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suffers consequences

List of characters in Mad Men

This is a list of fictional characters in the television series Mad Men. The nature of Mad Men is such that it is difficult to divide characters by significance, and all of the characters below have appeared in multiple episodes and their characters have developed over time.

Main characters

Don Draper

Don Draper (Jon Hamm) is the creative director at Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency; he eventually rises to become a junior partner. Draper is the series' protagonist, and more storylines focus on him than on other characters. By his own choice, little of his past is generally known; he was born Richard Whitman, the illegitimate child of a prostitute who died during childbirth. "Dick" lived with his father and his father's wife until he was 10, at which time his father, a drunk, was kicked in the face by a horse and died. His stepmother then "took up" with a new man, referred to as "Uncle Mac," and had another son named Adam (supposedly fathered by Don/Dick's father, though Adam was born after the death of Mr. Whitman and the appearance of Uncle Mac). During the rare glimpses into Don's past provided in the show we learn that his childhood was unhappy, and his stepmother never allowed him to forget that he was a "whore child" (see episodes "Long Weekend" and "Hobo's Code," Season One). During military service in the Korean War an officer named Don Draper was killed while the two were posted alone at an isolated base. Dick then switched identification tags with Lt. Draper and assumed his name, cutting off contact with his family and creating a new life for himself. Don Draper has a deep intuitive understanding of the consumer's mind, making him a brilliant ad man and the award-winning star of Sterling Cooper — attracting and retaining major clients, commanding respect from those above and below him, being courted by rival firms, and generally living the picture-perfect good life of a successful businessman in the early 1960s. However, Don rarely seems happy with his "perfect" life: He is often stressed, drinks and smokes constantly, and is prone to spells of moodiness. While he appears to love his wife, he had a brief affair with client Rachel Menken and was previously involved with beatnik Midge Daniels. In Season 2, Don has an affair with the wife of actor/comedian Jimmy Barrett, Bobbie Barrett. Because of this, Don's wife Betty kicks him out of their house. He has two children, and is at times a warm and loving father, while at other times, cold and aloof. Draper's tenuous and complex feelings toward his children are revealed when Pete Campbell threatened to expose his past -- Don at least momentarily considered fleeing to Los Angeles and abandoning his wife and children. Bert Cooper makes him a partner after Roger Sterling's most recent heart attack.

Peggy Olson

Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss), upon introduction, was the ostensibly naïve "new girl" at Sterling Cooper. She was originally Draper's new secretary, but showed surprising talent and initiative, including a knack for understanding the consumer's mind similar to Draper's own (albeit in a rawer, less focused form). Her retiring nature belies a talent for advertising, a quiet determination to succeed, and a surprisingly utilitarian attitude toward relationships. On the night of his bachelor party, Pete Campbell shows up drunk at Peggy's doorstep, and she takes him in for the first of their sexual encounters. Peggy was "discovered" by Freddy Rumsen after a Belle-Jolie lipstick focus group, when she offers him his "basket of kisses". Peggy becomes "the first woman copywriter at this place since the War," much to Joan Holloway's bemusement and Pete Campbell's chagrin. In a gruff but ultimately caring fashion, Draper mentors and supports her as she transforms from wide-eyed secretary to one of the company's few non-secretarial female employees. In turn, she behaves with extreme loyalty to him. Pete Campbell and others, however, subject her to some emotional abuse. Due to her success on two recent copywriting assignments, Draper gives her a raise and subsequently promotes her to junior copywriter, with her first account bringing her into more day-to-day contact with Campbell, who serves as the client's account manager. Throughout the first season Peggy visibly gains weight, which is occasionally commented on by other characters. In the final episode she gives birth to a son, and it is revealed that she was in psychological denial about the pregnancy. By the second season Peggy, or Miss Olson, is a junior creative executive and copywriter, leaving the position of Draper's secretary to be filled by less qualified subordinates. Peggy left her son in the care of her family in Brooklyn, a fairly devout Roman Catholic family with whom Peggy attends Mass on occasion.

