The television series "Mad Men" begins airing its final seven episodes in April and the show's notoriously secretive creator, Matthew Weiner, said he told only star actor Jon Hamm in advance how it will end.
So Weiner certainly wasn't spilling any secrets to a roomful of television critics Saturday as he and the cast, by turns wistful and appreciative, talked about their experiences over the past decade. The series begins its stretch run on AMC on April 5.
"I feel very satisfied with a lot of what we did, and I am super proud of the fact that we did not repeat ourselves, which is the tallest order of all of them," Weiner said.
The creator and executive producer immersed himself in 1960s culture to write "Mad Men," set at an ad agency during that era. He said he was struck by how many Americans turned inward after the tumultuous events of 1968, including the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy, and said that is reflected in the ending of his series.
Each of the last seven episodes feels like a finale, Weiner said. He took great pains over the years not to publicly reveal details of the show in advance but, behind the scenes, would often talk to actors about ideas that he had for their characters. That wasn't the case for the end of the series. Actors like Elisabeth Moss said Saturday they were pleasantly surprised by the ending.
"It was surprising to the end," actor John Slattery said. "It's been surprising the whole time."
Weiner said he's certainly interested in making the ending satisfying to fans. But he cautioned that you can't please everyone, and it wouldn't be smart creatively to do that.
"I don't want them to walk away angry," Weiner said. "I don't know anyone — unless they're performance artists — who wants to infuriate their audience."
Weiner said he tried to be protective of the show's image over the past decade and not tarnish it with too much commercialization. Future perception is out of his hands, he said, although "I don't see the show participating in a 'Mad Men' cruise."
"Jon Hamm is forever going to be the future of 'Mad Men' and it is truly on his shoulders to represent it in so many ways," Weiner said.
Hamm said the experience of "Mad Men" has been "unequivocally wonderful and I'll miss it." Unlike his character Don Draper, Hamm was fully bearded Saturday. He called himself gainfully unemployed and joked about opening a car detailing business with Vincent Kartheiser, who played fellow ad man Pete Campbell.
"I will be happy when the show airs and not have to fake like I don't know how it ends or make up some ridiculous story about robots or zombies," Hamm said.
He had a quick answer to an inevitable question about any sequels, mindful that he was appearing on a Pasadena, California, hotel stage moments after the cast and creators of the "Breaking Bad" prequel "Better Call Saul" had been there.
"Better Call Pete!" Hamm joked.