As her role as Don Draper’s wife winds down, Jessie Paré’s career continues with a film that gets its premiere in Cork tomorrow, writes Marjorie Brennan.
IT’S not easy being married to Don Draper. There’s the knee-trembling good looks, charm and glamorous job in advertising of course but along with that goes the emotional cruelty, the drinking, the adultery.
But for Mad Men star Jessica Paré, who plays the role of Megan, the wife of the suave but tortured protagonist in the critically acclaimed show, it has been an amazing experience. Now Paré has swapped Manhattan in the Swinging Sixties for the streets of contemporary Dublin in the Irish film Standby, which is having its world premiere at the Cork Film Festival tomorrow.
Paré gives an impressive performance in the romantic comedy directed by brothers Rob and Ronan Burke, and featuring a strong Irish cast, including Brian Gleeson (son of Brendan), Tina Kellegher and Stanley Townsend. She plays Alice, an old flame of Alan (Gleeson) who comes back into his life after a serendipitous encounter at a tourist information kiosk.
How did the 33-year-old French-Canadian actress go from acting in one of the most talked about television dramas of the last decade to trading banter with Irish actors in the arrivals hall of an Irish airport?
“I really liked the script, the simplicity of it. These two characters, they felt like real people to me and the dialogue felt very natural and genuine. I spoke to Rob and Ronan and I had a great connection with them too, so it just went from there.”
Paré enjoyed experiencing the sights and sounds of the capital while filming.
“I loved every minute of it. Dublin is such a wonderful city and it was my first time there. When you are travelling for a film, you really get to experience it in a different way.”
NIGHT ON THE TOWN
In the film, Alan brings his old flame for a night on the town, during which they realise their summer romance may still have some fire left in it. Paré didn’t get to enjoy much of the social life for real as most of the shooting took place at night.
“We didn’t get too many days off, but I experienced it in different ways. We shot one of the scenes on a rooftop, so I spent two nights on this beautiful rooftop in downtown Dublin, which is not something I would have experienced as a tourist. We had a great crew working with us and Brian is so wonderful.”
Viewers of Mad Men are more accustomed to seeing the perfectly-attired Paré sashaying around the offices of the Sterling Cooper Draper advertising agency or the stylish apartments she shares with Don.
She made her first appearance as a humble receptionist in season four of the role and had no idea when she was hired that she would end up playing a major part as the second Mrs Draper.
“When I was auditioning, I certainly didn’t know where the part was going to go. I had no idea but they knew where they wanted this character to go, that she was going to be the new Mrs Draper. In the script I read she was the receptionist, I didn’t know who she was or where she came from. Gradually they built it up over the fourth season.”
Did she find it difficult joining an established cast on such a high-profile show?
“It made it easier that I got to ease in gradually. Of course it was intimidating, those people are doing some of the best work on television, if not the best work on television. The performers are incredible and the writing is just so beautiful.”
Paré made a big impact in the opening scene of season five, when she mesmerised the male characters with a tantalisingly sexy rendition of a French pop song called ‘Zou Bisou Bisou’.
The performance also caused a big stir among fans of the show, who took to social media in their droves to express their appreciation. Paré says a huge amount of work went into the pivotal scene.
“It was intimidating because I am not a singer or a dancer. I got to work with a few people in the cast in season four, but having to come back in the first episode of season five and do this literal song-and-dance routine for them was absolutely terrifying. I worked long rehearsals to get that dance ready, a more believable dancer might not have had to do so much work. I worked with an amazing choreographer, Mary Ann Kellogg, and I was really focused on the task at hand.
“My fellow cast members enjoyed it, so that was a relief. It was quite unexpected months later that people reacted the way that they did. I was just so engrossed in the execution of the scene, I wasn’t thinking that far ahead.”
The character of Don Draper has helped propel Paré’s co-star Jon Hamm to international fame and the adoration of female fans. Paré’s affection for him as a person and admiration of him as an actor are heartfelt.