Peter "Pete" Campbell

Peter "Pete" Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) is an ambitious young junior account manager who sexually pursues Peggy despite his recent marriage. He is not well liked by his immediate superiors, but is retained anyway because he comes from a formerly wealthy but still socially influential Manhattan family. While Pete has displayed talent at his work on several occasions, he is inordinately eager to advance, and is willing to use unethical tactics to do so. At one point he attempts to blackmail Draper into promoting him, threatening to reveal his real identity to Bertram Cooper. However, the ploy fails when Cooper responds with the scornful words, "Mr. Campbell... Who cares?" Pete treats most of the women he knows with veiled contempt and emotional abuse, particularly his wife and Peggy Olson. Pete feels resentment toward his wife and her wealthy parents, who pay for their Manhattan apartment and agree to support a theoretical grandchild that Pete tells his wife he can't afford on his salary. By the second season, his relationship with his wife appears to have stabilized into a fairly normal one, though their continued childlessness worries them both. He is also completely unaware of his child by Peggy. Early in season two he is forced to deal with the death of his father in a plane crash. He is a graduate of Deerfield Academy and Dartmouth College.

Elizabeth "Betty" Draper

Elizabeth "Betty" Draper (January Jones) is Don Draper's wife (who affectionately calls her 'Birdy' on occasion) and mother of their two children, Sally and Bobby. She is classic '50s homemaker, with the added intrigue of a past as a professional model. Draper still cares deeply for her but has long since fallen out of love. Betty is obsessed with keeping up appearances and sees a psychiatrist. She's recently lost her mother, who also valued looks and appearances highly and encouraged Betty to stay slim so that she could attract a husband. Just as Don is, on the surface, the picture-perfect model of a successful early '60s businessman, Betty appears to be the model wife, but like her husband she sometimes expresses feelings of unfulfillment and dissatisfaction with her "perfect life". She is often lonely, as Don spends most of his days and nights in Manhattan working -- and seeing other women. Although Don sees her as an excellent, caring mother -- something he lacked in his own life -- he doesn't treat her as an equal adult companion the way he treats his mistresses. She knows nothing of her husband's true past, and wishes he were less remote and more involved in life at home. At the end of the first season, having deduced that her husband receives reports from her psychotherapist, she tells her psychotherapist that she has known for some time that her husband has affairs. By the second season, she appears to have reached an accommodation with Don, and their relationship appears to be less distant. However, at the end of the second season's eighth episode, Betty - fed up with Don's humiliation of her in public and private - calls her husband at work and forbids him from coming home.

Joan Holloway

Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks) is an office manager at Sterling Cooper who acts as a professional and social mentor, as well as a rival, to Peggy. Joan relishes playing the role of femme fatale, and was engaged in an affair with Roger Sterling before his heart attack. An intelligent and capable woman, Joan loves the glamourous, sexy life she leads, saying of Manhattan, "This city is everything." Unlike Peggy, she doesn't strive to join the all-male cadre of Sterling Cooper's non-secretarial workforce, preferring to use her sex appeal to exercise control over the men around her. Joan is looking for a "more permanent arrangement", (i.e. husband, marriage, life in the suburbs), but despite her good looks and charm has yet to settle down. She is sexually active, and helps Peggy get a prescription for birth control pills. She lives with a female roommate, a friend from college, who is secretly in love with Joan and once made a failed attempt to initiate a romantic relationship with her.

Roger Sterling

Roger Sterling (John Slattery) is one of the two senior partners of Sterling Cooper, and a good friend of Don Draper. He is a former Navy man, and his father was also a partner at Sterling Cooper; it is strongly hinted that Sterling's father founded the firm with Bert Cooper. He is cynical about the world he has helped to shape, which leads him to extensive womanizing and a degree of alcohol use and cigarette smoking that is excessive even by the standards of his co-workers. In the episode "Red in the Face" he makes a sexual advance toward Draper's wife (while intoxicated); a suspicious Don's antagonism toward his wife for "giggling at [Sterling's] jokes" and appearing interested in Sterling's war stories is relieved when Sterling reveals that it was he who initiated the flirtations. As a result of his lifestyle, Sterling suffers a heart attack while in the company of a young woman in the episode "Long Weekend." He suffers a subsequent heart attack in the following episode after coming into the office to assuage the concerns of the Lucky Strike executives. He has a wife named Mona, on whom he cheats regularly, and a teenage daughter named Margaret, with whom he struggles to communicate. For all his roguish qualities, he does command considerable affection from his co-workers and family. Following his heart attack, we learn that despite his philandering and outwardly callous attitude, he does love and appreciate his family, and wishes he were a better husband and father.

