By Jill Serjeant
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - With her coquettish French song "Zou Bisou Bisou" and her sex scenes with new screen husband Don Draper, little-known French-Canadian actress Jessica Pare was the breakout star of TV advertising drama "Mad Men" last season.
Pare, 30, returns on Sunday as Megan Draper, the most vibrant of Don Draper's mysterious assets, while her character forges ahead with her new career as an actress in late 1960s New York.
Reuters spoke with Pare about playing Megan, how she deals with her new found fame, and the hardest thing about being part of "Mad Men."
Q: You were the delightful surprise of last season and your character is now becoming a star in her own right. What's it like being back again?
A: Last season was nerve wracking for me because I felt like the stakes were a lot higher, whereas before I had nothing to lose ... I was nervous to do really well and that people would like me. (After a while) because I was on set almost every day of the week I was too busy to be thinking about those things and what the audience might think. That's not my job. I am there to tell Megan's story.
Q: How would you describe Megan as a person?
A: She is very optimistic. She is very joyful, vibrant and passionate about life. I think that last season we saw her make a really interesting choice to pursue her passion for performing, despite the fact that she had a very comfortable, very interesting job and she was good at it.
(In the new season) she has the acting job, she is finally working. She has the career of her dreams and the man of her dreams. She sees a Don that nobody else sees. She sees this amazing, romantic, handsome, dynamic, fun, interesting person and somebody warm and loving, and nobody else sees him that way. But then she is not able to see that other side of him that everybody else sees.
Q: How much is Megan like you?
A: A lot (laughs) ... She is from Montreal and her brother is a professor and she is an actor! Aside from those things, I think I share her optimism and her joie de vivre.
Q: Last season you had a lot of racy scenes, often in your underwear. How hard are those to do, or is it fun pretending to make love to Jon Hamm?
A: It's part of the performance. I never had hang-ups about that kind of thing. I think sex is an important part of our relationships.
Q: Are we going to see any more of your singing?
A: I don't know ...(giggles)
Q: How much advance notice do you get of the script or plots or character development from creator Matt Weiner?
A: I think he would give a performer a heads-up if there was something we needed to work on. But normally we wouldn't find out until the script comes out a few days before the cast table reading.
Q: That must be nerve-wracking.
A: I like it. It was something I had to learn how to contend with. Before, I had worked more in film where you are handed your character arc before you even set foot on the set. The special challenge is to not anticipate anything in your performance.
Q: What's the hardest thing about doing "Mad Men" for you?
A: That it doesn't last all year?! (laughs) I love this job, the writing is so incredible and the stories we get to tell ... It's really important to all of us and we all believe in what we are doing. The hardest thing? Sometimes it's really hard not to eat the chocolate!
Q: I was thinking of all the herbal cigarettes and the iced tea or whatever it is they use for all the whiskey.
A: I now love the taste of the non-alcoholic wine, the herbal cigarettes smell like heaven to me. The smell of hairspray always makes me feel good, because it makes me feel like I am working.
Q: Do you get recognized in the street now? How are you dealing with fame?
A: It's good, it's fun. I do (get recognized). No one is more excited than I am. I get into elevators sometimes and people just stop talking, and I am fighting so hard ... Part of me is like 'Do it! You'll make their day.' And the other half of me is like 'Stop it! Don't be stupid, they don't know who you are. They just shut up because you have a giant piece of kale on your teeth.'
Q: I know you can't give away the plot but I do hope we are going to see Megan throughout this new season?
A: Ooooh. I wouldn't want to spoil it for you.
(Editing by Patricia Reaney; and Jackie Frank)