Matthew Weiner

Matt Weiner knows how to appreciate success. He dealt with rejection for years as a struggling writer until he got his big break writing for “The Sopranos.” Along the way he began writing the pilot for the show that made his career, “Mad Men.” Just in time for the season premiere on Sunday, April 7, The Saturday Evening Post contributor Jeanne Wolfe sits down with Weiner to discuss his fame, inspirations, and the rise of “Mad Men.” The complete interview is available at HERE.

On Weiner’s notorious secrecy about the “Mad Men” plot: “I’m not trying to tease people. I just don’t want to give away to viewers what’s coming because not knowing what is going to happen is part of what keeps people interested. At the beginning of a season I’m always like, ‘I’m starting a whole new story. If you don’t like it, then it’s not for you. But it’s not because it’s not as good as last year. It’s just different.’ No matter what happens you’ll be able to understand it.”

On the future of “Mad Men”: “I am extremely aware that the end is coming but not when. I’ve always had to sweat. I never have been sure ‘Mad Men’ was going to go on again. I live and die by this thing. I want people to say, ‘That was the best season of the show ever.’ I want them to progressively say during the season, ‘That was the best episode of the show ever!’ I am always aspiring to keep it new and fresh. But you’re going to lose if you’re always trying to top yourself. You end up doing something crazy.”

On handling fame and Jennifer Lawrence’s Oscar tumble: “I remember watching Jennifer Lawrence fall on the stairs as she went up to accept her Oscar. And I just thought , ‘If I were to write an acceptance speech, it would start like that.’ That moment to me was kind of like instant humility. She recovered with such grace and good humor. That’s a hard thing for people to understand. You just don’t want to attract the evil eye, become arrogant, rest on your laurels, and take it for granted.”

On having creative confidence: “Trying to put a dream into words is a lot of what it is at the beginning of the season. And the ship leaves the port but you still don’t know if it’s any good. That’s the thing that never goes away. You don’t even know, even when the season’s over, even when you win an award, if you like pulled it off. And you know anyone who says they’re only interested in satisfying themselves is a fool.”

On being a dad [Weiner has four sons.]: “I’m like every dad, I’m a joke. My anger’s a joke. My dissatisfaction’s a joke. My rules are a joke. I’m always fighting to enforce my authority. I work so much that when I come home and say, ‘Hey everybody, don’t do it this way.’ They’re like, ‘If you were here you’d know this is the way we do it.’ It’s like I’m powerless. You know what, once you take out physical violence out of the equation, you really have no control over another person. [Laughs]”

On being a diplomat around the house: “I lose my temper. I’ve got a bad temper. I’ll get mad and be swearing and using the ‘F’ word in the kitchen. Afterwards I’m so embarrassed and I look over at my kids in the next room and I’m like, ‘God, I hope they didn’t hear that.’ And I see they are laughing but trying to cover it up so they won’t embarrass me.” 

On what inspired Weiner to be a writer: “I had a lot of support from my parents. They loved and admired writers. We have a big poster of Ernest Hemingway in our hallway. I think that that mattered to me that they thought writing could be a heroic profession and a writer could make like a valuable contribution.”

On his ambition as a youth: “I was a terrible student. I had a lot of mentors, teachers who encouraged me, kind of told me--whether I believed it or not--that I was a late bloomer. I gave a speech at my high school graduation and a dad in my class told me that I could be a TV writer. It wasn’t just any dad, it was Alan Burns who created ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show.’ And so I had that in my hip pocket … I tell people the hardest part about it was not knowing that it was going to be 5 years – it wasn’t that I was going do it, it was those years of not knowing when I was going to be a success.”

On how success has changed him: “I’m less combative. Finding an audience of even a few people after being rejected for a long time kind of re-calibrates your perception of humanity, believe it or not. But I’m superstitious about the word success. It took awhile to realize that this really happened after years of privation and rejection.”

On what Weiner would re-write about himself: “I think I can come off seeming unappreciative of the people closest to me sometimes because I have the complete expectation that I’m entitled to their affection. That’s probably my biggest fault – impatience.”

On lessons from having a huge hit: “I try to remember that I don’t always give enough praise. I get so much attention for my contribution to the series, and I wish I could share the glory a little bit more. I always mention the work of my producers and co-writers but it seldom gets printed. And I want people to know that that’s not my fault. That I try to share the wealth.”

Photo Courtesy Of: Rosen Group