Supporting characters

Sterling Cooper

Paul Kinsey

Paul Kinsey (Michael Gladis) is a copywriter at Sterling Cooper. He initially features as part of Pete's entourage, seeming to spend more office time drinking, flirting and gossiping than working. Paul has been involved with Joan in the past.

Ken Cosgrove

Ken Cosgrove (Aaron Staton) is an account executive at Sterling Cooper. He initially features as part of Pete's entourage, seeming to spend more office time drinking, flirting and gossiping than working. Ken has literary aspirations and has been published in The Atlantic Monthly, an accomplishment that elicits jealousy from Kinsey and Campbell.

Harry Crane

Harry Crane (Rich Sommer) is a media buyer at Sterling Cooper. He initially features as part of Pete's entourage, seeming to spend more office time drinking, flirting and gossiping than working. Harry is married and his wife, Jennifer, works at a phone company. They seem to have one of the few really happy marriages in the show. Harry flirts with women, but he's faithful to his wife until he has too much to drink at an office party, and suffers consequences; they appear to have resolved that issue by the second season, and Jennifer is pregnant as of the season premiere. He is something of a pushover, accepting far less in pay in negotiations than he could have asked for, but also manages to create and make himself head of Sterling Cooper's television department.

Salvatore Romano

Salvatore Romano (Bryan Batt) is the Italian-American art director at Sterling Cooper. He is gay and in the closet, turning down a proposition from a Belle Jolie lipstick male employee midway through the season, admitting that he has thought about having relationships with men, but never acted on his impulse out of fear of discovery. He joins the other men of Sterling Cooper in their flirtations with the women in the workplace, in order to keep up the appearance that he is as interested in the opposite sex as they are. He speaks to his mother in Italian. He signs off their phone calls saying, "Ciao! Ciao!" In Season 2 Sal is married, to a woman named Kitty, who is unaware of his true feelings. The two entertain Ken for dinner during the second season during which Sal seems taken with his male guest.

Bertram "Bert" Cooper

Bertram Cooper (Robert Morse) is the Senior Partner of Sterling Cooper, a crafty old gentleman who is treated with considerable deference by Sterling and Draper. It is suggested that he knew Roger Sterling as a child, and keeps a picture of young Roger and Roger's father in his office. Cooper lectures Sterling about being dependent on smoking, and criticizes Draper for his love life (though not for his stolen identity). He has the erotic illustration The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife hung in his office and is a devotee of Ayn Rand. He appears to be an aficionado of Japanese art and culture: his office is decorated in a Japanese motif with shoji dividers among other things, and he requires visitors to remove their shoes before they enter his office, and also walks around the rest of Sterling Cooper in his socks. He is a very influential member of the Republican Party, and gets Sterling Cooper involved with the Nixon campaign, providing advertising services to the campaign gratis. Cooper is not present in the office's day-to-day wranglings, but he is devoted to the business and quietly manages various challenges from behind the scenes.

Herman "Duck" Philips

Herman 'Duck' Phillips (Mark Moses) is Director of Account Services at Sterling Cooper. He is hired by Draper at the end of season 1, in November 1960, to fill this vacant position. He had previously been working at Y&R, a larger agency, in their London office, but he left after a fiasco of an uncertain nature. Draper hires Phillips over Pete Campbell. Phillips immediately challenges Sterling Cooper to broaden their clientele, seeking to attract airlines, automobile manufacturers, pharmaceuticals, and also mentions that Kodak is looking to advertise their new wheel, an account the agency wins (by calling it the Carousel, one of Draper's ideas). At the beginning of season 2, in February 1962, Phillips wants the agency to hire younger creative talent, a move that Draper resists. He also pushes Cooper to pursue American Airlines in the wake of a very public plane crash, forcing Don Draper to break his word and "cut" loose a client, Mohawk Airlines in order to pursue a "bigger fish", i.e., American Airlines. During season 2, Phillips appears to be a recovering alcoholic and just after a messy divorce or separation; he has two children in their mid-to-late teens.

