I feel like you sometimes get painted as someone who makes the show he wants to make, audience expectations be damned, while it seems to me to be opposite: You really enjoy messing with us on a weekly basis.
I’m an entertainer. I’m trying to keep people stimulated. I like being told a story I don’t know the ending to. Some people do, some people don’t. I thought that if this episode works, then people will immediately watch it a second time. I’m always aware of the audience. I don’t listen to the audience in terms of what they want, like, “Why isn’t there more Joan this week?”, or more Betty, or, “Why doesn’t Don have a more triumphant moment?” Those things tend not to be in the audience’s best interest. Not that I know better than them about this, but if you start getting led around by what people say they want, then they’ll immediately start complaining about that too. I’ve seen people do that and I know for a fact that’s what happened.
So I don’t pay attention to the audience in terms of will they understand the story, or have I earned the right to tell the story in a different way, but I’m always thinking about what’s on their mind and what they’re thinking about and can I keep their interest. So when we go to a commercial breaks—we don’t do big act breaks with cliffhangers like “dun-dunh!”—but to me when you see Roger and Jane in the elevator and you see Jane in that outfit, you’re like, “Where are they going?” “Is Roger going to make a fool of himself?” “Is he going to embarrass her?”
Just off of you saying elevators, they’ve been really prominent this season.
I always use the elevator, I love it. But if I used it more dramatically this season, that’s possible.
Every once in a while you use the elevator doors almost as stage curtains and I love that effect.
Me too, me too. We obviously didn’t invent it, but I love doors closing and opening, entrances and exits, and there’s something about that elevator. We’ve done a lot of it. We had a lot of it last season, too, at the end of the Waldorf story where Don comes in and lies to Roger. Or “The Beautiful Girls” where all three of them get on the elevator and they’re waiting for the doors to close. I didn’t invent it by any means, but because we have it, I love using it. One of my favorite things in The Sopranos, was in the episode where Carmella looks back when they’re trying to rip her off and she sees their expressions change before the elevator doors close.
It’s almost straight out of the end of The Godfather. A door closing, thresholds…
Absolutely. I guess you could do the same thing at a urinal in a less elegant way. When people are looking ahead and aren’t aware they’re being seen, there’s something very dramatic about that.
See, now you’ve just tasked yourself with writing the first great, dramatic television scene at a urinal.
[Laughs] I don’t know. That’s a tall order.