“Jon is an amazing person and a wonderful actor. He is so fun and such a great leader. It’s so nice to have him on set because he is so concerned with everyone and he puts everyone at ease, so he is wonderful to work with.”
But while Don gets the girls, it’s Roger (John Slattery) the silver-tongued fox, who gets the best lines.
“Yes, and he’s very good at delivering them,” says Paré. “He is the best, he’s a riot.”
REACHING THE END
Mad Men’s final seven episodes will air next year. How does Paré feel about the show finishing?
“I’m devastated. I would work on it for the rest of my life if they would let me. They are just such a great group of people and the writing is incredible. I am really going to miss it but it is good to leave the party while it is still fun. It happens too often that a story gets dragged on longer than it needs to be. We are quite privileged to be able to tell the beginning, the middle and the end of a story. Often in television you go on and on and then they yank you and you don’t know. We are lucky that we get to do the whole thing.”
As for life after Mad Men, Paré has an impending event that will keep her attention focused elsewhere for a while.She recently announced that she is expecting a baby with her partner, Canadian musician John Kastner. So, as one chapter of her life ends, another one begins.
“It’s exciting. It’s something I really wanted. I’m happy and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Selected other highlights of the Cork Film Festival
Poison Pen (Saturday, Nov 15, The Gate, 6.30pm). This is the first feature film script from Artemis Fowl author Eoin Colfer, a quirky comedy about a Booker Prize-winning author blackmailed into writing for a gossip mag.
The Drop (tomorrow, The Gate, 9.30pm) features the late Sopranos star James Gandolfini in his last big screen appearance. Based on a short story by US crime writer Denis Lehane, it stars Tom Hardy as ex-con Bob whose life is thrown into chaos when the bar where he works for his cousin Marv (Gandolfini) is hit by a gang of robbers.
Fans of the comedy 30 Rock and its heroine Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) will enjoy Showrunners (Sunday, The Gate, 4.15pm) a documentary partly funded by a Kickstarter campaign which delves into the fascinating world of those who have played a huge role in the recent golden age of America television.
Ó Chúil Aodha go hOileán Í (From Coolea to Iona) (Tomorrow, The Gate, 11.30am) follows Cór Chúil Aodha, founded by legendary Irish composer Seán Ó Riada and overseen since his death in 1971 by his son Peadar.
From the team behind Frozen and Wreck-It Ralph, the new Big Hero 6 (Sunday, Nov 16, Cork Opera House, 10.30am) is the story of robotics prodigy Hiro Hamada who joins forces with a robot and transforms his friends into a band of high-tech heroes to save the city of San Fransokyo.
It’s hard to believe the wonderful Disney classic Aladdin is 22 years old. See it on the big screen and experience the virtuosic performance of the late Robin Williams as the Genie at the Gate cinemas in Mallow and Midleton on Sunday, Nov 16, at 11.30am and 2pm.
Nas:Time is Illmatic (Sunday, The Gate, 9.15pm21.15) looks at the making of the hip-hop legend’s classic and debut album, Illmatic.
It is an insightful look at the influences on the performer, including his roots in the New York projects and his jazz musician father.
The 2009 live concert film Come All You Dreamers featured Christy Moore and Declan Sinnott at Barrowland Glasgow, It will be shown at the Cork Opera House on Sunday, November 9 at 6pm.
It will be preceded by an introduction by Moore live in person.
There are numerous shorts programmes through the week. One of the most anticipated offerings is Rockmount, a comic dramatisation about a promising young Cork footballer named Roy who battles complacency with his labrador in tow. Need we say any more. Screened as part of the Irish Shorts strand (Tuesday, Nov 11, The Gate, 9.30pm).
Happy Toys is a short from the multi-talented Zawe Ashton, actor, writer and star of the popular British comedy show Fresh Meat. It’s about Stella, who dresses up as a bear for her day job.
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