a bit of an office bully, Hendricks herself was a victim of bullying in high school, describing herself as an “outcast” and a “goth.”
At 18-years-old, Hendricks signed with a modeling agency and moved to NYC. She later began acting in roles on television shows such as ER, Cold Case, and Without A Trace.
Rich Sommer As Harry Crane
Rich Sommer plays Harry Crane, one of the few ad-men at Sterling Cooper who initially remains faithful to his wife (for the most part). While Crane is a bit of a pushover at first, he eventually proves himself in the agency by believing in the importance of television advertising.
Crane eventually creates and becomes head of the agency’s television department. Harry’s biggest downfall is his inherent inability to properly read situations, whether in his work life or personal life.
Rich Sommer – Before Mad Men/post_page_title]
Before Rich Sommer made it big on Mad Men, he was the founding member of an improv group at Concordia College called the Slush Puppies. Sommer would eventually graduate and receive a Master’s degree in Fine Arts from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio.
Sommer’s most notable role prior to becoming Harry Crane was in 2006 when he landed the part of Doug alongside Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep in the feature comedy-drama film, The Devil Wears Prada.
From season 4 onward, Jessica Paré plays Megan Draper. Megan begins her career as a receptionist but quickly becomes Don’s secretary and eventually marries him early in season 5. Megan’s own mother describes her as having “artistic temperament.”
While Megan might be intelligent and motivated, she can also be contentious and difficult to work with. After marrying Don, she soon discovers all of his deepest and darkest secrets. Megan ultimately leaves the agency to pursue her dreams of becoming an actress.
Jessica Paré – Before Mad Men
Jessica Paré’s first big role came while she was still in the midst of her final year of high school in 1999. She played Rosalie Profaci on a television film titled Bonanno: A Godfather’s Story.
Paré would go on to receive credits in films such as Stardom, Possible Worlds, Lost and Delirious, and Wicker Park. On television, Paré was featured on shows such as Big Wolf on Campus, Napoleon, Random Passage, and Jack & Bobby before joining the cast of Mad Men in 2010.
Maggie Siff As Rachel Menken
Actress Maggie Siff plays Rachel Menken, one of Don Draper’s many mistresses, on Mad Men. Before becoming romantically involved with Draper, Rachel was the head of a department store.
The two meet after Rachel reaches out to the Sterling Cooper agency for ideas about advertising her store. While Menken only appears in a total of nine episodes throughout the nine years that Mad Men was on the air, her presence seems to haunt Don all the way through the show’s finale.
Maggie Siff – Before Mad Men
Before making her way to television and becoming a successful actress, Maggie Siff worked in regional theater and even won herself a Barrymore Award in 1998 for Excellence in Theater.
Siff’s most notable early work consists of television credits and appearances in shows such as Third Watch, Rescue Me, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, 3 lbs., and Grey’s Anatomy. Siff got her big break when she landed the role of Rachel Menken on AMC’s Mad Men in 2007.
January Jones As Betty Draper
January Jones’ portrayal of Betty Draper in Mad Men has drawn many comparisons to Grace Kelly.
The show’s creators never intended to show Don Draper’s home life, but after filming some trial scenes, producers were impressed with Jones’ performance and decided to develop the character.
January Jones – Before Mad Men
After growing up and spending her high school years in South Dakota, January Jones began acting in the late 1990s. Before becoming Betty Draper on Mad Men, Jones had to work her way up from the bottom.
On television, she appeared in small roles on shows such as Get Real, Sorority, In My Life, and Huff. On the big screen, Jones was featured in movies like It’s The Rage, Bandits, Anger Management, American Wedding, Love Actually, and We Are Marshall.