Frederic "Freddie" Rumson

Frederic "Freddie" Rumson (Joel Murray) is a copywriter at Sterling Cooper. He is the first in the office to notice Peggy Olsen's talent for copywriting while working on an ad campaign for Belle Jolie. Since that time, he has been quite supportive of Olsen's copywriting talents. He likes to seem lighthearted and open despite his age (his eldest daughter turns thirty in season 2, and he served in World War II), playing Mozart pieces on his pants zipper. However, he has serious problems with alcohol, and drinks unusually heavily at work even by Sterling Cooper standards. This ends up costing him his job when, after having too much to drink, he wets his pants and falls asleep shortly before he is supposed to deliver a pitch to Samsonite. Peggy delivers the pitch instead, and Pete reports the episode to Duck Phillips, who proceeds to report this to Sterling; he is shortly fired, to Peggy's frustration (she felt some loyalty to Freddie on account of his earlier assistance to her) despite the fact that his departure secured a promotion to senior copywriter for her ("Six Months' Leave").

Friends and family

Francine Hanson

Francine Hanson (Anne Dudek) is one of Betty Draper’s closest friends and neighbors. She spends most afternoons gossiping with Betty about the neighborhood's newest resident, a divorcee named Helen Bishop. Francine, married to a man named Carlton, has just had her baby. Francine confides to Betty that she thinks Carlton is having an affair. The clues -- secret phone calls to Manhattan and the fact that Carlton sleeps at the Waldorf two nights a week -- make her wish she could just poison him.

Trudy Campbell

Trudy Campbell (Alison Brie) is Pete Campbell's wife. Trudy and Pete marry early in season 1 and purchase an apartment on Park Avenue, with the help of Trudy's parents. Trudy is dutiful to her husband, even when he asks her to visit an old beau to get a short story published. In season 2, she expresses her desire to have a child, a desire that Pete resists as he does not want to have children yet (not knowing that he already conceived a child with Peggy).

Midge Daniels

Midge Daniels (Rosemarie DeWitt) is an art illustrator engaged in an affair with Draper. She is involved with the Beats and several proto-hippies, smoking marijuana as well as making several references to Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. Draper evidently ends their affair after he deduces that she is in love with someone else. She has not been seen since.

Rachel Katz (nee Menken)

Rachel Menken (Maggie Siff) is the Jewish head of a department store who becomes romantically involved with Draper after she comes to Sterling Cooper in search of an advertising agency to revamp her business' image. She is one of the kinder and more thoughtful people in Draper's world; their relationship becomes physically and emotionally close for a time, as he is able to tell her things he could never share with Midge Daniels or with his wife. When Don is blackmailed by Pete Campbell, he comes to Rachel with the suggestion that they run away together to Los Angeles. She reminds him of his duty to his children, and questions whether he would want to abandon his children after having grown up without a father. When Don persists, Rachel comes to the realization that he didn't want to run away with her, he just wanted to run away. She calls him a coward. Their friendship seems to collapse from that point on. Meeting her in season 2 while out to eat with Bobbie Barrett, the wife of a comedian the firm is using to advertise potato chips, the show reveals that Rachel has gotten married in the interim, going from Miss Menken to Mrs. Katz.

Bobbie Barrett

Bobbie Barrett (Melinda McGraw) is the wife of comedian Jimmy Barrett (Patrick Fischler), a harsh and deprecating man whom the firm is using to advertise for their Utz Potato Chips account. After her husband insults Mrs. Utz about her weight, Don has to intercede and ends up meeting Bobbie, also Jimmy's manager, who shrugs off her husband's behavior. On the way to get Jimmy to apologize, Don and Bobbie end up having intercourse. When Bobbie later tries to get more money from Don (in a hallway of the restaurant they and Utzes are at for the apology) in exchange for the pay-or-play contract of her husband's, Don grabs her hair with one hand and forces the other up her skirt, then threatens to ruin Jimmy. Bobbie quickly makes her husband apologize. Later she comes to Don with a TV pitch called, "Grin and Barrett," a sort of Candid Camera-type show, except with her husband using his insult comic skills as the host. Don helps her arrange things and they continue to see each other on the side.

Father Gill

Father Gill (Colin Hanks) is a young Catholic priest in a visiting ministry at the church attended by Peggy's family in Brooklyn, first appearing in the second-season episode "Three Sundays." A rather progressive priest, he asks Peggy for advice about public speaking and advertising church events (such as a youth dance) after learning about her employment in advertising. He hears about Peggy's baby (and her subsequent denial) during Peggy's sister Anita's confession; he appears to have taken an interest in bringing Peggy into the church community more thoroughly. His progressivism manifests itself at the end of "A Night to Remember," when he pulls out a guitar and begins to sing a Gospel song (which would have been associated with Protestantism and considered rather radical at this time; the Second Vatican Council had only been called the previous Christmas, and had yet to convene).

References

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