What's it like to break out by joining the cast of Mad Men? That's what we asked Kirstin Ford, who's signed on to the critically acclaimed AMC series as it begins its final season. Kirstin talked with us about getting the job, fitting in on the set, and what it was like to watch her debut episode last Sunday.
Mad Men is more than just the coolest line on Kirstin's resume - it was also the impetus for her to really jumpstart her career. "The interesting thing is that four years ago, five years ago, I'm sitting in my living room in Oklahoma and I'm watching Mad Men, and thinking, I've been talking about going to Los Angeles and starting my acting career full time," she told us. "And that was when I looked at my husband and said 'It's time for us to go.'"
So what did it mean to her to actually be up for a role on the show that brought her here? She walked us through the experience, starting with her audition. "It's such a funny thing mentally to go out on auditions and you don't get this and you don't get that and it's hard," she continued. "Essentially the creator and casting directors put trust in me even though I had no experience. That's so validating. I had that moment where I hyperventilated for ten minutes and nearly passed out."
Once the initial shock wore off, other thoughts set in. "I realized A, it's an acknowledgement from the industry. I can do this. I just have to stay focused and keep working hard. And B, I was just kind of like 'Oh, crap. These people are so talented,'" Kirstin told us. "It was kind of funny to be driving to the set for the first time. The nerves get kind of a little crazy. [But] I get there and everyone is so nice. I'm nobody compared to these people I'm working with, and they're so joyful that I'm there. And that blew my mind.
"That made me realize, that's why shows and people are successful. They're doing what they love and they're working on something that means something to them," she added. "There wasn't a single person that I met that didn't just love what they were doing and wanted to do it well."
But who is Kirstin Ford? We asked her a few questions to find that out, starting with what she considers to be her process. "As an artist, as an actress, my approach to character is somewhat unique," said the actress, who studied at The Acting Center in Los Angeles. "I actually research and learn who this person is and the world they live in so much so that I can become them. I will use my own experiences if they serve the purpose of the story and what's intended, but it's not about me. It's the character."
"Who I am as a person, I'm from Oklahoma and the way I was raised, I tend to be very expressive with my gratitude and I never want to lose that. It's really important to me," she continued. "I'm so grateful. Everything I do, every audition, it's just another opportunity to play and learn and be grateful for that."
Working on Mad Men has been an amazing experience, but what would attract Kirstin to the next role? "For me, the quality of the script or show is really important," she explained. "I gravitate toward things that tend to be a little intellectual. Even if there is comedy involved, the projects I gravitate toward tend to have a fairly intricate, complex set of characters.
"The main thing for me is, I want to be in a position where I'm able to choose the work that I do," she continued. "I just happen to recognize that when an artist has celebrity status, there is power there and they have the ability to choose what they want to do, whereas the actor who's starting out pretty much feels like they have to do everything because there aren't a lot of options. I want options. I want to look at a script or project and know that it resonates with me."
Being seen on one of TV's top dramas should open plenty of doors for her. Which brings us back to her current gig: what's it like for her to land this dream role in Mad Men's final season? "It's sad to know it's ending. I would watch this for ten more years if they would just keep making them," Kirstin reflected.
"It's funny being a part of the last season. For me, there's a sense that every episode's important. It's like the last few bites of the meal that you've loved and you want to savor every single bite. And I get to savor the excitement. Being in the last season, it's really incredible how exciting it is."
Mad Men continues tonight at 10 PM ET/PT on AMC (check your local listings for specific channel). For more on Kirstin, you can follow her on Twitter (@LoveKirstinFord).