Mad Men actress Jessica Paré opens up about her family, Montreal roots, and the joys of playing Mrs. Draper.
She is leaning against a loveseat in the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto, her body curved like a question mark. We're waiting as the photographer tinkers with equipment for the cover shoot.
A group of women, wrapped in sensible winter coats and scarves, bustle out of the restaurant like penguins. As they pass by, one of them murmurs, "Oh, they're trying to make that pretty girl look like Mad Men."
Paré doesn't hear them. She's too busy cracking another joke, her laughter as tunefully surprising as acid jazz. You can't blame the lady penguins for assuming that Paré couldn't be, well, Paré. The Montreal native seems too warm, too natural, too human to be a boldface-named Hollywood actress.
But after playing Megan Draper - the Québécois babe who tamed legendary Don Draper on AMC's Mad Men - that's exactly what she is. Paré moved to Hollywood eight years ago after scoring film-festival raves with Canadian indies like Stardom and Lost and Delirious.
She got some good roles (she's the sudsy topless girl in Hot Tub Time Machine) but basically was "a girl used to not having work" - until Matthew Weiner cast her on Mad Men as the charming gap-toothed secretary with sizzling charisma.
When she sang "Zou Bisou Bisou" to Jon Hamm last season, a glittering and intense television moment, her stardom crystallized like honey. Now, after pulling on a woollen sweater and black skinnies, she's sipping a glass of Pinot Grigio and talking about learning to play the ukulele. And with the sixth season of the show premiering this month, we're learning that Paré is as magnetic as her character.
There's nothing more unpredictable than being Don Draper's love interest.
"I didn't know what I was auditioning for, but the character description was ‘brunette female.' I was like, ‘Check and check!' I had no idea what the part would turn into.
The first time Megan and Don kissed, the costumer turned to me and was like, ‘Well, it was great working with you, buddy.' And then it turned into being Mrs. Draper, which I still can't fucking believe. I'm so grateful."
A lot of people hate Megan's character. They didn't want Don to marry.
"How can you not love Megan? I do. People will react to me as an actor, though. Everybody has their opinions - I'm the worst about, like, ‘Oh, I don't like that actress' for no reason. So I understand that, but I think the character is fantastic. She's so spontaneous and genuine."
Can you relate to that?
"I think I have a bit of a darker edge than she does, although it may not be the first thing people think about me because I am outgoing and I like to joke. That used to be how I judged the quality of my auditions."
If you could make them laugh?
"Yeah, I'd think ‘Well, my performance was terrible, but I made them laugh three times.'"
Find out more about actress Jessica Paré and her auditioning process on the next page...