“We’re sworn to secrecy about the fifth season,” says the 12-year-old Kiernan Shipka of Mad Men, the acclaimed television show in which she portrays the troubled Sally Draper, daughter of Don and Betty. We tried pressing her for details of Mad Men‘s upcoming fifth season, which premiers on March 25, but unlike most people her age, Shipka knows how to keep a secret.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Chicago and until I was six we lived there full-time, and now we transfer back and forth from Chicago to Los Angeles.
Were you going to auditions from a really early age or did you get to have a normal childhood?
I definitely have a great childhood and it’s very normal. When I first started getting into the industry and until now, I’ve been going to auditions, but I don’t think it’s really affected my normal life at all, I really just get to be a kid, which is nice.
You finished shooting the 5th season of Mad Men, and I feel like as the seasons progress, Sally’s getting more and more screen time, she’s getting more complex. Were there any surprises this season for you?
I can’t really talk about what the season’s going to be like or what it holds, just because we’re always sworn to secrecy and to not let anything get out—but it’s going to be a great season, it’s really full of great, powerful, dramatic stuff for Sally and a lot of the other characters. So I think everyone who loves Mad Men is really going to enjoy this season.
Did you come into the role feeling like she was a completely foreign character?
I definitely understand Sally, just because I’ve played her for so long. I started playing her when she was living a very happy, normal life, and I kind of went through all of her emotional arcs with her, which is really awesome for me to do. It’s like I’m two different people, practically, it’s so much fun to do.
Are there things that you feel are very specific to her, or is she a universal character?
I think her story is very specific to who Sally is, because Matthew Weiner writes all the characters to be very flawed and very realistic. It’s definitely a very real view of what a girl like Sally would be going through at that time and at her age.
Do people on set give you advice about acting?
As far as people giving me advice, Matthew Weiner doesn’t really want me to be coached, he wants it to all come natural, and I think we’re all our own individual actors and we all have our own techniques and styles, but I definitely think we pick up on little things from each other all the time. I think that happens in any environment you’re in, you always pick up little tidbits of things that other people do that are right. It’s fun, just kind of watching them. I love to learn from the directors, too. Because I’d love to eventually direct some stuff, so it’s interesting to see how they work and how they kind of have a different view of things, it’s been super interesting for me.
What kind of things would you like to direct in the future?
I’m not sure. I haven’t really thought about it too much, I just know that, I mean I’ve done little things on my [iPhone] with my friends. I’d like to direct anything that comes my way that seems right. I don’t really have a specific genre that I’d like to direct in particular.
What are you most looking forward to?
I’m not sure. I really like being a kid right now, I think that’s fun. When you’re an adult you can’t really knock on your friend’s door and say, Let’s go play hide and seek around the neighborhood. So I’m kind of just enjoying what I have now. I’m in no hurry to grow up.